Canh Chua (Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Catfish Soup)

Canh Chua (Vietnamese Sweet and Sour Catfish Soup)

A classic Vietnamese soup best served along with Ca Kho (Vietnamese braised catfish). One of my favorite Vietnamese food combination! My mom often makes this soup with the braised catfish. I would ALWAYS over eat whenever this combo showed itself on the kitchen table.

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 35 minutes | Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 8-10


  • 2 pounds of catfish head and tail (or steaks)
  • 15 cups of water
  • 3 tablespoons of tamarind pulp
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 1-3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (~2 medium limes, see note)
  • 1 table spoons of chicken stock powder
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 8-10 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 can of diced pineapple
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 2-3 cups of beansprouts (optional)
  • 1-2 bunch of rice paddy herbs, chopped
  • 5 okra, sliced (optional)
  • 3 elephant ear stems, thinly sliced diagonally
  • Some veggies are optional and you can adjust the amount to your liking. I typically do not add okra but add a ton of elephant ear and beansprouts!
  • The fresh lime should be added if the soup is not sour enough. I found that 2.5 tablespoons hit the perfect sour note for me.


  1. Open the can of pineapple and pour the juice into a small bowl. Set the juice aside. 
  2. Add 15 cups of water and the diced pineapple chunks into a large stock pot and bring to a boil on high heat.
  3. While waiting, dissolve the tamarind pulp in 1 cup of hot water. Pour the liquid into the stock pot through a sieve.
  4. Lower heat to medium. Add sugar, chicken stock powder, and 8 tablespoons of fish sauce. Mix well and let boil for 2 minutes. 
  5.  Add catfish and simmer for 6 more minutes.
  6. Add tomato and okra simmer for 2 more minutes.
  7. Add elephant ear and simmer for 2 more minutes.
  8. Taste the soup. If it is not salty enough, add the remaining 1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce. If it is not sour enough, add 1-3 tablespoons of lime.
  9. Add beansprouts before eating and simmer for 2 more minutes.
  10. Top it off chopped rice paddy herbs, mix and enjoy!

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