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Vietnamese sweet and sour soup (canh chua): The perfect balance for a meal

12/01/2024 5.216

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup, or "canh chua," is a renowned dish with many unique regional twists. It features a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, and savory flavors that captivate the palate.

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup, an embodiment of the country's delectable culinary culture, offers a tantalizing journey for travelers exploring Vietnam. This iconic dish is a must-try for those embarking on a Vietnam travel adventure eager to discover the richness of Vietnamese food.

1. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup ingredients and flavors

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup is famous throughout Vietnam, with each region presenting a unique take on achieving the desired level of sourness. In Northern Vietnam, mild sourness prevails. This sweet and sour soup boasts a subtle aroma with the sourness derived from fruits like tamarind, starfruit, and sweetsop. Naturally fermented condiments such as vinegar and "mẻ" (fermented rice) further contribute to the harmonious balance of flavors.

Central Vietnam offers a distinctive blend of sour and slightly bitter flavors. Added to the sourness is a hint of spiciness from chili, creating a well-rounded flavor profile. Meanwhile, the sweet and sour soup in Southern Vietnam features a range of local fruits, including tomatoes, kumquats, tamarind, starfruit, passion fruit, bael fruit, and mandarin oranges. Varieties of sour leaves, such as "lá giang," "lá me," and "lá giấm," cater to those who appreciate a tangy sourness.

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

>>> Check out this Vietnam food list and get yourself ready for an unique culinary experience in Vietnam! 

2. The 7 most popular Vietnamese sweet and sour soup recipes

2.1. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with fish


  • Snakehead fish: 700 - 800g
  • 1/4 pineapple
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 2 branches of okra
  • 100g of cowpea
  • 50g of ripe sour tamarind
  • Fresh herbs: green onions and coriander
  • Seasonings: dried shallots, garlic, salt, bouillon, MSG, sugar, chili powder, pepper, fish sauce, and cooking oil

Preparing this Vietnamese sweet and sour fish soup is easy. Start by cleaning and finely chopping the dried shallots and garlic. Slice the snakehead fish into pieces, making shallow cuts for marination. Marinate with the shallots, garlic, bouillon, fish sauce, MSG, cooking oil, and pepper.

For the cooking process, sauté one tablespoon of finely chopped shallots and garlic with cooking oil, adding 1/2 tablespoon of chili powder for color. Place the marinated fish into the pot and lightly sauté. Then, add water to create the soup base, incorporating the tamarind and pineapple.

Once the soup reaches a boil, use a large spoon to skim off any impurities that float to the top, ensuring a clear broth. When the fish is nearly cooked, add the tomatoes, okra, and cowpea. Season Vietnamese fish soup with salt and sugar. Garnish with fresh herbs and pepper.

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

2.2. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with chicken


  • Chicken: 600g
  • 1 pineapple
  • 2 tomatoes
  • Green onions and coriander
  • Ripe sour tamarind
  • Chopped purple onions and garlic
  • Seasonings: pepper, salt, bouillon, sugar, and cooking oil

For a delightful bowl of Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with chicken, begin by marinating the chicken with chopped purple onions, minced garlic, salt, and pepper for approximately 30 minutes. While the chicken is absorbing these flavorful notes, prepare other ingredients such as ripe sour tamarind, pineapple, etc.

Start by sautéing the garlic and onions with a touch of cooking oil. Afterward, sauté the pineapple for 2-3 minutes before incorporating the marinated chicken. Once the chicken reaches a desirable firmness, add roughly 500ml of cold water, bring it to a boil, skim away any impurities, and season to taste.

Let the soup simmer for about 20-30 minutes until the chicken attains a tender texture. Then, add the pineapple and tomatoes to the mix. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, ensuring that all the key ingredients are thoroughly cooked. Finally, turn off the heat and garnish the dish with onions, coriander, and pepper.

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

2.3. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with squid


  • Fresh squid: 200g
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1/4 pineapple
  • Green onions, cilantro, and purple onions
  • Seasonings: salt, sugar, pepper, and cooking oil

Begin by thoroughly rinsing the squid with water and allowing it to drain. To enhance the squid's flavor, marinate it with a pinch of salt, sugar, and pepper for approximately 15 minutes. Before going on with preparing this Vietnamese sweet and sour soup, sauté the squid with chopped onions, minced garlic, and tomatoes to achieve a firm texture. Add water, bring it to a boil, and incorporate the pineapple and tomatoes while seasoning to your liking. You should be cautious not to overcook the squid; the suitable cooking time is approximately 5-10 minutes. Complete the dish by adding the herbs and relish the flavors.

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

2.4. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with clam

Clam sweet and sour soup is a popular dish for Vietnamese families nationwide. This budget-friendly and easy-to-make soup features clams, which can be paired with various sour ingredients like pineapple, starfruit, tamarind, and more.

Start cooking your soup by soaking it in salt water with a few chili slices to help remove any sand. Then, clean the shells and boil them until they open wide. Put the clam juice in a separate bowl and rinse the clam meat to remove any impurities.

To prepare Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with clam:

  • Sauté the clam meat along with dried shallots, tomatoes, and pineapple (or starfruit, tamarind, etc.)
  • Add the clam juice and bring it to a boil for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Season the soup to your taste, incorporate fresh herbs, and turn off the heat.
  • You now have a delightful Vietnamese sweet and sour clam soup perfect for a hot summer day!
Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

2.5. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with minced meat


  • 200g of pork
  • 1 tomato
  • Shallots and spring onions
  • Seasonings: salt, bouillon, cooking oil, and ground pepper

Heat one tablespoon of cooking oil in a pot over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the marinated pork and sauté for approximately 2 minutes until the meat becomes firm. Following this, pour 300ml of water into the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat.

As the water reaches a boiling point, introduce the tomato into the pot and cook for 3-5 minutes. Season the soup with one tablespoon of salt, one teaspoon of bouillon, and one teaspoon of ground pepper. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes, making necessary adjustments to the seasonings to taste. Finally, turn off the heat, spoon this Vietnamese sweet and sour soup into a bowl, and serve.

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

2.6. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup with pork ribs


  • 500g of pork ribs
  • 1/4 pineapple
  • 200g of bean sprouts
  • 2 tomatoes
  • Shallots, scallions, and cilantro
  • Seasonings: cooking oil, fish sauce, salt, and sugar

To enhance the flavor of the pork ribs, marinate them with salt, pepper, and a bit of cooking oil for about 30 minutes before cooking. Add 500ml of water to a pot and place it on the stove. Place the marinated pork ribs into the pot once the water boils. Remove any impurities to make the soup clearer. Then, reduce the heat to low and simmer the ribs for 15-20 minutes.

While simmering the ribs, prepare another pan to sauté the tomatoes and pineapple for approximately 2 minutes. Finally, add the sautéed mixture to the pot with the ribs, stir well, and cook for about 10 minutes. You can adjust the seasonings to taste. When serving, you can add a few bean sprouts to the bowl and pour this hot Vietnamese sweet and sour soup over them. The sourness of the pineapple, the richness of the pork ribs, and the slight sweetness of the bean sprouts will provide a delightful culinary experience.

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

2.7. Vietnamese sweet and sour soup for vegetarians


  • Tofu or various fresh vegetables (okra, tomatoes, pineapples, bean sprouts, eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, etc.)
  • Fresh herbs like cilantro, mint, basil, and scallions
  • Vegetarian broth or vegetable stock
  • Tamarind paste or tamarind concentrate
  • Seasonings: sugar, soy sauce, salt, and cooking oil

Start by preparing the tofu or fresh vegetables like okra, tomatoes, pineapples, and bell peppers. Wash and cut them into bite-sized pieces. In a pot, add a small amount of cooking oil and sauté your vegetables or tofu until they begin to soften. This initial cooking step helps enhance their flavor.

Add the tamarind paste or concentrate to the pot which brings the sweet and sour flavor of this soup. Alternatively, lime juice can serve as a substitute for tamarind if needed. If you like some spiciness, incorporate chopped chili or sauce into the soup for a hint of heat. Allow the soup to simmer until the vegetables or tofu turn tender, which generally takes 10-15 minutes. Just before serving, add fresh herbs like cilantro, mint, basil, and scallions to the soup.

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

>>> Read more: Vietnamese vegetable soup: Top 11 flavorful and healthy picks

3. Which dish complements Vietnamese sweet and sour soup?

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup is a versatile and flavorful dish that can be complemented with a wide range of accompaniments, among which rice and vermicelli are two popular choices. In addition, this soup can be enjoyed with various savory dishes such as grilled meat, fried fish, or seafood. To further enhance the flavor, don't forget to incorporate an assortment of herbs and vegetables like basil, cilantro, mint, and bean sprouts, which not only provide a burst of freshness but also allow you to customize your soup to your liking.

>>> Explore the diverse array of famous Vietnamese food

Vietnam boasts a rich and enticing cuisine that is very affordable. No matter where you go, whether it is Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Phu Quoc, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and Ha Long, you can find delicious dishes to savor. In these destinations, if you are looking for a comfortable space to stay with excellent services and the essence of Vietnamese cuisine, Vinpearl is the top choice. 

Vinpearl is renowned for providing a wide array of top-tier amenities, including exquisite restaurants that cater to the needs of discerning travelers. Furthermore, Vinpearl's hotels and resorts offer exceptional accommodations that boast stunning vistas. Your stay with Vinpearl promises the utmost comfort, ensuring a memorable and enjoyable vacation.

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup


Vietnamese sweet and sour soup

Additionally, be sure to seize the opportunity to explore the entertainment complexes of VinWonders, where you can immerse yourself in a diverse range of exciting games, captivating performances, and interactive activities suitable for all ages.

>>> Book rooms in Vinpearl Phu Quoc, Vinpearl Nha Trang, Vinpearl Resort & Golf Nam Hoi An, Vinpearl Resort & Spa Ha Long to relish all that Vietnam has to offer!

Vietnamese sweet and sour soup is one of the most popular dishes in all three regions of Vietnam. In each region, this dish is prepared with different ingredients, creating distinct flavors. If you are going to visit Vietnam, remember to savor the authentic canh chua prepared by the locals.

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