Buddhist Sour Soup (Canh Chua Dau Hou)

buddhist sour soup

From September 4, 2005:  This sweet and sour soup is from the Mekong Delta area of Vietnam.  This soup is meant to be eaten with rice.   Any unusual items, like tamarind pup, bac ha,  fried shallots, and ngo om can be found at some Asian markets.  To save money, I used frozen okra and canned pineapple chunks.  I wasn’t able to find the bac ha or ngo om.

I thought this soup was a bit unusual, mainly because it was so sweet.  I would definitely use less sugar next time I make it.  The rice and added herbs (I added cilantro too) and flavorings are a must for this soup.

Buddhist Sour Soup (canh chua dau hou)

3 blocks of tofu (about 1 pound)
1/4 cup tamarind pulp, dissolved in 1 cup hot water
scant 1/2 pound okra (about 2 cups)
5 cups water
3/4 cup fresh pineapple cut into 1/4-inch chunks
1 stalk bac ha (giant taro), cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths (optional)
3 T. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 tsp. soy sauce

garnish and flavorings
fried shallots (found at an Asian market or make your own by frying chopped shallots in hot oil)
fresh mung bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
Thai basil
rice paddy herb (ngo om) (optional)
minced chiles

For the soup, place the tofu blocks on a plate, place another plate on top, and weight down with a heavy jar or can.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  water will be pressed out of the tofu as it stands; drain it off every 15 minutes or so.  Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.

Use your fingers to squeeze and press the tamarind to dissolve it completely and to squeeze the last of the pulp off any seeds and pith.  Place a sieve over a small bowl and pour the tamarind water through.  Discard any solids and set the liquid aside.

To make the soup, pour the tamarind liquid and the 5 cups water in a large nonreactive pot.  Bring to a vigorous boil, then add the okra (if okra is large, cut crosswise in half and cut off any tough tips, leaving the stems on) and pineapple.  Boil vigorously for 3 minutes, then add the bac ha, if using, the sugar, salt, and tomato wedges.  Bring back to a boil, then add the tofu cubes and soy sauce and cook for 2 minutes.  Taste and adjust the balance of seasonings if you wish.

To serve, divide the bean sprouts, torn basil leaves, and ngo om sprigs, if using, among the bowls.  Top with with fried shallots and minced chiles.  serve immediately, with plenty of rice.

Recipe source:  Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey through Southeast Asia by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid (Artisan, 2000).

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