Canh Chua


A Vietnamese soup bursting with fresh pineapple, herbs and a tamarind broth



One recipe I learned as part of my call for “5 Pineapple Dishes From 5 Countries” was Vietnamese Canh Chua, or sour pineapple soup. This recipe comes courtesy of Van, whose parents emigrated to Ohio from Vietnam.

Canh chua translates directly from Vietnamese to English as “sour soup.” According to Van, the sourness in canh chua comes from tamarind in the soup base. Putting tamarind in soups to make them sour is very common in places like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. In this case, the sour tamarind is balanced with fresh herbs, juicy tomatoes, pork in the soup base, and catfish as the main protein. Funky fish sauce gives this recipe a Vietnamese kick. In addition, the pineapple in this dish is sweet and dynamic.

Van loves this dish because it is light yet hearty and comforting. It is a great way to enjoy pineapple in a savory context without having to put it on top of pizza or ham. In this dish, the pineapple becomes super succulent and satisfying. It really transforms people’s idea of what fruit can taste like. 

Many Vietnamese households in the United States hold canh chua in a special place in their hearts. Canh chua is one of the key Vietnamese dishes like Vietnamese fried rice and braised pork belly that Vietnamese Americans like Van eat to be reminded of their roots and parents’ cooking. For Van, canh chua was one of the first things her mother taught her to cook. The best part is that canh chua can be adapted with many substitutes, making this dish easy to make wherever you are.

After hearing Van talk about how delicious canh chua was, I had to try making it for myself. I won’t lie; this was one of the most difficult dishes I’ve ever made on this channel. Because I decided to make the soup base from scratch, I had difficulty understanding the instructions and needed to use quite a few substitutes. If I were to make this recipe again, I would definitely use a pre-made soup base. The stock that I ended up with does have delicious sweet and sour flavors which play in harmony with one another. Had I used a better piece of pork for the soup base, I might have had a richer broth. What I really love about this dish is the catfish. I love catfish and it ended up being succulent and tender. I love how the pineapple and broth play with the lemon basil flavor. I also think this recipe is a perfect way to use lemon basil, an often underutilized ingredient. If you are feeling adventurous, give this recipe a try!

Watch the Video


For homemade stock

  • 1 ½ lb pork
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 tsp salt

For soup

  • 4 cups stock (if not making your own)
  • 1 20 oz can pineapple chunks in juice
  • 1 piece of ginger
  • 1 ½ lb catfish cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tomatoes quartered
  • 12 oz bean sprouts
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tsp sugar


If making your own stock

  • Add pork to a large soup pot. Cover with water until it just covers the pork. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Take out the pork and then throw away the water. This process cleans the pork. Rinse the pot and add the pork back. Cover the pork with fresh water until it just covers the meat. Bring to a boil.
  • Add the onion and simmer for 1.5 hours. Make sure to check every 30 minutes for impurities. Scoop away any you see.

If using store-bought stock, start here

  • Bring stock in a pot to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Add the pineapple (including the juice) and ginger to the soup. Simmer for another 20 minutes.
  • Put the catfish in and simmer for another 10 minutes until it is cooked through.
  • Add the vegetables, tamarind, and sugar.
  • Bring the soup to a boil and serve with a side of white rice.
Course: Dinner
Region: Asia
Diet: Gluten Free


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