Victory in Shopping

Hi All,

This is not a real post, just an excuse to tell you about my victory in shopping yesterday!

So, Tony & Bailey have fallen in love with Cahn Chua Tom (Sour Soup). We learned how to make it in our last cooking class and then had it again at our favorite Vietnamese restaurant last weekend. I decided that I would make it at home since it’s easy, flavorful and healthy. This meets all of my requirements for a do again and again dish.

I knew that finding the ingredients would be easiest at a local market rather than a supermarket.  Since I was heading into District 1 anyway, I decided that a trip to Ben Thanh market was the place to go. Now, this place can be crazy and I’ve never been by myself, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into.  After making a plan with Mr. Khoung about how to find him again (remember, this place is huge with multiple entrances), I set out.

I spent a few minutes wandering around just looking at the shops. Since it was a Tuesday morning, it was mostly locals and not a lot of tourists. I had a few “madams” but nothing too crazy. After getting my bearings, I made my way to the vegetable section. I found a stall that was selling the elephant ear stems I needed and started the process of shopping. The stall owner didn’t speak English and my Vietnamese is limited to please & thank you. There was a lot of pointing and head nodding on both parts. I handed her my shopping list that I had written in Vietnamese and she gathered all of my ingredients. I didn’t understand what she was saying when it came time to pay so I whipped out my phone and she punched in the number on my calculator. The total came to a whopping 30,000 Dong (about $1.50). I walked out feeling pretty pumped! I then attempted to find a specific stall to pick up some t-shirts for my friend Leslie (found them). While talking with the stall owner, she commented on my ingredients & knew exactly what I was making by looking in my bag. I’d like to think she was impressed but she was probably just buttering me up so I’d buy just one more t-shirt.

I wasn’t sure how the soup would turn out compared to what we made in class. I’ll say that with just a minor tweak for next time, it was pretty delicious. I know it’s good when Bailey wants to take the leftovers for lunch the next day. Success!!!

If you’re wiling to try it, I’ll include the recipe below. Most of the ingredients you can probably find in your regular market or your local Asian market.

Soup soup Cahn Chua Tom (prawns) or Cahn Chua Ca (fish)  Recipe from Saigon Cooking class

1.5 liters water

140 grams Elephant Ear Stem

120 grams Okra

12 prawns or equivalent of a firm white fish

120 grams bean sprouts

2 Roma tomatoes

1 cup pineapple, cut up into chunks

100 grams Tamarind paste

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce (Nuoc Mam)

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

Rice Paddy herb (Rau Om)

Saw tooth Coriander or regular Cilantro

 *If you can find Elephant Ear, peel and cut on the bias. I’ve also seen recipes that call for mushrooms instead to give the same type of texture.

Cut each tomato into 6 wedges and peel skin if desired

Cut okra on the bias. Cut elephant ear or mushrooms, okra and pineapple into chunks about ½ inch.

Sauté the garlic in a small amount of cooking oil (not olive) until fragrant. Add the water and bring to a boil. Once it’s boiling, dissolve your tamarind paste into the boiling water. If your paste has seeds, then put the tamarind in a strainer set into the water and stir the tamarind until dissolved then pull out the seeds.

Add in the elephant ear/mushrooms, okra, prawns, bean sprouts, pineapple and tomatoes. Bring back to a boil and cook for about 3 minutes until prawns are cooked.

Season the soup with the fish sauce & sugar. You can add salt to taste but bear in mind that your fish sauce added a salt component so be careful!

Add the herbs to  individual bowls and ladle the hot soup over.


Happy cooking and let me know if you try it.



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