Canh Chua Tôm (Tamarind Shrimp Soup)
· ½ lb shrimp, headless and peeled
· 2 stalks of bạc hà, known as taro stem or elephant ear (if you cannot get to a Vietnamese supermarket, substitute this with three stems of celery), peeled and sliced along the diagonal
· 2 small tomatoes, cut into ½ inch slices
· 1.5 cups of fresh pineapple chunks, can substitute with a can of pineapple chunks
· 1.5 cup bean sprouts
· 10 okra pods, sliced in 1-inch segments
· 1 shallot, minced
· 2 cloves garlic, minced
· A few sprigs of ngò om (Vietnamese rice paddy herb)
· 2 tbsp tamarind (these come in various forms. I buy the blocks with seeds in them)
· 1 tbsp fish sauce
· 1 tsp sugar
· 1 tsp mushroom seasoning (or any msg substitute)
· Optional: A few leaves of ngò gai
· Place pot over high heat and add a drizzle of oil, shallots, and garlic. Let it brown for a minute and add shrimp.
· Once shrimp is cooked, fill the pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to medium-low. Scoop out excess foam.
· Add pineapple, bạc hà, and okra and let simmer. Add fish sauce slowly to taste. I estimated 2 tbsp here but usually I just do it by taste (I’m not too much a precise number person when it comes to cooking. I usually save it for the lab). Add in the sugar and the mushroom seasoning. Stir. Let it simmer for 15 minutes.
· While the pot is simmering, put the tamarind paste in a separate bowl and scoop out some of the soup and pour into the bowl. Smash the tamarind paste with the soup so that the flavor is released into the soup. Pour this soup back into the pot and repeat twice more.
· Add tomatoes.
· Taste the soup and look for a tangy mixture of sour, sweet, and salty. It is a bit different for every person. If it is not sour enough (and, as a common case, too salty) repeat the tamarind mashing once more. Season to taste.
· Add bean sprouts, ngò om, the optional ngò gai, and let simmer for one more minute. Remove from heat.