Nearly every country in Southeast Asia has its own version of sour fish soup. Loaded with fish, vegetables and fruit, this southern Vietnamese version is herbaceous, spicy, fruity, tangy, sweet and savory. Serve with steamed rice on the side.


  • 1 whole catfish, striped bass, sea bass or red snapper, 2 lbs
  • 1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 green (spring) onion, thinly sliced
  • For Soup:
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 lemongrass stalks, cut into 2-inch lengths and crushed
  • 6 cups water or chicken stock
  • 2 oz tamarind pulp, chopped
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup diced pineapple
  • 1/2 cup drained, canned sliced bamboo shoots
  • 2 fresh small red chili peppers, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce, or to taste
  • 2 small, firm tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • Fresh cilantro sprigs or slivered fresh mint leaves
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Companion recipe: Steamed Rice


Fillet the fish and reserve the head, bones and scraps. Cut the fillets into 1-inch cubes and place in a bowl with the fish sauce, pepper and green onion. Toss gently to mix, then let marinate at room temperature while you make the soup.

FOR THE SOUP: In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil. When the oil is hot, add the shallots, lemongrass, and the fish head, bones and scraps; sauté gently without browning until fragrant, 3-5 minutes. Add the water or chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the stock uncovered for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, soak the tamarind pulp in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Mash with the back of a fork to help dissolve the pulp. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into another small bowl, pressing against the pulp to extract as much flavorful liquid as possible. Discard the pulp and set the liquid aside.

Pour the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan. Discard the contents of the sieve. Bring the stock to a boil. Stir in the tamarind liquid, pineapple, bamboo shoots, chilies, sugar and fish sauce. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and fish cubes and continue to simmer until the fish turns opaque and feels firm to the touch, 3-5 minutes. Add the bean sprouts and season to taste with salt and pepper.

TO SERVE: Ladle the soup into warmed soup bowls and garnish with cilantro or mint. Serve with lime wedges.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Weldon Owen. All rights reserved.

RecID 2444

nutrition information per serving

133 calories; 4g total fat; 19mg cholesterol; 552mg sodium; 20g carbohydrates; 3g fiber; 8g protein

These nutrition facts are calculated according to the ingredients listed in this recipe. Any substitutions will change these facts. Although we strive for accuracy, please note that food manufacturers occasionally change their food formulas, which could affect the calculations as shown.

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