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Beef Shank and Pickled Mustard Greens Soup (Canh Dua Cai Chua Bap Bo)

A hearty and delicious soup that reuses Lunar New Year's leftovers.Hi Friends! Lunar New Year is approaching and I am posting what to do with leftovers already.  Not to rush your Lunar New Year’s festivities but if you’re like me, you make mountains of food for Lunar New Year and then have a ton of leftovers.  No one wants to waste food but recycling leftovers creatively does require a bit of planning ahead.  Fortunately, there are some really great dishes to reuse New Year’s leftovers like this recipe.  Pickled Mustard Greens, usually served as a side dish with many New Year’s dishes, gets to enjoy the spot light in this soup dish.  The tart mustard greens combined with tender beef shank and tomatoes in a flavorful broth is so scrumptious and hearty.  Enjoy the recipe and feel good about not wasting food!

Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks

Beef shank is a tougher cut of meat and needs to be cooked slowly in order to be tender. You can cut the beef into thin slices to reduce the cooking time.  Alternatively, you can use beef or pork short ribs.

Be sure to remove the connective tissue surrounding the shank.  It’s too tough to eat.

Use any stock you like.  I love a lighter stock with this soup so I use chicken but beef is just as good too.

When measuring the Pickled Mustard Greens, don’t include any of the pickling liquid, it will make the soup too tart.

Watch the video below for instructions.

If you enjoyed this recipe you may also like: Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon Xao Chua Ngot), Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs (Suon Xao Chua Ngot) and Sour Soup with Fish (Canh Chua Ca).


1/4 small onion
2 medium tomatoes
1 lb beef shank
4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups chicken or beef stock
3 cups Pickled Mustard Greens
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/8 tsp ground black pepper


Finely dice the onions.  Cut each tomato into 8 wedges.

Cut the meat around the bone to remove it but do not discard the bone.  Trim off the connective tissue surrounding the beef shank and discard.  Cut the beef shank into 1-inch cubes.

Heat a pot of Medium High heat and when hot add 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil.  Add 1/2 of the diced onions and stir-fry for 15 seconds.  Add the beef shank and bones and stir-fry until the meat is just slightly pink, approximately 2-3 minutes.  Add the water and salt and stir together.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil.  Skim off the foam until the broth is clear.  Add the chicken or beef stock, cover and bring to a boil again.   Skim off the foam once again.  Reduce the heat to Low and cook for 1 hour or until the meat is tender.

Heat a skillet over Medium High heat and when hot, add 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil.  Add the remainder of the diced onions ad stir-fry for 15 seconds.  Add the tomato paste and stir-fry for 30 seconds.  Add the tomatoes and stir-fry for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and set aside for now.

Remove the bones from the soup.  Add the pickled mustard greens.  Cover and cook on Medium heat for 10 minutes or until the mustard greens are tender.  Add the tomatoes and gently mix into the soup.  Season with fish sauce and combine together.  Cook for another minute or until tomatoes are tender.  Add freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with with a plate of shredded lettuce and fresh mint along with fish sauce and sliced red chilies.

Yields:  4-6 servings

Enjoy this soup the Viet way with shredded lettuce, fresh mint and a side of fish sauce and chilies...Oh Yum!!

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Sour Soup with Fish (Canh Chua Ca)

Serve this delicious soup with a side of fish sauce and red chilies!Sour Soup?  The word “sour” may be off-putting to some and not a taste that is immediately appealing.  The name of this dish is the direct translation for this soup’s Vietnamese name “Canh Chua” but some subtleties get lost in translation.  I’d rather call this “Perfectly Balanced Tart, Savory, and Sweet with Abundant Vegetables and Hearty Fish Soup” but that’s quite a mouthful.  So, unfortunately, the name gets abbreviated to something most people recognize.  My point:  Please don’t let the name of this soup turn you off to trying it.  It is a wonderful balance of flavors and textures and much more than just “sour” so I hope you’ll give it a try!

Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks

A good base is essential for this soup.  I prefer a chicken stock or broth which adds taste without dominating the soup’s primary flavors.

Fish is usually the meat of choice in this soup.  Catfish, specifically catfish steaks, are often used.  I am not a big fan of eating fish with bones, especially in soup, so opt to use fish fillets.  Feel free to use a fish you enjoy but, select a sturdy fish that will hold up well to boiling like red snapper, halibut or mahi mahi.  Shrimp is a good alternative as well.  If using shrimp, cook them in the stock until they turn pink (about a minute or so).  Remove and set aside in a bowl.  Add the shrimp back to the soup once the vegetables are done cooking.

The timing of this soup is important.  You don’t want to over-cook the fish but you also want your vegetables to be cooked properly.  The fish fillets take about 5-7 minutes to cook depending on the thickness.  If you’re not sure how to time everything, you can cook the fish first and then remove from the soup.  Then cook your vegetables to the doneness that you like and add the fish back into the soup just before serving.

Regarding the tartness, if you’re not sure how much you can handle, add just half of the tamarind sauce per the below recipe and adjust from there.  If it’s too tart, add the pineapple juice (leftover from the canned chunks) or add more sugar to balance the flavors.

I use canned pineapples chunks because it’s convenient and I don’t have to buy a whole pineapple.  At my house we love pineapples so I use the entire 20 oz can.

Elephant ear stems can be difficult to find and so you can substitute with celery.

The rice paddy and sawtooth herbs are essential greens for this dish.  Again, they can be difficult to find unless you go to an Asian grocer.  If you don’t have these herbs, substitute with other fragrant herbs like Thai basil or cilantro.

At my local 99 Ranch Market, they sell a packaged Sour Soup mix which contains elephant ear stem, okra, tomatoes and the fresh herbs.  Super convenient!  You have the basics and can add whatever else you like.

As a shortcut for making the tamarind sauce, you can use the powdered tamarind which is inexpensive and pretty good.  Just a quick note, most of these packets contain MSG.

If you want to enjoy this dish the Viet way, serve it with a side of undiluted fish sauce with chopped red chilies.

To complement the tartness of this soup, you’ll want to serve it with a savory dish like Braised Fish in Clay Pot (Ca Kho To) or Braised Pork and Shrimp.

Watch the video below for instructions.


1 lb swai fillet (or any fish of your choice)
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

3 oz wet tamarind
1 cup hot water

4 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 oz okra (approximately 1 cup)
8 oz pineapple chunks (approximately 1 cup)
2 small tomatoes
4 oz elephant ear steam (approximately 1 cup)
6 oz bean sprouts (approximately 2 cups)
6-8 sprigs rice paddy herb
6-8 sprigs sawtooth herb
6 cups Chicken Stock
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1/8 tsp ground black pepper


Cut the fish fillets into smaller sections.  Drizzle 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce on the one side and sprinkle with ground black pepper.  Flip the fish over and drizzle with another 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce and add more ground black pepper.  Allow the fish to marinate while continuing with the next steps.

Peel and mince the garlic.  Set aside in a small bowl.

Cut off a section of the wet tamarind and then cut into small chunks.  Add into a measuring cup along with the hot water.  Mash the tamarind and mix it with the water for 5 minutes or until a thick sauce forms.  Strain the tamarind using a sieve.  Set the sauce aside for now.

Trim ends off the okra.  Cut the okra at a diagonally, making 1/2-inch thick slices.

Cut tomatoes in half and then into wedges.

Drain pineapple chunks and set aside.

Remove skin from elephant ear stem using a vegetable peeler.  If the stems are thick, cut in half lengthwise.  Cut the stems at an angle making slices that are about 1/2-inch thick.

Coarsely chop the rice paddy herbs and sawtooth herbs.  Set aside for later use.

Heat a large pot over Medium heat and when hot add vegetable oil.  Add the garlic and stir-fry until golden brown, approximately 30 seconds.  Transfer into a bowl and set aside for now.

Add the chicken stock into the same pot, cover and bring to a boil over High heat.  Add the fish (do not cover) and cook until the stock comes to a boil again, approximately 3 minutes.  Reduce the heat to Medium.

Add the sugar, fish sauce and tamarind mixture.  Gently stir everything together.

Add the okra and pineapple chunks and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute.

Add the elephant ear stems and cook for 1 minute.

Add the bean sprouts.  Gently stir everything together.  Cook for another 1-2 minutes.

When serving, garnish the soup with the ground black pepper, rice paddy herbs, sawtooth herbs and fried garlic.

Yields: 6-8 servings

Check out this link to learn more about herbs: Quick Guide to Vietnamese Herbs.

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Yampi Root/Yam Soup (Canh Khoai Mo)

Yampi Root/Yam Soup with Shrimp (Canh Khoai Mo) -- a hearty soup that is full of flavor and texture.I’ve always been fascinated by the creamy, silkiness of this soup.  The fact that this unique slippery texture comes from a root vegetable is equally intriguing.  What exactly is this mysterious vegetable?  My research tells me this vegetable, called the Yampi Root, is a tuber in the yam family.  It’s called by many different names and often confused with similar root vegetables.  Because of the frequent mix-ups, it’s often just generically called a yam.  As with many root vegetables there are endless varieties.  With this particular vegetable, it’s best to know what you’re looking for when shopping for it rather than asking for it by name.  (In the video, I show you how to identify it amongst the mountains of other root vegetables.)

In Vietnamese, this vegetable is called “khoai mo” , “khoai” means root vegetable and “mo” means fat so it would be roughly translated as “fatty root vegetable”.  At my house, we call this dish “Slippery Potato” soup.  Fortunately for us, we are not eating fat or anything close to it.  Yampi root is deliciously hearty and when made into a soup the starchiness serves as an instant thickener so we don’t need to add heavy creams or sauces.  I’ve only ever had yampi root prepared as a soup and because the combination is so good I’ve never deviated from it but I imagine it would taste great cooked and then mashed,  added to a stew or even pan-fried or deep-fried.  I hope you’ll give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Watch the video below for instructions.

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2 green onions
1 small bunch rice paddy herb or cilantro
6 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb yampi root
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2-14 oz cans chicken broth
1 tsp fish sauce
1/8 tsp ground black pepper


Finely dice green onion tops (green stems).  Set aside in a small bowl.  Dice remaining green onion bottoms (white portion) and set aside in a separate bowl.  Coarsely chop rice paddy herb and add to green onion tops.  Toss together and then set aside for now.

Coarsely chop shrimp and add to bowl with green onion bottoms.  Add the sugar, several dashes of ground black pepper and salt.  Combine everything together and set aside for now.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from the yampi root.  Use a paring knife to remove any deep spots or remaining skin.  Rinse with cool water and pat dry.  Grate the vegetable using a coarse blade.  Leave about a 1-inch section of the root remaining.  Cut this section into small pieces.

In a medium saucepan, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add the yampi root pieces, cover the pot and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the grated yampi root and stir together.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.  Every few minutes stir the soup so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Add the shrimp and combine with the soup.  Turn off the heat.  Stir the soup for 1 minute until the shrimp is cooked.  If the soup is too thick, add some water.  Add fish sauce and combine.  Add 2 Tbsp of the green onions and herb mixture.  Stir together.

Just before serving, sprinkle more fresh greens and ground black pepper on top.

Yields: 4-6 servings

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Spinach and Shrimp Balls Soup (Canh Rau Spinach voi Tom Vien)

This light and healthy soup is a simple dish your whole family will enjoy.  Forget about eating frozen overly processed shrimp balls.  (They taste like rubber!)  These homemade shrimp balls are easy to make and so scrumptious.  Don’t worry if the balls aren’t perfectly round.  They aren’t meant to be in this earthy, hearty soup.  If you’d like to use something other than spinach, try another leafy green vegetable like mustard greens.  Opo or Italian squash and zucchini work well in this soup too.  This soup is a wonderful addition to round out any family meal.

Below are recipes for making a complete Vietnamese meal featuring this soup:

Braised Fish in Clay Pot (Ca Kho To)

Stir Fried Chayote and Beef (Su Su Xao Thit Bo)

Watch the video below for instructions.

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1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 green onions
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp fish sauce
1-15 oz can chicken broth
1 3/4 cups water
1-9 oz bag washed and ready to eat spinach
1 Tbsp fish sauce (adjust to taste)


Finely chop a 2-inch section of the onion tops and set aside in a small bowl.  This will be used to garnish the soup just before serving.

Finely mince remaining green onions and set aside on the cutting board.

Slice shrimp in half lengthwise.  Lightly smash each piece of shrimp with a pestle or meat hammer.  (This gives the shrimp texture and will make the balls nice and springy once cooked.)  Add minced onions to shrimp and finely minced everything.  Season shrimp with sugar, black pepper and fish soy sauce.  Combine well.

In a medium saucepan, add chicken broth and water.  Bring to a gentle boil over medium high heat.  Scoop out a bit of the shrimp using one spoon and use another spoon to smooth and shape the shrimp into a small ball.  Drop the shrimp ball into the broth.  Continue until all the shrimp balls are made.  Work quickly as the shrimp balls cook very quickly.  (Note:  it should take about 2 minutes to make all of the shrimp balls.  If you need more time, turn off the heat and make all of the shrimp balls.  When done, turn the heat back on.)   Stir the shrimp balls gently and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Increase heat to high and bring broth to a boil.  Add the spinach and stir into the soup.  Add fish sauce.  Cook for another 3 minutes.

To serve, ladle soup into a large bowl.  Garnish with green onions and sprinkle with black pepper.

Yields: 4 servings

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Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup (Canh Kho Qua)

In Vietnamese cuisine, bitterness is not a bad thing but a fundamental food taste.  And so, many Vietnamese dishes incorporate certain vegetables or herbs with a distinct bitter taste.  This hearty soup celebrates bitterness! It is made by coring bitter melon and stuffing it with a ground meat/shrimp filling and then cooking into a tasty soup.  If you prefer a milder broth, use chicken or vegetable stock.  For those who are newly introduced to this aspect of Asian cuisine, it may take some time to hone your taste buds. As you start to acquire the taste, you’ll find you really do enjoy and start to crave this element!

Watch the video below for instructions.


3 bitter melons
1/2 lb ground pork, turkey or chicken
15 medium deveined shrimp
1/2-1.8 oz package bean thread noodles (also called wood ear mushrooms)
1 tsp dried black fungus slivers
1/4 small onion
1 green scallion
2 tsp fish sauce for meat filling
6 cups water
3 Tbsp fish sauce for soup
1/4 tsp black pepper


Wash bitter melons.  Cut off ends and then cut each melon into 4 equal pieces.  Remove core from each piece and discard.

Soak bean thread noodles and dried fungus in separate bowls of warm tap water for 10 minutes.  Drain noodles and fungus. Cut noodles into shorter strands and chop fungus into fine pieces.

Dice onions and chop scallions into small pieces.

Slice shrimp in half lengthwise and then mince well.

Put meat, shrimp, noodles, fungus, onions, scallions into large bowl.  Add fish sauce and black pepper.  Combine all ingredients together mixing well.  Spoon meat mixture into the bitter melon.  Pack the meat inside the core filling it completely.  Continue until all the bitter melon pieces are stuffed.  If there’s leftover filling, make little meatballs.

In a large sauce pan, bring 6 cups water to a boil.  Add fish sauce to season the water.  Drop stuffed bitter melon pieces (and any meatballs) into the pot.  Let broth come to a boil again.  Skim off the meat bubbles with a ladle or spoon.  (This helps to keep the broth clear.)  Reduce the heat and cover the pot.  Simmer for 15 minutes.

Before serving sprinkle black pepper and freshly chopped cilantro and scallions on top.

Yields:  4-6 servings

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