canh cà chua đậu hũ hẹ

mission accomplished with only 1/2 of the chives overcooked

mission accomplished with only 1/2 of the chives overcooked

A very satisfactory dinner! 🙂 This is one of many very basic vietnamese clear soups (canh) and is typically a staple in daily vietnamese meal. Yet I haven’t made it probably in more than 10 years for various reasons, but the primary being the inability to find chives. May be backing up a little bit, I typically don’t cook unless I’m traveling abroad, and as such normally will only cook what I can find in the local store. And I have wanted to make this for a long time for friends in Germany but apparently it was quite tall order to find “hẹ” (chives, the completely flat type, not round, not piramide in shape.. as they taste very different). One time back in 2008 we had to go to 7 different asian + local vegetable markets in Munich + Heidelberg and in the end had to settle for something very unsatisfactory (for a different dish, the vietnamese fresh spring rolls). In any case, at the current lovely stay, we have located a niiiiiiiice asian store within 5min walking distance, so here we are :-).

Don’t ask me about portion, I just toss everything in. But the ingredients are very basic:
–1. a proper knife*, soup pot, soup serving spoon
0. fish sauce 🙂
1. ground pork + shallot + black grounded peppers
2. chives, the absolutely flat type (hẹ)
3. soft tofu (or silken, đậu hũ)
4. tomato (cà chua)


A particular note on #1: If you ever go to an asian market you’d see ground pork includes probably 70% fat 🙂 . There’s no need for that much fat.. but it really needs some.. which is really difficult to get in an American or English or German markets it seems.. Normally I have to (ask a friend to translate to) request added fat, then also sending it through the grinding machine 3 more times. This makes the meat very soft, appropriate for making “meat balls”.

Other than that, as with many cuisines, I think there are “secrets” for curing (if there’s any smell on) the meat. For pork, typically we use shallots (diced to tiny pieces, preferably 1mm x 1mm, but my chopping patience normally runs out at 5mm x 5mm) and black peppers.

And lastly, as with almost all vietnamese food, unless you’re fasting, fish sauce is the basis for marinating everything.

Typically the wrestling with the meat on the floor (especially if it did not get sent through the grinding machines 3-10 times, hence you have to “whip” it by hand, good for building arm muscles) occupies 1/2 of my cooking hour. Other than that, just toss everything in in some ordering fashion:

a. boil a pot of water
b. toss diced tomatoes in while water is being heated up
c. round up the meat balls (ground pork + black pepper + shallots + fish sauce) and drop in when the water is boiling (turn down the heat)
d. cut tofu 3cm x 2cm x 2cm size (something like that, we measure with our fingers but I can never find the proper translation) to toss in
(add fish sauce to taste)
e. cut chives 3cm long and spread it on top

(turn off heat immediately after and take the entire pot off to make sure meat ball and chives are not overcooked.)
And happy drinking 🙂

Yes, it’s only 1/3 of the typical vietnamese meal, normally there’s also a salty dish and of course rice. But soup is my only specialty because I know for sure the kitchen won’t burn down.. so huge pots are good as you can fill up the stomach and skip the other 2 parts :D.

Edit: here’s the 2nd batch, looking more like what it’s supposed to be when hẹ is not overcooked.

* i don’t work for the knife company, but it has approval from my entire family and best friend’s. it, plus a sharpening stone, and one is set for life, just don’t go hacking a coconut with it.

— oh, my sister just made a comment on my other fb post of the soup pix.. and it reminds me that she normally cooks with pork ribs instead.. but i don’t know how to deal with that.. though if you do know i think it’s much simpler than wrestling with making the meat balls.

About thả diều
writing-challenged opera-addict

10 Responses to canh cà chua đậu hũ hẹ

  1. yvette says:

    Bon appétit! ( very nice and sure to be tasty !)

    • thả diều says:

      Thank you Yvette! on my next visit I’d like to make some soup for you 🙂 (i won’t make it this year though… even though i wanted to, as E.Haïm is conducting her gorgeous orchestra with S.Mingardo singing — and some reallly top notch singers too! at the Aix festival.. but i’ll be in the Arctic..)
      Hope spring is treating you well? Are you traveling somewhere next? greetings from London 🙂

  2. yvette says:

    You made it for Rousset and Piau: you could not have been in better hands for Haendel: Ch. Rousset is a must! so is Sandrine Piau (saw her several times at Aix festival and Montpellier );
    Of course you will be welcomed here! about travels, usual Paris soon for VK’s short aria in Rigoletto of course next week… otherwise same stuff around !!! Best ! yvette

    • thả diều says:

      Thanks Yvette! I was hoping to hear Rousset with his entire orchestra but it was actually only a quartet. THey played really great though! I didn’t have time to add that in to the post and meant to go back to say, esp. the Vivaldi was really lovely.
      I had wanted to visit you in Aix this summer but it’s not quite working out yet because i’ll be in the north again… but am looking forward to hearing your report on VK’s Rigoletto! did you see the photo of the hair she has for the role? really lovely 🙂

  3. dehggial says:

    The soup is still delicious! Just had 2 bowls 😛

    btw, here’s a link to Sancta Susanna = 1 soprano + 2 (two) contraltos, definitely your kind of thing.

    • thả diều says:

      i currently starving, could definitely go for a couple bowls too 😀
      oh, contraltos? melikes! let me go check ACA’s schedule on this…

      Edit: omg, drooling, she’s singing w/ a contralto and a mezzo…
      30 Nov 2016; 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 20, 23 Dec 2016 Opera Bastille
      (and it’s double billed with E.Garanca! Mascagni:Cavalleria rusticana)

      • dehggial says:

        oh, yea, this would be a double bill as it’s only about 30min. Lucky you 😉

        • thả diều says:

          or non-lucky… completely non-overlapping w/ Alcina.. and i’d like to visit my family during xmas having already skipped seeing them last year.. but perhaps i could pull another thing like that Stutzmann’s trip then wing 1/2 way across globe directly back to LA…

    • thả diều says:

      wow, just read the story, something that can not be missed with ACA!!
      (i’m curious of her take on German, but wow, the character! must plot my way somehow… great music!)

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