Canh Rau Den (Vietnamese Amaranth Soup)

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Every time I eat canh, I think back on some of the best childhood food memories I have of mom cooking my favorite family-style meals for dinner.  The traditional family-style meals we ate always included at least one savory braised protein dish, a bowl of hearty green canh, and a pot of freshly cooked steamed Jasmine rice. As a kid, I loved filling my bowl of rice with the canh, adding some of the savory meats, and eating everything together in my own bowl of rice soup concoction.  I was ended up overeating because rice is so easy to scarf down with soup and was always full and satisfied.  It’s the best way to eat and I still love doing that today!

I give Mom mad props and am thankful every day for all she did for us when we were kids.  She worked a full-time day job and had a side job as a seamstress working out of our garage in the afternoons/nights/weekends, but somehow she always managed to regularly cook up the best family-style meals for us and have hot fresh delicious food on the table EVERY DAY.  These days, when I’m overwhelmed with just an 8-hour workday, I just complain and DoorDash for the kids.  I am working hard on the not complaining part. 🙂

I love to share these dishes with my kids and talk to them about the foods I grew up and loved eating when I was their age. They enjoy and appreciate the stories and ask tons of questions about my childhood and get to learn more about what I was like when I was their age.  Most importantly, they eat canh just like how I like to eat it and devour it up with a quickness as well!

For those that don’t know, Canh is the Vietnamese term for a light and clear soup generally made with a bunch of leafy greens or root vegetables and a little protein like shrimp or pork ribs, that often accompanies a traditional family meal with another savory protein dish and steamed Jasmine rice.  You can just eat canh by itself too. This canh, prepared with rau den, one of my favorite leafy greens for canh. I was today years old when I found out rau den is called callaloo or amaranth in English. Thanks, Wikipedia for always come through when I need you most!!!  If rau den is not available, any leafy greens would work well for this canh as well.

Ingredients:
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 ounce bunch of rau den (amaranth)
4 cups chicken broth
6 cups water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 ounces ginger, cleaned and thickly sliced
5 green onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic oil (optional)

Steps:

Ground shrimp – Aggressively chop shrimp and white part of green onions finely with a cleaver or a large chef knife on a cutting board until the shrimp turns into a sticky paste.  Add fish sauce, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar to the shrimp paste and mix well.  Set aside.

Make Canh– In a medium stockpot, bring chicken broth and water to a boil on the stovetop.  Add ginger, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and simmer for 15 minutes.  Shape and scoop the shrimp paste (about 1-2 teaspoons) into a ball and slowly drop it into the canh.  Cook for about 5-10 minutes or until shrimp floats to the top.  Add rau den and mix well.  Add chopped green onions, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Adjust seasoning of the canh to taste.

Tips:

  • The recipe works great with other leafy green vegetables like mustard greens, bok choy, gai lan, water spinach, or chrysanthemum.
  • To make this canh vegetarian, leave out the shrimp and substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth.
  • Chopping shrimp in the paste helps shrimp stick together and hold its shape when cooking in the broth and results in a delicious bouncy spongy shrimp texture.
  • If broth gets a little too salty for your taste, add a little water.

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