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Appetizers, Mains, Soups

Sour fish soup with tamarind

Sour fish soup with tamarind
Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Walk into almost any taqueria and you can get agua de tamarindo, a refreshingly tangy Mexican drink made from tamarind fruit. But tamarind is not just Mexican, and tamarindo is not just a drink. Wonderfully zingy, tart and piquant, with ... Read more

Total time: 30 minutes | Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup tamarind liquid
  • 3/4 pound catfish fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup bite-sized chunks fresh or frozen pineapple, not canned (optional)
  • 10 to 12 (about 1/3 pound) okra, stemmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound tomatoes, cored, halved horizontally, seeded and cut into wedges
  • 2 cups (about 1/3 pound) bean sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 5 or 6 sprigs cilantro, coarsely chopped

Step 1In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until fragrant and soft. Add the salt, sugar, fish sauce, tamarind liquid and 5 1/2 cups water.

Step 2Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, add the catfish and the pineapple, and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the catfish and pineapple are tender but still firm. If you are not serving the soup right away, turn off the heat and cover.

Step 3Just before serving, return the soup to a simmer. Drop in the okra and cook for 2 minutes, or until tender but still firm. Add the tomatoes, bean sprouts and cumin. When the bean sprouts have just wilted, after about 30 seconds, turn off the heat.

Step 4Taste and add extra salt or fish sauce, if necessary. Ladle into serving bowls and garnish with the cilantro.

Note: Adapted from "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" by Andrea Nguyen. See the accompanying recipe for tamarind liquid. You also can use canned "fresh tamarind concentrate" (use the same amount as of tamarind liquid). Fresh okra is available year-round at Asian markets. You may substitute snow peas cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3/4 cup). Vietnamese fish sauce is available at Southeast Asian markets.

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