Canh Kho Qua vi Cha Ca – Bittermelon Soup and Fish Cakes

20 May

I’ve been craving this for a while and forgot I had a container of fish cake paste in the freezer. Hold it right there. Don’t judge. This stuff is amazing. Try it just once and you’ll get it. It smells of fishy goodness (yes, that’s a thing), and it fries up quick to make the perfect accompaniment to the Canh Kho Qua pork stuffed bittermelon soup.

Fried fish cakes with pork stuffed bittermelon soup and rice

Serve with a bowl of rice on the side and you’re good to go!

So without the noise of planning a housewarming party, here’s the recipe for normal meals, after the jump.

Canh Kho Qua Pork Stuffed Bittermelon Soup

Serves 4 with whole batch + vegetable side, Serves 2 halved and without additional side.

1 lb ground pork

1 shallot, finely minced

3/4 – 1 cup rehydrated Woodear Mushrooms, chopped

1 tbs each ground pepper and sugar

1 tbs fish sauce, more/less to taste

Handful cilantro, chopped

4 bittermelon (2 feeds us + plenty of lunch leftovers)

Optional: 1 bundle bean thread noodles, soaked in water, drained and chopped

Before mixing the pork mixture, now is a good time to parboil the bittermelon if you want to take out a little bitterness. Bring a big pot of water to a roiling boil and dunk the bittermelon for a couple of minutes until they turn bright green. Run under cold water and set aside to cool.

Now you can mix all of the above ingredients – make sure all of the ingredients are well blended. Some people add bean thread noodles, but we think that’s just filler and I can’t get the meat as tightly packed. After cooking it all seems to crumble out. My tablespoon measures aren’t exact, by the way. I use a soup spoon for most everything and keep it consistent. Much easier to add and taste with the same utensil. Less dishes to clean.

Tablespoon of pepper added to pork mix.

See? Tablespoon-ish. Use less or more if you’d like – the pepper cuts through some of the bitterness.

Once everything is mixed well, back to the bittermelon. Slice the bittermelon about an 1″ to an 1.5″ thickness and hollow out the pithy interior. First score the edges with a regular spoon.

Scoring the bittermelon to remove inside

Then just push through and pop out the center. If it’s being difficult, score the other side too.

Push through the inside of the bittermelon

Voila! Now you’re ready to get to stuffing. Pack it in so the meat doesn’t fall out while cooking. I used half of the mixture to stuff two bittermelons and make several meatballs. The rest went in the freezer for a quick future lunch or dinner.

Pork stuffed bittermelon

Canh Kho Qua Broth

For the broth, start with 1 container (32 oz) of low sodium chicken broth + 2 cups water. And no, this dish is not low sodium overall, but I prefer to add the fish sauce and other salty seasonings for the  flavor. These ratios are what we like, so start with less and add more. Don’t forget to let the broth come to a boil before tasting and making additional adjustments.

1 tbs fish sauce

2 tbs (or just under) sugar

3 tbs mushroom seasoning

Easy as one, two, three! Easy to remember, no? Bring the broth to a boil and add the stuffed bittermelon and meatballs and cook for about 30 minutes.

When you toss in the stuffed bittermelon, get going on the fried fish cakes. Get a bowl of water handy or else the paste will stick like crazy. Make nugget-like patties with your hands and set aside.

Fish cake paste

Love this brand.

I suck at frying things – surely I’ve mentioned that. I think I need more oil in the pan. Anyhow, fry until both sides are nice and golden and serve immediately!

Fried fish cakes

Don’t these guys look good? Serve with soy sauce + chopped chili for heat.

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