I know what you’re thinking. “Beef, cabbage, and tomato egg-drop quick-soup” is the most awkward name for a recipe ever. This is due to the fact that I’m not really a great translator, and I want to stay accurate to the dish’s name in Vietnamese. In Vietnamese cuisine, there is a class of quick soups called “canh,” distinguished from more well-known Vietnamese soups like pho or bun bo Hue in both how they are eaten and how they are made.
Canh, or “quick-soups,” are family fare. They were originally created as ingredients-stretchers. Vietnamese people would make these light soups mostly out of vegetables, which were plentiful. Sparse amounts of expensive and scarce meat or seafood would be included, to lend meaty flavors to the broth without actually using very much meat. The soup would get spooned over a bowl of rice—another cheap stomach-filling staple in Vietnam—and your family would feel full and satiated with what they had. This is a defining characteristic of Vietnamese cuisine—meat is usually the accompaniment to a meal, not the star. (Incidentally, this is why Vietnamese food is known for being healthy.)
In Vietnamese, canh is further categorized. This is a “canh chua,” which means this soup has a sour tang, from the tomatoes. The lettuce in the recipe creates a subtle sweetness in the soup. The ground beef and eggs add richness.
For this recipe, I used tomatoes from my garden, so the kind of tomatoes you get don’t matter as much as the flavor and ripeness of them.
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- ¼ pound ground beef (or minced beef)
- ½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp fish sauce (nuoc mam, in Vietnamese)
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 quarts of water
- ¼ head of cabbage, loosely chopped
- 1 pound of tomatoes, halved (about 4-6 Romas)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- Heat a 4-quart soup pan on medium high heat. Add in ground beef and saute until beef is browned.
- Add in onions and garlic. Saute until soften and onion is translucent.
- Add in the fish sauce, salt, and water. Let it simmer for about 2 minute before adding cabbage and tomatoes. Crank up the heat to high.
- Bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Pour in the beaten into the soup and gently stir, letting the eggs coagulate into the boiling water.
- Serve the soup hot with white jasmine rice. The soup can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days (longer if you've got a stomach of steel).