It’s the middle of the week, you’re short on time, but you don’t want to give in and order fast food for dinner. What to do? This healthy Canh Bau – Opo Squash Soup recipe is super easy, easy, easy. Here, we take a popular Asian summer vegetable and transform it into a simple weekday meal. Better yet, opo squash is so readily available that you can often find it in your neighborhood supermarket, which means this recipe doesn’t even require a trip to the Asian market! Click here to jump to recipe.
The word “Canh” in Vietnamese means soup. “Bau” is the term for opo squash. Put the words together, and you get Canh Bau, or Opo Squash Soup. Opo squash is a green gourd with a very mild taste, which means it’s perfect even if you have a picky eater. Opo squash comes in a variety of sizes, and if you are lucky enough to know someone who gifts you with homegrown opo squash, you may have a very tall vegetable on your hands. My dad has grown opo squash that are half my height!
When purchasing opo squash, they can be very forgiving. If you are lucky enough to be in the midst of the opo squash season and have lots to pick from, you want to look for one that is about the same width from one end to the other, versus one that is much more narrow on one end. In other words, look for a rolling pin instead of a baseball bat. My mom likes to also gently press her fingernail on the stem side of the opo squash, looking for a slight give in the flesh.
When preparing opo squash for this recipe, the best method is to first use a vegetable peeler to peel the squash. I like to do this directly over the sink because the peel pieces can fly everywhere, especially when you’re in a rush. Just make a mess of squash peels in your sink, and then scoop up the pile in one big swoop to toss into the trash. After I peel the squash, I’ll give it a quick rinse before cutting.
Cutting the squash depends on its shape. Cut off the ends, and then cut the squash in half lengthwise; with a thicker squash, cut into thirds lengthwise. Then, chop the squash lengths into pieces. I shoot for pieces that are about the size of an index finger. Don’t worry – the squash softens as it cooks, so what seems like a large piece while still be bite sized when you’re done.
There are two ways of making the meat in a Canh Bau recipe: you can fry the meat first, or, as described in this recipe, drop the meat by rounded teaspoons into the Canh Bau broth. My mom prefers the second method because it better keeps the flavor within the marinated meat, instead of the marinade seeping into the broth, which is flavored with its own spices.
This recipe is a simpler version of making Canh Bau because it uses chicken broth. In the future, I’ll update this blog with a general recipe for any type of “canh” soup you can make even if you don’t have chicken broth on hand.
Give this recipe a try, and go ahead and tell your family you slaved in the kitchen. You deserve the rest of the night off!
A quick & easy option for a healthy weekday dinner.
- 1/4 lb. ground pork
- 5 medium shrimp, smashed
- 1/4 tsp. sugar
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- 1.5 tsp. fish sauce
- 1/8 tsp. onion powder
- 1/4 tsp. garlic powder OR 1 chopped garlic clove
- 1 stalk green onion, chopped
- 2 lb. opo squash
- 2 C. chicken broth
- 2 C. water
- 5 tsp. fish sauce
- 2.5 tsp. sugar
- pepper & chopped cilantro for garnish
Place the meat marinade ingredients into a bowl, and mix well to combine. Set aside.
While the meat marinates, peel the opo squash, and chop it into 1.5" pieces.
Pour the chicken broth and water into a medium stockpot, and heat on high to boil.
Gently drop the marinated meat by rounded teaspoons into the boiling broth.
Add the opo squash to the broth. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes.
Add to the broth 5 tsp. fish sauce and 2.5 tsp. sugar. Stir gently. Cook for an additional 5 minutes so the opo squash becomes translucent. Remove from heat, and serve garnished with chopped cilantro and a fine dusting of pepper.
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