Friday, November 28, 2008

Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup)

Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup) 1

After a lot of heavy eating, I needed something light.

A canh is a light Vietnamese soup. It's not really meant to be a full meal but eaten as an accompaniment to an entree and a vegetable side dish. A light, flavorful broth and a few greens are all that's really needed. Sometimes, I'll even add some rice into the soup to soak up the flavors.

Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup) 2

Cabbage gets such a bad rap. I like regular cabbage just fine, but this unusual variety of napa cabbage was longer with less leafy greens.

I love the natural sweetness of napa cabbage and a sweet chicken broth was all that was needed to bring out its flavors.

Instead of buying boneless chicken, I usually buy the cheaper package of thigh meat and save the bones and skin for soup. As it was, I had leftover chicken bones and skin after stripping off the meat for my Ca Ri Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Curry) Pot Pie. I tossed in the julienned green onions from the Peking Duck-Style Roast Turkey with Flour Wrappers, Scallions, Cucumbers and Cranberry/Plum/Hoisin Sauce, but that's optional.

My method for flavorful, but light broth is to start at a roiling boil to extract all the impurities and flavor from the bones, then simmer on low for a clear broth. Read my post on how to make Canh (Vietnamese Soup Broth) for the basics.

Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup) 3

Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup)

For a 5-quart stock pot, you'll need:

About 1/2 to 1 lb of chicken bones and/or skin
1 tsp salt
1 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
1 head napa cabbage, cut into 1 1/2-inch strips

Optional: green onions, julienned

Fill a 5-quart stock pot with water and when it boils, add the cleaned 1/2 to 1 lb chicken bones. Toss in the skin too. It'll add some depth and flavor to the soup. Don't worry, just skim out the excess fat. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tblsp fish sauce.

Keep the stock at a roiling boil for about 15 minutes to extract impurities and flavor from the bones. Notice all that gunk. Ick. Using a skimmer spoon, remove the foam and gunk.

Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup) 4

Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow the stock to simmer for another 15 minutes, or for at least half an hour if you're not in a hurry.

Remove all the bones and skin and keep skimming until the broth is clear. Taste and add salt or fish sauce if necessary. See? Yucky impurities all gone, and you're left with a lovely clear broth.

Add sliced napa cabbage and green onions. Let simmer for another 5 minutes or until the cabbage is softened to your liking.

Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup) 5

Serve as a light starter with your meal. Add a dash of ground black pepper if you wish. Or you can be like me and just eat bowls of this simple soup with nothing else.

Canh Bap Cai Bac Thao (Vietnamese Napa Cabbage Soup) 6


My other Vietnamese canh recipes:
Canh Bi Voi Tom (Winter Melon Soup with Shrimp)
Canh Bi/Bau Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Winter Melon Soup)
Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup)
Canh Chua Tom (Vietnamese Sour Shrimp Soup)
Canh Cu Sen (Vietnamese Lotus Root Soup)
Canh Rau Cuu Ky (Vietnamese (Chinese) Boxthorn Soup)

1 year ago today, Slightly Spiced (Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg) Molasses Cookies.
2 years ago today, I hung my stockings by the chimney with care.


  1. i find american cabbage to be bland. however, this cabbage has more flavor and appeal to it.

    i still adore the concept of having canh as an accompaniament to a vietnamese dinner. however, when it's just me (or with jason or roommate) i draw the line at making two dishes (of meat and veggies), with rice. i don't know how my mother managed 3 different dishes every night.

  2. This is one of my favorite soups. My mom makes this soup everytime we have boiled whole chicken. She doesn't make this much during the summer but I love this when the weather gets cold. I also love to soup this stuff into my rice bowl. Thank you for this recipe. Made me think of my mom! :)

  3. Your broth looks incredibly light and lovely. Sounds like a delicious soup.

  4. This is something I want, like, RIGHT NOW!!!! Kudos on actually making soup broth yourself. Of course, this is coming from a lazy ass who just uses that horrible canned broth they sell for 33 cents at 99 Ranch.

  5. One of my favourites and so easy to make!

  6. this is so simple. i love how bare it is. it is like when my mom makes soup out of one small dried scallop.

  7. i see that in your pablo post you got a new SLR (or at least I heard through the grapevine as well). What kind did you get? Just curious, the photos looks great! BTW, I'm a fan of simple cabbage soup.

  8. Lan,
    Cabbage gets so overlooked since it's just peasant food, but it's good stuff. I want to find Savoy cabbage since I haven't tried that kind yet.

    I don't know how my mother managed it either! She always had multiple dishes. When it's just me, it's just one dish or one soup usually.

    Tea Time,
    My family does this when we have a whole chicken too. Good way to play up the broth as that's the most important ingredient.

    Thanks! Light was what I was going for. :)

    Sometimes the cheap canned stuff doesn't even have broth, it's just MSG-laden water.

    Super easy is also great for lazy bloggers. :P

    I love dried scallops too. They're so flavorful that you only need one to make a whole soup pot taste good.

    Nothing fancy like you. I got a used Canon XTi off Craig's List for a pretty good price. Just the cheapy lens for now though. I hope you mean you liked the Pablo post pictures because these were taken with my old point and shoot. I've got way too many posts with the old camera so it'll be a while before I'm through with all of those.


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