Canh Bi Do Tom Recipe (Vietnamese Pumpkin and Shrimp Soup)

Canh Bi Do Tom Recipe (Vietnamese Pumpkin and Shrimp Soup) Recipe

Canh bí đỏ nấu tôm tươi literally translates to "pumpkin soup cooked with fresh shrimp". The natural sweetness from the shrimp pairs wonderfully with pumpkin. My mom’s trick to give the shrimp a better consistency is to blend in a few baby squid with the shrimp. If that scares you, you can omit it; the soup will still be yummy.

Soup is the quintessential Vietnamese comfort food, and this is a very tasty example. It is but one of many variations of soups that are served as a component of a typical Vietnamese meal. Traditionally, a Vietnamese meal is composed of jasmine rice, a meat or seafood dish and a bowl of soup on the side. If you’re planning a Vietnamese feast, consider serving it with grilled chicken.


Yields: 8 servings

2 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 (10.5 ounce) can chicken broth
½ teaspoon tapioca starch (or corn starch), diluted in a little water
1 pound pumpkin (see tips), peeled and diced
7 ounces raw medium shrimp, thawed and cleaned
4 frozen baby squid, pre-cleaned, thawed and diced
1 teaspoon dried crispy fried garlic, store-bought
¼ teaspoon red chili powder
3 tablespoons green onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
1 chunk rock sugar (about 1 ounce), or 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons nước mắm


Frying the onions: Heat the canola oil in a small pan. Fry the onions in the oil, stirring frequently to prevent the onion from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Reserve the oil. Drain the onions on paper towels. Set aside.

Seasoning the broth: Bring the chicken broth and 2-½ cups water to a boil in a 2-quart pot. Add the tapioca starch, rock sugar and fried onions. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the pumpkin (you'll have about 3 cups) and cook for another 10 minutes. Set the heat on low while preparing the shrimp balls.

For the shrimp balls: In a bowl, season the shrimp with 1 teaspoon of fried garlic, salt, red chili powder, black pepper and 1 teaspoon of cilantro. In a food processor or a mini-blender if you have one, blend the shrimp with the baby squid and about 2 teaspoons of the onion-infused oil. Add a teaspoon of green onion. Form 1-tablespoon-sized shrimp balls.

Assembly time: Bring the broth back to a boil. Add the shrimp balls, one at a time. Cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add fish sauce (nước mắm) and bring the broth back to a boil. Add a drizzle of the reserved onion-infused oil. Cook for a minute, then add the green onions. Turn off the heat. Cover and let the soup sit for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with more black pepper.

Serve hot with more cilantro. Drizzle more nước mắm over the broth to finish (to adjust the seasoning).

Bon appétit!


Bí đỏ is a kind of Vietnamese pumpkin that has a starchy texture. You can use any other variety of pumpkin if you can't find this particular one.

Frying onions is easy. Chop the onion. Heat about 1 inch of canola oil in a skillet. Fry the onion in the oil, stirring frequently to prevent it from burning until the color is evenly golden brown. Drain the oil on paper towels. I always make extra so that I can vacuum-seal and store them in the freezer for future use. I place about one cup per bag. You can store them up to 3 months.

I buy dried crispy fried garlic at the Asian store. It's sold in 14-ounce containers. It's crunchy and very strong in flavor. You can also make your own if you like, by frying small chunks of fresh garlic.

The addition of fried onions into the broth prevents the soup from being tanh ("fishy") when the shrimp is added. It's a trick when cooking seafood or meat in broth.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on March 27, 2011.


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