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Vietnamese Hot and Sour Fish Soup

(Cahn Chua Ca)

Visually beautiful, with red, dark green, and white cut shapes in a tamarind-dark broth; in taste, sour piquant offset by sweet fish and earthy okra--it's a sensational soup: appetite stimulating and totally, totally satisfying at the same time. Serve piping hot to 6 people as a first course or to 2-3 people as a meal.

Garnish: 1 cup mung bean sprouts; ¼ cup slightly chopped cilantro; 2 teaspoons hot pepper oil (which you can make by sautéing ¼ teaspoon dried hot peppers in 2 teaspoons of oil); and small lime wedges

Prepare the rice and set aside when done.

In a bowl, mix the scallion, black pepper, and 1 Tablespoon of nuoc mam, then toss in the fish strips and let marinate for 15 minutes.

In another bowl, stir the tamarind concentrate into the hot water and let sit until ready to use.

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil, then stir in the tamarind, the tomato wedges, the sliced chiles, and 3 Tablespoons of nuoc mam. Simmer for 3 minutes, then add the okra and fish. Simmer until the fish is done--about 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the bean sprouts, cilantro, and chile oil. Spoon rice portions equally into the bowls, then ladle the soup over each one and top with the lime wedges.