Classic Sour Soup

Sour soup is an essential part of a noontime rice meal in central Burma. There’s a wide variety of these soups. They’re most often made with a fish stock as a base and, as here, lightly soured with tamarind or lime juice. Occasional sips as you eat refresh the palate.

I love the way this soup can be subtly transformed by adding different greens and vegetables. I’ve eaten sour soup with petals from pumpkin flowers floating in the broth, a beautiful variation. You could use zucchini blossoms, or even nasturtiums. In Mandalay, there’s a short time in February just before hot season when the tall kapok trees (lapin in Burmese) are in bloom, and cooks add their velvety faded-red flowers to a sour soup flavored with onions, ginger, fermented soybeans, and a touch of tomato.


  • 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Fragrant Fish Broth
  • About 2 loosely packed cups coarsely chopped bok choi, Taiwan bok choi, or Napa cabbage, or tender young bean sprouts, or daikon cut into 1-inch chunks, or a combination


Place the tamarind pulp in a small bowl with the hot water. Mash it with a fork to help it dissolve, then set aside for several minutes to soak. Rub the tamarind with your fingers to help it dissolve further.

Place a sieve over a wide bowl and pour the tamarind water through, pressing the pulp against the sieve to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the pulp.

Pour the broth into a wide pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the tamarind liquid and stir in, then add the vegetable(s) and cook at a low boil until tender. Serve hot or at room temperature.