Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup (Canh)

This light and soothing soup was just the ticket on a recent Winter night; and the following day was our first snowstorm of the season so the leftovers were perfect for lunch. Watercress adds a peppery note to the soup; while lime juice provides a bright note. Of course it’a always best to use homemade chicken broth if you have it on hand because of the depth it brings to the overall flavor.

Slices from a sour dough baguette were a perfect accompaniment.

Look for “live” watercress, which is packaged with its roots attached, it stays fresher longer and is easier to clean. To prep it, trim off and discard the roots, rinse and drain the greens, then cut them into 1½-inch lengths, discarding any stems that are thick or tough. If you prefer, substitute an equal amount of baby spinach for the watercress. We actually doubled the amount of watercress to two bunches.

Tip: Don’t leave the meatballs at room temperature after shaping them.
Chilling firms them so they hold together when added to the simmering broth.

Our package of ground pork was 1 1/4 pounds and therefore we ended up with 27 meatballs as opposed to 20. When you drop the refrigerated meatballs into the hot broth, they initially sink, but don’t worry, as they heat, they will rise to the top.

Vietnamese Meatball and Watercress Soup

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 6 scallions, white parts finely chopped, green parts thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce, divided
  • 4 tsp. grated fresh ginger, divided
  • Kosher salt and ground white pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 qts. low-sodium chicken broth (8 cups)
  • 1 bunch watercress, cut into 1½-inch lengths (4 cups lightly packed)
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice (1 or 2 limes)


  1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment and mist with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the pork, scallion whites, egg white, 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce, 2 teaspoons of the ginger, 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt and 1 teaspoon white pepper. Mix with your hands. Lightly moisten your hands with water and form into 20 balls, each about a generous tablespoon, and set on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons ginger and the garlic, then cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add the broth and bring to a boil over high. Reduce to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the onion is fully softened, about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the meatballs, bring to a simmer over medium-high, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook undisturbed until the meatballs are cooked through, 160°F at the center, 8 to 10 minutes; cut through a meatball to check for doneness.
  7. Off heat, stir in the watercress and remaining 2 tablespoons fish sauce. Let stand until the greens are wilted and tender, about 1 minute.
  8. Stir in the lime juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then stir in the scallion greens.

Original recipe compliments of Milk Street

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