Bun Rieu Cua – Crab Noodle Soup

Crab Noodle Soup

Generality

Traditionally this soup is made with whole blue crabs which are then pounded in a large mortar/pestle. The crab meat is separated from the crushed body. The body of the crushed crab is then put into a fine mesh cloth or sieve and water is then strained through, forming the base of the broth.

Unlike pho or bun bo hue where there are slices of meat added, the key protein component to this dish is the crab meat mixture which adds flavor as well as texture to the soup. Some cooks like it more formed, almost like a cake. Some like it more airy and feathery, almost like egg drop soup. For a more formed version, add less egg and vice versa. Other optional additions include whole shrimp or snail/periwinkle.

It basically consists of two steps – making the pork broth, and adding the rieu mixture to the soup. You buy pork broth at the Asian market, but you can also use chicken broth if you prefer. The authentic Vietnamese version uses pork, though – since pork is an important staple in Vietnamese cuisine. We eat a lot of pig!

Crab Rice Noodle Soup In Vietnam

Photo by Scooter Saigon Tour

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Serving Size: 6-8

Ingredients

Vermicelli noodles, 1 package
Water for boiling
For the Rieu (Crab Mixture):
0.75 lbs ground pork
8 oz (1 cup) of fresh crab meat
6 oz can of crab meat (optional)
2 cans (5.6 oz) of minced crab in spices
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 eggs, beaten
For the Broth:
10 cups of pork stock or chicken stock
2 teaspoons fine shrimp sauce (mam tom)
2 teaspoons tamarind soup mix
6 to 8 ripe tomatoes, quartered
4-5 hot chili peppers (optional), chopped
1 tablespoon annato seed oil for coloring (or 2 tablespoon tomato paste)

Instructions

Prepare the Noodles:
Cook the vermicelli noodles in boiling water, according to package directions. Set aside.

Bring the Stock to a Boil:
Add the pork stock into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the fine shrimp sauce (mam tom) and the tamarind soup mix.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. (If you want firmer tomatoes, add them at the end.)

Make the Rieu:
Meanwhile, prepare the rieu (the crab/pork mixture). In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground pork, crab meat, cans of minced crab in spices, fish sauce, sugar and black pepper. Add the eggs and mix well.

Adding the Rieu to the Stock:
When the pork stock boils, slowly add the rieu mixture.

Season the soup with more fish sauce, if needed. If you want the soup to be more sour, adjust by adding more tamarind mix. For more a fishy, unique flavor, add more of the fine shrimp sauce.

To give the soup its distinctive red color, add the annato seed oil, or tomato paste.

To add extra spice to the soup, add the chopped hot chili peppers, seeds included. Be careful with the peppers. The soup will become very spicy very quickly. (If you don’t have fresh peppers, you can use pepper flakes).

Serve and Enjoy:
Now, it’s time to put everything together!

Add the vermicelli noodles to a nice sized bowl. Ladle the bun rieu soup on top. Serve with bean sprouts, lime, and fresh mint and herbs. Add more fine shrimp paste to give it more flavor.

In my family, we usually serve this with the curled stem of rau muong (Vietnamese water spinach), Bap chuoi (Banana blossoms) that are thinly sliced, bean sprouts, and a squirt or two of lime.

Serves 8 to 10.

Notes

If you want your pork/crab mixer to be thicker (firmer), use fewer eggs, and use only 1 can of minced crab in mixture.

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