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Bun Rieu Cua – Vietnamese Tomato Crab Noodle Soup

2 Jun

My last recipe post featured one of my favorite meals, Canh Kho Qua (Stuffed Bittermelon Soup), so this weekend for my future hub’s birthday BBQ I made a gigantor pot of Bun Rieu Cua (boon ree-ewe coo-uh), Crab and Tomato Noodle Soup. This is one dish that I got right my first try, and is his favorite Vietnamese soup that I’ve tackled.

Bun Rieu Cua Vietnamese crab noodle soup

I hadn’t made it in a while since we moved into the new crib, so I made a small batch the other weekend to refresh my cooking memory. Mom and Dad came over and actually really enjoyed the soup. I say “actually” because this soup is more pungent than more basic soups as it is made with mam ruoc (mamm rue-uck), fine shrimp paste. When preparing this dish, you can use very little or none at all in the ‘floater’ mix as well as the soup and let people add it to their own bowl.

You can prepare the soup several different ways – with only the canned minced crab and seasoning, adding fresh lump crab meat, or with oc (little snails) which would be Bun Rieu Cua Oc. Traditional fixings call for shredded and curled rau muống (rau moong), water spinach, which can be difficult to find. My mother in law brought over two bags of the hollow stemmed water spinach which gives the soup a really great crunch.

Ma took to a paring knife to shred the hollow stems before soaking them in cold water to curl, but I’m going to find a splitter which makes life so much easier. This tool is made specifically for splitting water spinach and can be found in the gadget/tool section of Vietnamese or Asian markets. It’s called Dao chẻ rau muống, which literally translates to “knife split water spinach”.

You remove the leaves and reserve for another use, which we love to prepare with fermented tofu. Check out Wandering Chopstick’s post about the tool and showing the hollow spinach stems. Happy to have one of our favorite side dish treats ready for dinner this week. If you can’t find water spinach in your local international market, you can use shredded Romain lettuce or even watercress.

Recipes most often call for pork broth as the base, but you can also use chicken. I ran out of the powdered pork broth I found at the Asian market and used powdered chicken stock for the rest and it tasted just fine.

Fine enough, in fact, that hub’s family was shocked and impressed that I was the one who made the soup – some of whom then said they needed to come over for Vietnamese cooking classes. Color me flattered! There’s nothing more gratifying to a cook than seeing people going back for seconds…and even thirds in some cases.

Enough chit chat and on to the recipe.

Bun Rieu Cua – Vietnamese Crab and Tomato Noodle Soup

Recipe serves 4-6

For the broth:

  • 14 cups pork or chicken broth (if using powdered pork stock, I found 3 tbs of powder for every 3 cups water to be a good ratio)
  • 28 oz can whole tomatoes and juice
  • Additional/Optional Flavoring: Mushroom seasoning, fish sauce, fine shrimp paste
  • 4 tomatoes, quartered and added after the crab mixture cooks

Bring all of this to a boil while preparing the crab mixture.

For the rieu crab mixture:

  • 14 0z can of minced crab in spices
  • 1/4 – 1/2 lb ground pork (more if you want a thicker soup)
  • 1 cup Lump crab meat (more if you like)
  • 1 tbl fish sauce
  • 2 tbl sugar
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • 4 tbl dried shrimp (soaked in hot water until soft and finely minced – a food processor is great to use here)
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tbl fine shrimp paste (optional)

Mix all of this together to blend well. We save the liquid from re-hydrating the shrimp and add to the broth for extra flavor.

Juice from rehydrating the dried shrimp.

Yummy shrimpy goodness

Crab, egg and spice mixture

Add the crab, pork and egg mixture one spoon at a time to the broth around the edge of the pot. Cover and return to a simmer to cook for another 20 minutes until the mixture floats.

Tomato crab soup

For the bowls:

Noodles. These are the ones you want, but I have no idea what they are. If you can’t find them, just think vermicelli will do.

Noodles for the soup

Serve with fresh herbs like water spinach stems or shredded lettuce, mint, Thai basil, cilantro. Any mix will do.

Bean sprouts, lime wedges and fine shrimp paste round out the traditional accompaniments.

Serving crab noodle soup with herbs

You can buy these pre-fried tofu puffs to add to the soup just before serving. They’re delicious, but not entirely necessary.

Soy puffs

Voila! Prepare your taste-buds to be wowed 🙂

Crab tomato soup with soy puffs

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4 Responses to “Bun Rieu Cua – Vietnamese Tomato Crab Noodle Soup”

  1. Nina F. June 2, 2013 at 10:50 pm #

    Amanda! I love your blog. Did you know I studied Vietnamese as an undergrad? Just one year and I sucked, but there you go. I admire your intense study of Vietnamese cuisine so much. Maybe I will get more adventurous in my cooking. Happy wedding and big congrats.

    • amandare June 3, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

      I didn’t! I’m learning phrases bit by bit – ordering food, go to bed, etc, but really hope to dive back in to Rosetta Stone before we travel to Vietnam next year. Appreciate the kind words, I love learning more about where he came from 🙂

  2. The Hubs June 3, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

    It was delicious. I am so proud of you and so is my belly. It’s getting bigger by the day!

    • amandare June 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

      Thank you, Hubs! They say the fastest way to a man’s heart is through his belly 😉 xoxo

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