Bun Rieu is one of my favorite soups to make, because it is so simple and easy to whip up. I’ve made this on a weeknight before, but it’s usually a weekend recipe since it does take a little bit of prep work.
Getting all of the ingredients can be a challenge, and a bit on the pricey side – because the cost of getting real crab can be high. You MUST go to the Asian supermarket in order to make this recipe. There’s no substitute for the Minced Crab in Spices (the Lee brand is my favorite) and I also love the funky/salty flavor of fine shrimp sauce (mam tom). It smells very fishy, so be aware. (Mam tom is in the brown jar in the below photo.)
There’s a lot that goes in this recipe, but don’t let the recipe list overwhelm you. It’s very simple.
It basically consists of two steps – making the pork broth, and adding the rieu mixture to the soup. I 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!
Some people make their pork broth from scratch, but I think that’s way too time consuming.
If you can find it, you should buy some annato seeds to make annato oil. This will help redden the sauce at the end. I couldn’t find it at my local Asian market, so I used tomato paste instead. It did the trick, but annato seed oil works much better!
Bun Rieu – Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup
- 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
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.