Bún Riêu – Crab noodle soup. A typical street vendor’s dish which is available in a variety of choices. Originally, soft shell crabs were used, so-called because they were caught when they had just molted their old exoskeleton and were still soft enough to eat. Soft shell crabs are really blue crabs.
Soft shell crabs are difficult to find over here but tinned crab meat is an adequate substitute.
Check in Asian markets for a spice paste made with crab meat which is sold in small tins as “gia vị cua nấu bùn riêu”. Of course, the taste is not completely authentic but, again, it is an adequate substitute.
1 can crab meat
1 can spice paste for bun rieu (gia vị cua nấu bùn riêu)
50g pork mince
2 medium tomatoes
2tbsp oil for frying
2tbsp fish sauce
4 spring onions
2tbsp rice vinegar
2tbsp fermented rice
1 small lettuce
1 herb plate ( Vietnamese balm, Thai basil, cilantro, long coriander, perilla, Vietnamese coriander)
100g rice noodles
4tbsp fried shallots
1tsp fish paste
1tbsp oil for frying
1tsp chili powder
Bring 1,5l water to the boil in a pot. Preheat the oven to warm 4 soup bowls.
Drain crab meat into a bowl and combine the meat with the spice paste, the eggs, and the pork mince.
If you get fresh crabs: Pound the crabs in a mortar into a fine paste. Sift through the crab meat carefully and make sure you only use the soft and edible bits. During the cooking process, the protein contained in the crab meat will rise to the top.
Make incisions into the tomatoes at the bottom end. Put them into the boiling water briefly until the skin starts to come off. Remove from water, briefly douse with cold water and pull skin off completely. Remove stem ends. Chop and set aside. Skin and finely chop the shallot. Heat the oil in a pan and braise the shallot and tomatoes with the fish sauce at medium heat until the shallot is soft and the tomato liquid has evaporated.
Clean and wash the spring onions. Cut 2 spring onions lengthwise into 2-inch-pieces, then quarter them lengthwise, and add to the tomatoes.
Cook the rice noodles according to package instructions and drain.
Once the water has reached boiling point, add the rice vinegar. Then gently drop the crab meat into the water, giving it just a brief stir, and wait for the water to come to a boil again. The crab meat will curdle. Turn the heat down immediately, use a slotted spoon to remove the thickened crab meat which should now resemble egg royale in consistency and set aside. Mix the fermented rice with 80ml water and pour through a sieve into the crab cooking liquid. Add the tomatoes and shallot and simmer at very low heat until flavors have combined. Season with salt and pepper, possibly a pinch of sugar.
Cut the remaining spring onions into thin rings. Wash the lettuce head, then shake dry, and cut into very fine strips like you would with a cabbage. Wash the herbs and dry on kitchen paper. Use scissors to cut the long coriander across into fine strips, and to cut the perilla leaves in fine strips. Pull the cilantro apart, remove leaves from the remaining herbs, discard the stems, cut into bite-size pieces, if necessary.
Make a herb plate from all these ingredients.
Distribute the rice noodles into the soup bowls, add a piece of crab meat each, and fill up with soup. Top with fried shallots. Dilute the mam tom fish paste with a bit of water and add.
Serve with the herb plate and use the soup as a dip for the lettuce and herbs.
If you want it spicier, heat frying oil in a small pan, heat the chili powder for 1 minute at low heat, and serve as chili sauce condiment.