Bún riêu is a very popular noodle dish in Vietnam for its simplicity and deliciousness. This is a tomato based vermicelli noodle soup that has three popular variations: crab, fish or snails. Bún riêu cua is probably the most well known version made with rice paddy crabs. These are small crabs found in rice paddy fields and would then be cleaned and pounded into a paste. This crab paste and tomatoes are the essential ingredients for the broth. The soup is easy to make and is a great way to serve a lot of people at one time.
This recipe is rated medium in difficulty and makes approximately 6 bowls of noodle soup.
1 can of minced crab in spices
1 can of minced prawns in spices
1 lb of ground pork
½ lb of shrimp (approximately 9-10 shrimps)
¼ cup of rouc (fine shrimp sauce)
¾ cup of ketchup
1 package of fried tofu
2 tablespoons of fish sauce or nouc mam
⅓ cup of vegetable oil
½ of a yellow onion (optional)
1 bushel of vermicelli noodles
6 cloves of garlic
a few stalks of mint
1 to 2 cups of bean sprouts
4 stalks of scallions
1 iceberg lettuce
a handful of cilantro for garnish
A. Prepare the meat mixture
Peel the shrimps. Using the back of the knife and the pressure from your hand, flatten the shrimps. Make sure the shrimps are still intact.
In a mixing bowl, add ground pork and the flattened shrimps. Chopped 2 stalks of scallions and add to the pork/shrimp mixture.
Add 5 cloves of minced garlic and the cans of crab and shrimp pastes to the mixture. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and ½ teaspoon of salt.
Add 4 eggs to bind the ingredients and mix to incorporate the ingredients together. Set aside.
B. Prepare the stock
Rough chop 1 clove of garlic. Using the back of your hand, flatten the 3 ends of the scallion stalks to release the juice. Rough chopped the scallions.
Heat a pot with ⅓ cup of vegetable oil. Brown the garlic and scallion. (Asians will fry the garlic for a nice toasted fragrant, while Americans will sweat the garlic.)
Turn the heat to medium and add ¼ cup of rouc and ¾ cup of ketchup and stir for approximately 1 minute to combine into a paste.
Add 16 cups of water and turn the heat up to high to bring the stock to a boil. Do not cover the pot otherwise the broth will become cloudy. Skim any foam that rise to the top.
Optional: Add 1/2 of an onion to the stock to absorb the smell and to add a bit of sweetness to the soup. We did not do it for this demonstration.
Once the stock comes to a boil, turn the heat to medium or equivalent of a small boil. Add the meat mixture 1 scoop at a time to the soft boil broth.
Cut 2 tomatoes into 8th wedges. Add the tomatoes when the soup comes back to a boil after adding the meat.
Season the broth with 4 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of sea salt and 2 tablespoons of nouc man or fish sauce. Do not stir because that action will break up the meat balls.
Let the stock boil for another 5 minutes to incorporate the seasoning. Add 1 package of tofu to the top of the soup and let the tofu absorbs the broth.
C. Prepare the noodles
Fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil. Once the water boils, add 1 bunch of vermicelli noodles.
Once the noodles and water come to a full boil, turn off the heat and let the noodles soften. This will prevent the noodles from sticking to it.
When the noodles are cooked (al dente), rinse off any excess starch.
D. Prepare the condiment plate
You can prepare the condiment plate while waiting for the the noodles to be cooked.
Julienne the lettuce and rough chop a few stalks of mint.
Wash 1-2 cups of bean sprouts. Combine the lettuce, mint and bean sprouts into a bowl and mix.
Cut the lime off center into slices. Doing this will avoid any core and will get the most juice out of each lime.
E. Assemble the noodles
Add a handful of noodles to the bottom of a bowl. Scoop out 1-2 meat balls and 1-2 tofu wedges per bowl.
Add the stock with the tomatoes and garnish with chopped cilantro and scallion.
Enjoy this soup topped with a handful of the lettuce mix and a generous squeeze of lime juice.