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Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup (Bún Riêu)

When most people think of Vietnamese cuisine, they oftentimes think of pho as being the staple noodle soup. While pho may have gained the most popularity in Western culture, there's a long list of tasty noodle soups that are often forgotten or not as commonly found in restaurants.

Bún riêu is one of my top 3 favorite Vietnamese noodle soups, right up there with Pho and Bún bò huế. Why I love it is because it has a little bit of everything -- savory crab, shrimp, pork, tomatoes, vermicelli all folded into one bowl of comfort. Because there are so many ingredients, I've been too intimidated to make this myself... until today!

With ample time during this holiday break, I decided to ask my mom for some tips and tricks to make my own version of Bún riêu. Per usual, she only gave me a list of ingredients but omitted the measurements for each item. (To be fair, most Asian moms tend to eyeball or adjust ingredients to taste without ever bothering to document.) This left me with a fun guessing game, which I felt like taking the challenge on this week!

Before diving into the recipe, I do have some notes and recommendations:

  1. Do find a well-stocked local Asian supermarket to find your ingredients. I went to my nearby 99 Ranch. If you don't have access to any, I provided links to purchase online under the Ingredients section.

  2. Having a food processor or blender will be helpful when it's time to make your crab, shrimp, pork meatballs.

  3. The reason why I have quail eggs as optional is because this is not a common addition to bún riêu. It's just a unique addition in my household because my mom and I both love quail eggs so much. It's tasty if you can find a can!

  4. Lastly, there are a lot of ingredients needed to make this magical dish! It's best to make a large batch of soup for multiple servings for days to come so that it's worth all the trouble!

Hope you enjoy!

Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup (Bún Riêu)

Prep Time: 30 min

Cook Time: 1 hr 30 min

Servings: 10-12 (estimated)

Soup Ingredients:

  • 3 to 4 lbs pork riblets

  • 1.25 gallons of water (or 20 cups)

  • 1 cup chicken broth

  • 2 small white rock sugars

  • 1/2 cup fish sauce

  • 3 tbsp salt

  • 6 tomatoes (wedges)

  • 1 bag of frozen fried tofu (2 oz)

  • Optional: 1 can quail eggs (15 oz)

  • Optional: 2 tbsp bun rieu seasoning

  • 4 packages of dry thin rice sticks (14 oz)

Meatball Ingredients:

  • 1/2 jar of crab paste (recommend: Pantai brand)

  • 1/4 lb cooked crab meat

  • 1/4 lb ground pork

  • 1/4 lb raw shrimp (minced)

  • 1/4 cup dried shrimp (soak in water for prep)

Garnish Ingredients:

  • Lime (wedges)

  • Bean sprouts

  • Perilla

  • Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi)

  • Green onions


Soup Directions:

  • [Parboil] Par In a large pot, add pork riblets and water (about 1 inch above riblets). Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes to remove scum and blood residue. Drain and rinse riblets under water. Return to the empty large pot.

  • Add about 1.25 gallons (or 20 cups) of water, chicken broth, dried shrimp, white rock sugars, fish sauce, and salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low heat to simmer for at least 1 hour. In the meantime, prep the meatballs (see directions below).

  • [After 1 hour has passed and Meatball Directions are done] Remove riblets and dried shrimp from the soup, and discard. Turn up the heat to high. Use a spoon to scoop 2" to 3" balls of meat and drop them into the soup. Note: These do not need to be perfectly round.

  • Turn heat back down to medium. Add tomatoes (cut in wedges), fried tofu, crab paste (oil only), quail eggs, and bun rieu seasoning. Let sit for about 3-5 minutes until tomatoes are softened.

  • Taste soup. If needed, add more salt and/or fish sauce to taste.

  • In the meantime, prepare your rice noodles. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add amount of rice stick servings you intend on eating for your meal (and save the rest of the dry noodles). Follow instructions on packaging. Alternatively, you can make all of the rice noodles at once (but know you'll need to loosen up the sticky noodles under hot water if serving much later).

  • [Serving] Add rice noodles to serving bowls. Add soup (making sure you get a little bit of every ingredient for each bowl). Place all garnish on a separate serving plate. Each bowl to be served to each individual. Each individual to add their own desired garnish to their own bowls.

Meatball Directions:

  • Use about half a jar of crab paste by transferring the half to a small bowl. Separate the meat from the oil. Set the oil aside (for later use).

  • In a food processor or blender, add the crab paste (meat only), pre-soaked dried shrimp, and the other meatball ingredients. Pulse a few times until texture is a chunky paste. Alternatively, if you are mixing by hand, make sure all ingredients are finely minced.

  • Set aside and return to Soup Directions to continue.


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