This hearty Crab Noodle Soup is a plethora of wonderful ingredients, flavors and textures–savory seafood patties are cooked in a light tomato stock with fried tofu and crab claws and then served over springy rice vermicelli along with abundant fresh herbs, beans sprouts and split water spinach stems. Don’t be daunted by all of the ingredients in this recipe. It’s fairly straightforward when broken down into smaller tasks. Some of the steps can be done in advance and I share some recipe shortcuts below. With the cooler days ahead, this is an amazingly warm and filling dish. Enjoy!
Notes on the Recipe, Tips and Tricks
My recipe does not use crab paste. Although tasty and a great shortcut, it is loaded with oil and contains artificial ingredients. If you prefer to use the crab paste, substitute it for the canned crab meat in this recipe.
Break up the work by prepping the day before:
- Pan-fry the tofu and store in the fridge.
- Wash the herbs and bean sprouts and store in the fridge.
- Split the water spinach and place in a bag filled with water and store in the fridge.
- Prepare the crab meat mixture and store in the fridge.
Water spinach may be difficult to find depending on where you live. A good substitute is young celery. Use a vegetable peeler to cut the celery into long strands like the water spinach.
Purchase fried tofu from your Asian grocery store to save some time and simply add to the soup.
I use tomato paste instead of annatto oil. If you have this ingredient, feel free to substitute. I love using paste because it adds delicious tomato-y flavor and the lovely color.
Once the meat floats to the top, be sure to reduce the heat. Over-boiling will cause the patties to fall apart. The soup should have nice chunks of meat.
This soup is not heavily salted so each person can add fish sauce and shrimp paste to taste.
If you enjoyed this recipe, you make also like: Vermicelli Soup with Chicken, Steamed Pork Roll and Egg (Bun Thang), Pressure Cooker Pho Ga/Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup and Thick Noodles and Fish Cake Soup (Banh Canh Cha Ca).
8 oz medium-firm tofu
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Herbs & Vegetables
8-10 sprigs spearmint
8-10 sprigs Perilla
8-10 sprigs Vietnamese balm
2 cups bean sprouts
20 water spinach stems + 1/4 tsp salt
2 garlic cloves
1 small shallot
6 medium tomatoes
2 green onions
6 sprigs cilantro
Crab Meat Mix
3/4 cup dried shrimp + 2 cups boiling water
1/3 lb ground pork
2-6 oz cans of crab meat, drained
3 large eggs
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
12 cups chicken stock or pork stock
8-10 cooked crab claws
2 Tbsp fish sauce
10-12 cups cooked rice vermicelli (approximately 14 oz dry noodle)
2 limes cut into wedges
Cut the tofu into small chunks, approximately 10-12 pieces. Add vegetable oil into a wok and heat over Medium High heat until hot. Add the tofu and pan-fry all sides until golden brown. (Each side takes approximately 2-3 minutes.) Remove tofu and place on paper towels to blot the excess oil. Set aside for now.
Pluck and gently wash the spearmint, Perilla and Vietnamese balm. Dry the herbs using a salad spinner. Repeat the same steps for the bean sprouts. Store in the refrigerator until it’s time to serve.
Pluck the water spinach leaves from the stems. (Save the leaves for this dish: Stir-Fried Water Spinach and Beef (Rau Muong Xao Bo).) Wash the stems with cold water. Use a water spinach splitter to shred the stems into long strands. Fill a large bowl with cold water and add 1/4 tsp salt. Add the stems and soak in the water until it’s time to serve.
Mince the garlic and finely chop the shallots.
Cut the tomatoes into wedges.
Cut off the tops of the green onions and chop. Chop the cilantro. Combine both in a bowl and set aside for now.
Put the dried shrimp into a colander and rinse with cold water and then drain. Repeat this process one more time. Transfer into a bowl. Add 2 cups boiling water and let soak for 15 minutes. Drain the shrimp and reserve the liquid for later.
Add the shrimp into a food processor along with half of the minced garlic and chopped shallots. Process for 15-20 seconds. Add the ground pork, crab meat (drained of the canning liquid), eggs, fish sauce and ground black pepper. Pulse for 10 seconds to mix together.
Heat a small wok over Medium High heat and add vegetable oil. Add the remaining minced garlic and chopped shallots and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add the tomato paste and stir-fry for another 15 seconds. Add half of the tomatoes and combine together. Cook until the tomatoes just start to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Turn-off the heat and add salt and ground black pepper.
Add the chicken stock plus the shrimp liquid into a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil over High heat. Add the sautéed tomatoes and combine together. Skim off any foam and discard. Add large spoonfuls of the crab meat mixture into the soup. Lower the heat to Medium High and cook until the meat floats to the top, approximately 5-6 minutes. Reduce the heat to Medium Low and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add the fried tofu, remaining tomatoes and cooked crab claws. Add 2 Tbsp fish sauce and gently combine.
To serve, place 2 1/2 cups rice vermicelli into a large bowl. Ladle the soup on top of the noodles and add a generous amount of broth. Garnish the top with the chopped cilantro and green onions mix and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve the Crab Noodle Soup with a plate of the fresh herbs, bean sprouts, water spinach stems, lime wedges, chilies and shrimp paste.
Yields: 4-6 servings
Interested in learning more about fresh herbs? Check out this post: Quick Guide to Vietnamese Herbs.
Tools I Love and Use in My Kitchen
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This is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes. Thanks so much for sharing!
Hi co Trang,
The recipe of Bun Rieu is delicious. I love the crab meat mixed with ground pork and eggs.
Can you use the fresh egg white to mix with those two ingredients? Will it hold together?
Because my sister has side effect to egg yolks. Thanks
Without the egg yolks, the crab meat mixture will not hold together as well. If omitting the egg yolks, use just 2 egg whites instead of 3. Another option is to pan-fry the crab meat mixture (with the egg whites) so it sets up and then add the patties to the soup. This takes a bit more time but you’ll be guaranteed nicely formed crab patties. Enjoy the recipe!
Looks awesome! This is perfect for winter!
It really is! I have family in town this weekend and I have another batch started already. 🙂