This recipe for Fish Rice Noodle Soup (Bun Ca) is belly-warming good and perfect for the colder months ahead. Hearty chunks of marinated fish and zesty tomatoes are cooked in a light stock and then ladled over rice noodle to make a deliciously flavorful and healthy noodle soup. Fish Rice Noodle Soup is a classic Vietnamese noodle soup. It’s quick and easy to make and a recipe you can easily adapt to your available ingredients. Give it a try and share your results with me!
Notes on the Fish Noodle Soup (Bun Ca) Recipe, Tips and Tricks
Fish Noodle Soup (Bun Ca) is one of the easier Vietnamese noodle soups to make with a few shortcuts. First, I like to use frozen fish fillets. The fish is skinned, cleaned, individually vacuum-sealed making it super convenient. I use ono (also called wahoo) fillets purchased from Costco. (The fish is labelled “Wild Caught Ono” and is skinless and boneless.) Ono, related to king mackerel, is a mild and firm-flesh fish which makes it perfect for soups. It’s not so delicate that it breaks apart easily and is really meaty.
Of course, you can use any fish you enjoy. If using fish with tender flesh, handle gently while marinating, pan-frying and boiling in the soup to avoid breaking the meat into little pieces. I’ve also made this dish with other meats, like chicken, pork and even pan-fried tofu. This is a versatile dish you can easily adapt to use any protein you like.
I also keep it simple and use homemade chicken stock from my freezer or store-bought fish or (seafood) stock. Once in awhile, if I have lots of time and plenty of fish bones, I’ll make fresh fish stock from scratch. It’s time-consuming and labor intensive but I’ll share my recipe for homemade fish stock in the near future.
Pan-frying the fish with ginger, garlic, tomato paste and tomatoes infuses amazing and robust flavor into the fish. You may be tempted to save time and just add all of these ingredients into the stock, but the flavors will be diluted. It’s an extra step but don’t skip it!
Cook the fish partially, browning just on the outside. No need to cook it fully. The fish will cook the rest of the way in the soup. Also avoid overcooking the tomatoes during this step. Cook just until they start to soften.
I recently shared a recipe for fresh Rice Noodle / Rice Vermicelli (Bun Tuoi). If you’re up to the task, homemade rice noodle really makes this soup next-level! Pressed for time? The dried noodles are great too. (If you need a refresher on how to cook rice noodle, please visit my post: Rice Vermicelli (Bun) – How to Cook Perfect Noodles.
Serve this delicious Fish Rice Noodle Soup with a generous side of fresh herbs and vegetables. My go-to herb plate has: spearmint, spicy mint, Thai basil, chopped green leaf lettuce, bean sprouts and lime wedges.
Watch the video for instructions.
Fish Noodle Soup / Bun Ca
Fish Rice Noodle Soup / Bun Ca
This recipe for Fish Rice Noodle Soup (Bun Ca) is belly-warming good and perfect for the colder months ahead. Hearty chunks of marinated fish and zesty tomatoes are cooked in a light stock and then ladled over rice noodle to make a deliciously flavorful and healthy noodle soup. Fish Rice Noodle Soup is a classic Vietnamese noodle soup. It's quick and easy to make and a recipe you can easily adapt to your available ingredients. Give it a try and share your results with me!
- 1 inch knob ginger
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 1 lb fish fillets: ono, salmon, tilapia
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp paprika powder
- 1 1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 small white onion
- 2 green onions
- 1/2 bunch cilantro , washed and trimmed
- 3 medium ripe tomatoes
- 1 tsp vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 8 cups fish or chicken stock
- 1 1/2 lbs cooked rice noodle / rice vermicelli
- red chilies , chopped
- fish sauce
- herbs: spearmint, spicy mint & Thai basil , washed and plucked
- 1 1/2 cups bean sprouts , washed and trimmed
- 2 cups green leaf lettuce , chopped
- 2 limes , cut into wedges
Remove the skin from the ginger and mince. Smash the garlic cloves, remove the skin and also mince.
Gently rinse the fish fillets under cold running water. Pat dry with paper towels. Cut the fish into large chunks.
In a medium bowl, add half of the minced ginger and garlic. Add the sugar, ground black pepper, paprika powder and fish sauce. Combine the marinade ingredients together. Add the fish pieces and coat with the marinade. Let marinate while continuing with the next steps.
Thinly slice 1/4 of the white onion. Set aside in a small bowl. (This will be used to garnish the soup in the final step.) Cut the remaining 3/4 onion into thin wedges and transfer into a small bowl.
Cut off a 4 inch section of the green onion root. Cut these sections in half. Transfer the green onion root into the bowl with the onion wedges. Set aside for now. (This will be added to season the soup.)
Chop the remaining green onion stems and transfer into a small bowl. Coarsely chop the cilantro and add into the same bowl. Toss the green onion stems and cilantro mix together. Set aside for now. (This will be used to garnish the soup in the final step.)
Cut each tomato into 8 wedges.
Heat a medium-sized wok over Medium High heat. When hot, add the vegetable oil, the remaining minced ginger and garlic, and the tomato paste. Stir-fry for 10-15 seconds. Add the marinated fish and cook for 2-3 minutes. Rotate the fish so it browns evenly. Add the tomatoes and gently toss together. Cook until the tomatoes just start to soften, about 2 minutes.
In a large saucepan, add the fish or chicken stock. Add the onion wedges and green onion root. Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add the fish and tomatoes. Gently combine together and bring to a boil again over Medium heat. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes or until the fish is completely cooked. Season the soup to taste with more fish sauce.
To serve, add a generous amount of cooked rice noodle into a large soup bowl. Ladle generous amounts of the fish, tomatoes, onions and stock into the bowl. Garnish the soup with the thin onion slices and a heaping spoonful of the chopped green onion and cilantro mix.
Enjoy the Fish Rice Noodle Soup with sides of chopped red chilies in fish sauce, fresh spearmint, spicy mint, Thai basil, bean sprouts, chopped green leaf lettuce and lime wedges.
Store any remaining portions in the refrigerator and enjoy with 2-3 days.
Notes, Tips & Tricks
- Use any fish you enjoy. If using fish with tender flesh, handle gently while marinating, pan-frying and boiling in the soup to avoid breaking the meat into little pieces.
- Alternatively, use chicken, beef, pork or pan-fried tofu instead of fish.
- Pan-frying the fish with ginger, garlic, tomato paste and tomatoes infuses amazing and robust flavor into the fish. Don't skip this step!
If you enjoy this Fish Noodle Soup (Bun Ca) recipe, you may also like:
Sour Soup with Fish
(Canh Chua Ca)
Thick Noodles and Fish Cake Soup
(Banh Canh Cha Ca)
Vermicelli Soup with Chicken, Steamed Pork Roll and Egg
Tools I Love and Use in My Kitchen
WOW! This soup reminds me of my mom who used to make it, especially when I was sick, without the bun. This throws me back to my childhood (almost 55 years ago).
I never asked my mom for the recipe, and now thanks to you, I have it. I will be making it and share it with my family who love vietnamese food.
Thanks and keep up the great work.
Hi Anne Maria,
Glad to hear you enjoyed this soup! This is a childhood favorite for me too. I hope your family loves it! 🙂