Bun Rieu Saigon (Crab Paste Noodle Soup)

Although Bun Rieu (crab paste noodle soup) in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is not a really famous noodle soup in Vietnamese cuisine because of its rather unappealing appearance, diners will be completely surprised when tasting its flavor. Each part of this soup supplements the whole and surely makes it one of the must-trys on the streets of Saigon.


The broth is always the same, despite the fact that there are various variations to pick from. Bun Rieu is one of the few tomato-based Vietnamese soups; it's also flavored with crab that's been pounded with the shell and then strained in a sieve to remove any crunchy parts. Depending on where you find the vendor, it could be freshwater or ocean crab. Brown paddy crab is the most common type of crab in Saigon. A variety of ingredients may be used to complement the crab flavor, but the most common ones are fish sauce, shrimp paste, annatto seeds, and fresh lime. After that, the soup is left to simmer for many hours to fully bring out the flavor of the pounded crab.

A crab dumpling is nearly always served with Bun Rieu. This is the crab meat, which is frequently seasoned with dried shrimp, shrimp paste, pepper, and fish sauce. Some sellers may steam this mixture in a metal container, while others will form little dumplings and drop them into the soup immediately. In most cases, eggs are used to hold things together.


The soup is easy to put together. Pour the broth over the rice vermicelli noodles at the bottom of the bowl, making sure to get some tomatoes and crab dumplings in there as well. It's anyone's game after that. Many vendors will include dau hu chien (fried tofu), oc (snail), cha ca (fried fish cake), or huyet (fried fish cake) in their dishes (congealed pig blood). The dish is finished with a dusting of chopped scallions. While the iron-tinged taste of the blood cake may be off-putting, it pairs well with the mild tomato broth, especially if you add a squeeze of fresh lime.

As is typical of Vietnamese cuisine, a variety of garnishes will be placed out for you to personalize your bun rieu experience. The soup is served with shredded banana flowers, split rau muong (water spinach), fresh lime, mint, and leaf lettuce. If your taste buds can handle it, ask for a side of mam tom, a purplish-colored shrimp paste, to dip your crab in. Bun rieu devotees can't live without it, but it's worth noting that it's an acquired taste.

Leading Bun Rieu Eatery in Saigon: Lunch Lady, at 37 Hoang Sa, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

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