Vietnamese bun rieu tomato crab paste noodle soup recipe

If possible, I want to eat noodle soup everyday.  This is the perfect weather for it.  Nothing beats the chilly cold air outside more than a warm bowl of noodle soup to warm us up.  I've been craving bun rieu for weeks now but crab paste stock has been sold out from all the local stores (close to me).  Either everyone is eating bun rieu today OR that the new shipment hasn't arrive on the West Coast yet.  I went to 4 stores in Chinatown and was lucky enough to find one that has it.  I wanted to grab a few, fearing this might be all that's left for a while, but like all asian grocers, it's 'cash only' and I got 5 bucks in my pocket !!!  Grrrr !  but at least I got one.  I am very picky about the crab paste and have tried a few brands.  This PANTAI brand is the best as the flavor is strong and similar to what I remember rock crabs taste like.  If you don't have this brand around, you might need to tweak my recipe a bit to get the desired taste.

My next issue is, I couldn't located rau muong or 'kinh gioi' or banana flower today either :( I don't have time to go to a Viet. supermarket and I want bun rieu for dinner tonight !  Nothing is going to stop me from having my bun rieu.  I'm going to have to substitute the veggies and opt out of the some garnish :(

(Update:  I think there's a global shortage on this crab paste because in 2016, the price for a jar is around $10 and it's so hard to locate it) 

In this recipe, I'll list what I supposed to use and what I supplemented it with !  The main soup stock is what makes this good and I got all the ingredients for it so it'll do for today :)

Talk about stock, first you need pork stock and/or chicken stock (carton or can stock is OK, opt for low sodium ones)

To make the pork stock:
  • 3-4 lb of any type of pork or chicken bones or pork ribs, 
  • Water
  • 1 white onion, halved
  • Put bones into a deep pot, fill with water (cover the bones).  Bring to boil and let it boil for 5 min then remove from stove.
  • Transfer the pork bones into a colander to cool down.  Rinse bones thoroughly under tap water.  This is to get rid of all the scums and give you clear broth.
  • Add the bones back into the pot, add white onion and add about 4 Litres of water (~17 cups).
  • Bring to boil then turn heat on low and let it simmer for at least an hour (the longer the better)
  • When done, remove all the bones and onions and use the stock as per recipe. 

    (*If there's meat on the bones you can remove and add it to your bowl of soup if you like.  If using ribs, you can use leave it as is)
BUN RIEU CUA recipe (serves 6)


- 16 cups of pork stock or chicken stock (carton or can is ok)
- 8-9 tomatoes, cut into 4
- 1.5 lb lean ground pork
- 2 + 5 heaping tablespoon of crab paste (total 7 table spoons) in soy bean oil (discard the oil on top as it makes the soup too oily). I ONLY use the Pantai brand, it's the best one I've tried.  You can add less or more to your liking.  If you try other brands, you will need to experience with it to find the right flavor and texture you like.
- 4 eggs
- 1 pack of tofu puff (optional)
- 4 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 2 tablespoon of finely minced shallot (white onion is ok)
- 1 teaspoon of shrimp paste (the purple color kind, very pungent so use sparingly :) while you need only a little of this, this ingredient I feel is a MUST HAVE as it add that shrimpy taste to the broth.
- fish sauce for taste (Viet Huong 3 Crabs or Red Boat brand are best, I can't stress it enough)
- 1 table spoon of Knorr chicken powder (it's like chicken broth powder, this is not bouillon, don't use chicken bouillon, that's totally different.  If you don't have this then just omit)
- a table spoon of cane sugar or organic sugar
- 2 loosely measured teaspoons of tamarind powder
- ground pepper
- 2-3 packs of vermicelli, you can use these or the thick vermicelli

* IF you are not a fan of ground pork, try ground turkey !  We use ground turkey all the time.  Sometime I add Vietnamese ham (cha lua) as topping to this noodle soup.

Rau muong (ong choy), yu choi (ONLY if you can't find ong choy and need to have some greens) , kinh gioi and banana flower blossoms


- 3 stalks of green onions
- a handful of cilantro
- rau muong (ong choy in Chinese) or water spinach (you can substitute with spinach and if desperate like me, ong choy works too)
- thinly sliced banana flower blossoms
- vietnamese herb 'kinh gioi'
- fresh chillies


- In a deep pot, bring the pork stock (or chicken stock) to a boil

- While waiting for that to boil, in a large bowl, combine into a paste:  ground pork, 2 table spoons of crab paste, 1 egg (beaten), shallot, about 1 table spoon of fish sauce, couple dash of pepper.

- When the stock boils, using a spoon, scoop the meat mixture and drop into the boiling stock.

- When finished with the meat, in another pot, put in the vermicelli, cover it with water and bring to boil.  Test for doneness by breaking a string of vermicelli.  If it breaks easy, it's done.  Remove from stove, pour into colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.  Leave aside.

- Mix well together the other 4-5 table spoons of crab paste with the remaining 3 eggs in a bowl.  Turn down the broth pot so it's simmering, not boiling.  Slowly pour the crab paste into the pot.  The paste will forms into fluffy orange clumps (supposed to resemble crab roe) and will float to the top as it cook.  Don't mix or break a part the crab paste clumps and don't stir the pot. 

- In a pan, put in a bit of oil, add the garlic and stir until fragrant, then add the tomatoes.  Cooks for about 4-5 min.  Transfer the tomatoes into the stock pot.  Gently stir because you don't want to break up the crab paste.

- Cut tofu puff into 2 and add to the pot

- Add in the shrimp paste

- Add the cane or organic sugar

- Add tamarind powder

- Add in the chicken powder

- Season the stock with fish sauce (I used about 3 tablespoons in mine)

Thinly sliced ong choy, lots of work but add a nice crunch


- Put noodles into a bowl
- Scoop up the meat, tofu and tomatoes and divide into each bowl
- Put a couple stalks of boiled yu choy or ong choy (if using) into each bowl
- Ladle in soup stock (noodles should submerge in the soup)
- Sprinkle with thinly sliced green onions and cilantro
- Put a small dish of fish sauce with sliced red chili out on table for those who wants more sodium :)
- Put the banana flower blossoms and kinh gioi on a plate so guest to add to their bowl

In the summer, when I get hold of a fresh bunch of rau muong, ong choy, I would thinly slice it down length wise and each thin strip would curl up like ribbons.  We would pile these raw ong choy strips in our bowl.  They add a nice crunch to this soup.  If you don't like them raw, you can dip in the broth pot for a few seconds to cook them.

Since I can't find any ong choy this time, I used yu choy and wilted them in boiling water first before I add it to my bowl of noodles.  I don't think they taste very good raw !  You can use spinach too.  Spinach would have been a better substitution but I got none !

Enjoy !