Bun Rieu Cua is a comforting bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup with mouth-watering crab and shrimp meatballs in a light pork and tomato-based broth. It's served with rice vermicelli and topped with a variety of healthy greens and herbs.
Next to pho, bun rieu is another one of my favorite noodle soup dishes. This is my mom’s most requested noodle soup dish - the whole family loves it! She’s always willing to make a delicious pot to share with everyone.
This is my mom’s version of this delicious crab noodle soup. Check out the recipe below for some tips!
Broth Ingredients and Notes
Pork Bones- The stock is made from pork in this recipe. I use about 3 pounds of pork bones. You can get the meat from your local Asian store. If you can’t find pork bones, pork riblets will also work.
Mushroom Seasoning - I use mushroom seasoning to add a savory umami flavor to my broths - without having to add MSG. You can find this at most Asian markets.
Fish Sauce - I use my favorite Red Boat brand. It’s added into the soup and served on the side as well, to dip the noodles into for extra flavor.
Rock Sugar - Adds a bit of sweetness. Find this at your local Asian market.
Roma Tomatoes - These are sauteed with garlic and crab paste then added later to the broth.
Ingredients for the Rieu (crab mixture)
Crab meat - If you have the time and patience, you can use fresh dungeness crab. Otherwise, you can take a shortcut and simply buy pre-packaged lump crab meat at your local store in the seafood aisle.
Shrimp and Dried Shrimp - Adds a bit of sweetness and some umami flavor. Dried shrimp can be found at most Asian stores, usually located at the seafood section in the refrigerated section.
Ground Pork - adds additional flavor and helps to bind the crab mixture together.
Crab Paste - For convenience we use store-bought crab paste. Get this at your local Asian store. The brand that my mom recommends is this Thai crab paste (also pictured above).
Egg - Helps bind the ingredients together.
Other Ingredients and Topping
Rice Noodles (bun) - My favorite brand is the “3 Ladies,” Ba Co Gai. Their other products like rice and rice wrappers are great too.
Topping and Garnishes - A lot of fresh herbs and greens will work well. Herbs that I like to use are cilantro, mint, green onions and vegetables such as soybean sprouts, finely cut cabbage or lettuce. Thai chili peppers add some heat and lime wedges add a “zing” of extra acidity.
Traditionally, herbs and greens like julienned morning glory stems, sliced banana flower and perilla leaves are used in this dish as well. These are hard to come by unless you live close to a Vietnamese/Asian market. The herbs and veggies listed above may be more convenient to source and are just as delicious!
Optional Toppings - Fried tofu and cubed pork blood add more flavor and texture variety to the dish. You can make them yourself or buy them at your local Vietnamese store. Mam tom (a pungent shrimp paste) is often used as a side for dipping.
Make the Broth
- Parboil the pork bones. This process helps to remove impurities from the meat and yields a cleaner broth.
- Drain and rinse the pork clean with water.
- Add the meat back into a stock pot filled with water and simmer for 1.5 hours. Get a cleaner broth by skimming the broth when scum forms on the top, every 20 minutes or so.
Make the Rieu (Crab Mixture)
- Soak the dried shrimp to rehydrate it. Then use a blender to blend the shrimp into a fine shredded texture (as shown above).
- Mince the shrimp and green onions together until you get a paste-like consistency.
- Add all the ingredients for the crab mixture in a bowl and mix well.
Cook the Tomatoes / Add the Crab Mixture
- Saute the garlic and crab paste until aromatic.
- Add the tomatoes and saute until soft.
- Then add the tomatoes into the stock pot.
- Scoop about 1 inch lumps/balls of the crab and shrimp mixture and add it into the stock. Cook until the crab meat floats to the top of the stock, about 15 minutes.
After the stock is done cooking. You can definitely add more seasoning like fish sauce or mushroom powder to your taste. I like to have a side of fish sauce to dip the crab meat and noodles into.
Assemble It - Cook the vermicelli. Add it to a bowl, spoon in the stock and crab meatballs. Top with herbs and vegetables and enjoy!
It has a light, yet savory pork and tomato broth, with rich seafood flavored crab and shrimp meatballs.
I like to fill up my spoon with a bit of broth, some vermicelli, crab mixture, herbs and greens. Dip it into a bit of fish sauce (or mam tom if you prefer) with smashed chili and that’s the ultimate bite!
You can store the broth in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Place broth in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months.
More Vietnamese Recipes To Enjoy
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Bun Rieu Cua (Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup)
- 6-8 quart stock pot
Crab mixture (rieu)
- ½ pound crab lump meat 8 ounces
- ½ pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined 8 ounces
- 3 tablespoons crab paste drain some of the soya oil out
- ¼ pound ground pork meat I use 80/20
- 2 eggs
- 1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup dried shrimp about 3 tablespoons
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- 16 ounces dried rice vermicelli noodles
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- green onions, thinly sliced optional topping
- cilantro leaves, chopped optional topping
- perilla leaves optional topping
- green lettuce, thinly sliced optional topping
- water spinach leaves and split stems optional topping
- fish sauce optional for dipping
- thai chili thinly cut and added to fish sauce for dipping (optional)
Clean the pork
- Bring a pot of water (just enough to cover the meat) to a boil. Add the pork bones with 1 teaspoon of salt. Boil for about 6 to 7 minutes. Drain and rinse the meat well with cold water.
Make the broth
- Add pork bones back into a clean stock pot with about 16 cups of water.
- Add fish sauce, rock sugar and mushroom powder.
- Take the broth to a boil on high heat. Then take it down to a simmer on medium low heat.
- Simmer for 1.5 hours. Use a ladle to skim the fat and impurities off the top of the broth as needed.
Make the crab mixture (rieu)
- Soak the dried shrimp in water for 20 minutes. Then drain well. Add it to a blender and blend until finely shredded, about 30 to 40 seconds.
- Mince the shrimp and green onions together until you get a paste like consistency.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the crab meat, shrimp, shredded dried shrimp, ground pork, eggs, crab paste (draining some soya oil out) and pepper. Mix together well. Set aside.
Cook the tomatoes/Add the crab meat
- Heat a large pan on medium high heat with about ½ tablespoon cooking oil. Add the crab paste and garlic, saute for 30 seconds.
- Add the tomato wedges and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes into the stock pot. Add some broth to the pan (to pick up any remaining crab paste and garlic) and pour it back into the stock pot.
- Using a ladle, scoop and form about 1 to 1 ½ inch crab meatballs and slowly drop it into the stockpot until you finish the mixture.
- Cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes, until the crab meatballs are cooked and floats to the top of the broth.
Assemble your bowl
- Cook the noodles per package directions.
- Add noodles to a large bowl, ladle in the broth, crab meat and tomatoes. Add optional toppings and serve with a squeeze of lime.
- Once done cooking, add more seasoning like fish sauce or mushroom powder to your taste.
- Optional: Have a side of fish sauce with smashed thai chili pepper or mam ruoc (shrimp sauce) to dip your noodles and crab in for extra flavor.