It was the end of an exhausting weekend at work. While everyone else was enjoying Valentine’s Day Weekend, my coworkers and I were pushing ourselves to make everyone else’s weekends special. Welcome to hospitality. Sunday before heading home our Vietnamese chef mentioned she was making a special noodle soup for dinner and I was so sad I would be leaving before enjoying it. Making dinner was not an option at my exhaustion point, and her food is always so good I couldn’t miss out on it. Thankfully, she cooked up the soup earlier than expected so I hadn’t left yet!
Without asking many questions, I topped my soup with fresh sprouts, lettuce and mint, and a small dollop of chili paste as suggested and relaxed in my comfortable office chair. I was past “spacing out” and closer into the “memory loss” point of tiredness. After a little while I began thinking, what exactly am I eating anyway? The soup was so unique and different than anything I’d ever had, it completely qualified as a flavor adventure! Taking the bowl apart visually I saw: rice noodles, fried tofu, sprouts, lettuce, mint, cilantro, basil, green onion, a shrimp paste/egg mix, and quartered tomatoes, in a reddish tomato broth. I couldn’t just let the experience go to waste so I jumped on the name “bun rieu” the chef gave and did a little research once I had successfully dragged myself home through the heavy wind and rain, 24oz PBR in hand from the store (no judgement… it needed to happen…and it was only $2).
Turns out I was pretty correct in my ingredient list. While I’m not sure that it included the crab meat/paste or the traditional congealed pigs blood, even if it did I can’t say it was bad. (The same chef brought pigs ears to work the other night, something I just couldn’t bring myself to try.) Although I wanted to finish it, my bowl was so huge I had to throw a lot out. I really need to work on bringing to-go containers with me to work.
Just for fun I included a recipe for the soup below, adapted from the blog The Ravenous Couple
- 1 packet vermicelli noodles
- 12 cups of pork or chicken stock
- 1/4 lb ground pork
- 1 cup crab meat, either fresh or canned/frozen drained
- can of 14 oz of crab meat paste in spices
- 1 tbs finely chopped shallots
- 1/2 tsp fine shrimp paste
- 1/2 tbs of fish sauce
- 2 tbs dried shrimp (soaked in warm water for 1 hr then minced)
- 1 tsp ground pepper
- 1/2 tbs of sugar
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 4 medium to large ripe tomatoes (quartered)
- 10 medium sized fried tofu (halved)
- 1 tbs of annato seed oil mixture (optional)
Combine ground pork, crab, can of crab meat in spices, shallots, fine shrimp paste, fish sauce, minced dried shrimps, pepper, and sugar in a separate bowl. Add the beaten eggs and mix well. When the stock comes to a boil, slowly add this crab mixture into stock. Add the tomatoes and tofu and bring to boil again. Season stock with additional salt or fish sauce to taste. At this time, add a tablespoon of annato seed oil if using.
Add vermicilli noodles to soup bowls and ladle on the bun rieu.
Top bun rieu with fresh herbs and veggies such as:
- chopped green onion and cilantro
- perilla, mint, lime wedges
- bean sprouts
- split watercress/ong choy/kang kung/rau muong stems
- fine shrimp paste