"This noodle soup dish originated from Hanoi, however it can be found all through the streets of Saigon. It is much loved by locals as it has such depth of flavour and a great cooking technique to make the wonderfully textured crab balls, known as rieu." Luke Nguyen, Luke Nguyen's Street Food Asia
- 1 cooked blue swimmer crab
- 4 litres chicken stock
- 1½ tbsp fish sauce, plus extra to serve
- 1½ tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 200 g thin rice vermicelli, cooked as per packet instructions
- 6 spring onions (scallions), sliced
- 2 lemons, quartered
- 200 g bean sprouts
- ½ bunch mint
- ½ bunch rau kinh gioi (Vietnamese balm; see Note)
- ½ bunch perilla leaf
- 2 bird’s eye chillies, sliced
- 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ large onion, finely diced
- 3 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
- 200 g cooked blue swimmer crabmeat
- 200 g crabmeat paste with soya bean oil (see Note)
- 2 tsp shrimp paste, plus extra to serve
- 500 g very ripe tomatoes, peeled and pureed
- 2 large eggs
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
To prepare the rieu sauce, place a saucepan over medium heat, then add the oil, onion, spring onion and garlic. Gently fry until the onion is soft but not coloured. Add the crabmeat, crabmeat paste and shrimp paste, and continue to fry for 2 minutes to release the flavour. Add the pureed tomatoes and simmer slowly for 10 minutes. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool. Once cooled, whisk the eggs in a separate bowl, then fold it through the crab and tomato puree and set aside.
Remove and discard the body shell and gills from the blue swimmer crab. Rinse it under cold water, then pat dry and place on a chopping board. Using a cleaver or large knife, remove the legs and claws from the body. Crack the shell and remove the meat from the legs and claws. Coarsely chop the crab body with the cleaver, then place all of the meat and soft shell into a food processor with 500 ml (2 cups) water and process for 2 minutes or until a fine puree forms.
Place the chicken stock, fish sauce, sugar and salt in a large saucepan over medium heat and bring to a slow simmer. As the stock starts to simmer, add the processed crabmeat and shells to the saucepan. Do not allow the mixture to boil. Scoop up 1 ladle of the prepared rieu sauce and hold it in the stock until it starts to set, then gently release it into the stock. Repeat this process with the remaining sauce.
To serve, divide the noodles into the bowls, then pour over the soup. Garnish with spring onions and serve with lemon wedges, a plate each of bean sprouts, fresh herbs, chilli and a small bowl of fish sauce with fresh sliced chilli for dipping. If desired stir ¼ teaspoon shrimp paste into each bowl of soup for an added kick.
• Crabmeat paste with soya bean oil is available from Asian supermarkets. I use the Por Kwan brand.
• Also known as Vietnamese balm, rau kinh gioi is mostly eaten raw in a variety of soups and meat dishes, and on herb plates.
• This dish serves 4–6 as part of a shared meal.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Lucy Tweed. Food preparation by Tammi Kwok.