Traditionally this soup uses mud crab, but I much prefer blue swimmer crab as the shells are easier to remove and I find the meat tastes sweeter.






Skill level

Average: 5 (1 vote)

My mother, however, is a traditionalist and swears by mud crab. Try it both ways and see which way – traditional or modern – you think is best!


  • 8 whole blue swimmer or 4 whole mud crabs, cleaned
  • 1.2 kg (2 lb 10 oz) fresh banh canh (tapioca noodles) (see Note)
  • 2 tbsp ground white pepper
  • 1 bunch spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced, to garnish
  • 2 long red chillies, sliced
  • 4 lemons, cut into wedges


  • 2 kg (4 lb 6 oz) chicken bones
  • 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) pork ribs, cut into 5-cm (2-in) lengths (ask your butcher to do this for you)
  • 2 brown onions, peeled
  • 1 garlic bulb, halved
  • 300 ml (10 fl oz) fish sauce
  • 200 g (7 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 100 g (3½ oz) cornflour (corn starch)

Crab mix

  • 100 ml (7 fl oz) vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp annatto seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 300 g (10½ oz) fresh crab meat
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp caster (superfine) sugar

Cook's notes

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.


1. To make the broth, rinse the chicken bones and pork ribs under cold running water to remove any blood or splinters. Transfer to a 10 litre (2½ gallon) stockpot, cover with cold water and bring to the boil for 10 minutes, then drain and rinse the bones and ribs of any residual blood and impurities. Return the bones and ribs to a clean stockpot, cover with water to nearly the top of the pot and bring to the boil again, removing any impurities that rise to the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour, then add the onion and garlic. Continue to simmer for a further 2 hours or until the broth has reduced by 30 per cent.

2. To make the crab mix, heat the oil in a small saucepan to 70ºC (160ºF). Place the seeds in the oil and cook for 5 minutes until the oil turns a vibrant orange. Remove from the heat, strain through a fine mesh sieve and set aside to cool. Discard the seeds.

3. Once the oil has cooled, reheat in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and cook for 5–7 minutes until soft. Add the crab meat, stir to combine and season with the fish sauce and sugar. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Set up a large bamboo steamer over a saucepan of simmering water. Working in batches, if necessary, place the crabs on a plate, then transfer to the steamer, cover and steam for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Carefully remove the crabs, then strain the liquid on the plate through a fine sieve into the crab mix. Stir to combine.

5. When the broth is ready, strain into a clean saucepan and discard the chicken bones. Return the pork ribs to the broth, add the crab mix and season with the fish sauce and sugar.

6. Combine the cornflour and 100 ml (3½ fl oz) water, then slowly add to the broth to thicken, stirring constantly so it doesn’t get lumpy.

7. Blanch the banh canh noodles in a saucepan of boiling water for 3–4 minutes, then drain and divide among serving bowls. Ladle over the broth and pork ribs and top with a crab (or half a crab if using mud crabs). Garnish with the spring onion and serve with the sliced chilli and lemon wedges on the side.



Fresh banh canh noodles can be purchased from Asian supermarkets.


Recipe from Street Food Vietnam by Jerry Mai, Smith Street Books, RRP $39.99