Crab noodle soup

Crab noodle soup

Michael Fountoulakis

A pale yellow arch with Chinese calligraphy on one of Hanoi’s most beautiful temple-lined streets, Thuy Khue, marked the spot where we had to leave the motorbikes and travel on foot through a narrow lane to reach Ms Mui’s bun rieu stall. The steaming bowls of the rich crab and tomato broth topped with a dozen snails which Ms Mui collected from nearby West Lake did more to immediately waken our senses than the motorbike ride through the horrendous early morning traffic. I have adapted Mrs Mui’s recipe so it can be enjoyed at home.


Quantity Ingredient
1kg small soft-shell crabs
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
4 red asian shallots
vegetable oil, for frying
2 tomatoes, core removed and cut into 6 wedges
600g rice vermicelli
4 spring onions, sliced


Quantity Ingredient
1 small butter lettuce, sliced
1 handful coriander leaves
1 handful vietnamese mint leaves
1 handful rice-paddy herb, sliced
1 handful perilla leaves, sliced
3 banana flower petals, sliced
fish sauce


  1. Thoroughly clean the crabs, taking care to rinse away any sand and grit in the crevices. Pull off and discard the top shells. Remove any roe and set aside. Cut the crabs in half and place in a food processor or in a mortar and mince until very fine. Now pass the crab through a sieve to remove any larger pieces of shell.
  2. Bring 1 litre water and the salt and sugar to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Slowly add the crab paste to the liquid and stir gently. When the crab is cooked, it will float to the surface. Remove the crab, set aside and strain the broth. Return to a simmer.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a little oil in a frying pan to high heat and cook the shallots for 5–6 minutes, or until they turn translucent, then add the roe and continue cooking for 2–3 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the tomatoes to the pan and allow them to soften before adding the mixture to the broth.
  4. Divide the vermicelli and spring onions between 6 bowls. Return the crab to the broth to reheat for 3 minutes. Ladle the broth with the crab, shallots and tomato over the vermicelli.
  5. Combine the lettuce, herbs and banana flower in a small bowl and toss. Place the bowl together with the fish sauce at the centre of the table to add to the soup.
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