Crab & pig’s brain soup

Crab & pig’s brain soup

Súp cua óc heo

Street Food Asia
Alan Benson

This dish reminds me of attending Vietnamese and Chinese weddings with my family as a child; the first dish served would invariably be a chicken and corn soup, thickened using cornflour. This very Chinese-influenced soup is similar in spirit and you find it all over Saigon, sold from little carts; the brains definitely make it a local favourite. Plus, it’s probably one of the cheaper street food dishes, even though it contains tip-top ingredients like crab, asparagus, enoki mushrooms and, of course, those brains. Sometimes the cooks put quail eggs in it too. It’s a very straightforward dish to make at home and I hope you try it. You can get the fresh pig’s brains from any Asian butcher.


Quantity Ingredient
8 asparagus spears, trimmed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 red asian shallot, thinly sliced
100g pig’s brain, cleaned and cut into 5 mm cubes
200g cooked crabmeat
200g enoki mushrooms, trimmed and separated
1 teaspoon sea salt
1.5 litres Fish stock
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons potato starch, dissolved in 125 ml water
2 spring onions, thinly sliced

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
light soy sauce
chilli oil
sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves


  1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add the asparagus and blanch for 2 minutes. Drain, refresh in iced water to stop the cooking process, then drain again. Cut the blanched asparagus crossways into thin slices and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for 2–3 minutes, or until softened. Add the cubed brain, asparagus, crabmeat, enoki mushrooms and salt and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, until just tender. Set aside.
  3. Bring the fish stock to a slow simmer in a stockpot or large saucepan. Add the fish sauce and potato starch liquid and stir until the broth thickens, then stir in the brain mixture and the spring onions and simmer for a further 2 minutes.
  4. Divide the soup between 4–6 serving bowls, adding a dash of soy sauce, chilli oil and sesame oil and a sprinkle of white pepper to each. Garnish with the coriander and serve.
South-East Asian
Street Food
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