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Simple Bun Rieu Recipe – Vietnamese Pork & Crab Noodle Soup

Bun Rieu is a comforting Vietnamese rice noodle soup that has a pork broth base that is topped with a crab and pork that is layered with fresh herbs and vegetables.

Of all the dishes in my repertoire, Bun Rieu is one of the top Vietnamese soups I get asked to share my recipe about the most. If you have tried Pho and Bun Bo Hue, Bun Rieu should be the next noodle soup on your list of Vietnamese dishes to try.

In my recipe that I’m sharing below, I am taking this dish up a level by adding shrimp and leaving out the shrimp paste, which most westerners turn their nose up at.

This will still be an amazingly hearty and delicious recipe, but without all of the fuss and hours of simmering required for most Vietnamese broth based soup dishes. Making Bun Rieu doesn’t have to be complicated to cook. You’ll find yourself with a delicious bowl of this tangy dish in no time.

This dish from Vietnam is well known around the world. It is especially great during cold winter days because the pork and crab mixture just melts in your mouth.

Today, I’m going to share with you a simple and quick version of this dish so you can make right at home.

bun rieu simple

All About Bun Rieu – Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup

I get a lot of questions about what this dish is made of, what it is, and other random questions, so I just want to knock those out first.

What is Bun Rieu (Vietnamese Pork and Crab Noodle Soup)?

Bun Rieu is a Vietnamese noodle soup made with crab meat, pork, and tomatoes. An authentic Vietnamese Bun Rieu recipe infuses pork bone broth, crab spices, and tomatoes. Crab is mixed with ground pork into small balls that are then added to the soup to cook, and then ladled into a serving bowl with vermicelli rice. The soup is then layered with fresh herbs and vegetables.

Where is Bun Rieu from?

Bun Rieu hails from northern Vietnam.

What does bun rieu taste like?

Bun Rieu is a delicious Vietnamese soup with chewy vermicelli noodles drenched in a tangy broth with stewed tomatoes with slightly sweet undertones with the soft, pillowy crab and pork clusters that are then topped with fresh herbs.

Other Names for Bun Rieu – Vietnamese Pork and Crab Noodle Soup

Bun Rieu is also known with the following names:

  • Vietnamese Pork & Crab Noodle Soup
  • VIetnamese Crab Noodle Soup
  • Vietnamese Crab Soup with Noodles

What are the variations of Bun Rieu?

There are several variations of Bun Rieu which is mainly due to the protein that is used. They are:

  • Bun Rieu Cua (minced crab)
  • Bun Rieu Ca (fish)
  • Bun Rieu Oc (snail)

Is Bun Rieu spicy?

Bun Rieu when served traditionally is not spicy. However, like most Vietnamese dishes, sauces, seasonings, and condiments are often added after served to provide a more personal flavor palette. Often, chilli oil is added to Bun Rieu to add a more spicy profile.

What type of crab is used in authentic bun rieu?

The crab and pork meatballs that make up an authentic bowl of Vietnamese bun rieu is made with by pounding baby crabs in a mortar and pestle that are then strained and sieved into mashed up paddy crabs.

While freshly pounded crab showcases the freshness of the bowl, all of this effort can be avoided by buying cans of minced crab or prawns easily at your local Asian grocer for this recipe.

What is in Bun Rieu seasoning?

Bun Rieu broth is made with a few simple ingredients: crab, ground pork, tomatoes, salt, fish sauce, sugar, and fermented shrimp paste.

What is inside of the meatball mixture for Vietnamese crab noodle soup?

The meatball mixture for Bun Rieu uses ground pork, crab meat, and some seasonings that are then added directly into the soup.

Other variations include substituting the ground pork with turkey or chicken.

In addition, the ground shrimp can also be added to the meatball mixture. 

What does Bun Rieu mean?

Bun Rieu means sea foam noodles. Bun means noodles, and Rieu means seafoam, referring to the large pillows of the crab cakes inside the soup. 

Why is Bun Rieu orange and red?

Bun Rieu gets its signature orange and red color due to the crab mixture with the tomato stew.

What type of crab meat should I use for Bun Rieu?

For authentic Bun Rieu, paddy crabs are used to make this dish. Second best crab to use would be fresh Alaskan King crab. Third best crab to use are canned crabs. This is the brand I would recommend (and the one I am using for this recipe).

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What You’ll Need to Source at an Asian Grocer for Bun Rieu

Below are the ingredients that you’ll want to source from your local Asian grocer for these dishes!

Crab and Shrimp Paste

These are the two cans of crab and shrimp paste that I highly recommend using for this recipe. They are already jarred and canned.

In authentic recipes, you’ll need to use a mortar and pestle to pound the crabs into pulp to get that signature flavor of Bun Rieu. This is the next best thing to getting fresh crab.

vietnamese bun rieu 001

Vermicelli Noodles

Grab a package of rice vermicelli noodles. Vermicelli noodles are not the same as rice sticks, which are used in another popular Vietnamese noodle soup, pho. Learn about the differences between vermicelli noodles and rice sticks.

rice vermicelli noodles versus rice noodle sticks

Herbs and Vegetables

Bean Sprouts

Asian bean sprouts can be found really inexpensively at an Asian grocer. You can learn how to sprout your own mung beans.

asian bean sprouts

Kinh Gioi (also known as Vietnamese Balm)

This saw-edge leaved herb is bright green and has a lemony scent. 

Perilla

Perilla looks similar to kinh gioi, bu it has larger leaves and has a distinct purple color.

Rau Muong (also known as water spinach and morning glory)

This has a crunchy texture due to it’s stem that is thick on the outside, but hollow on the inside. It is a favorite in Vietnamese dishes. This little nifty tool will allow you to split the stems so that the rau muong can be edible.

rau muong water spinach

Banana Flower

About My Version of Bun Rieu

Generally, Vietnamese soups require hours of simmering In my recipe, it takes under an hour, but will still bring out the flavors.

vietnamese bun rieu 001

Using Chicken Broth

One of the standouts of Bun Rieu is the flavor of the broth.  Authentic versions of this recipe uses pork neck bones that are parboiled and then rinsed to bring out an extra layer of flavor to the broth. I don’t find that this additional step is necessary to still make a delicious dish of Bun Rieu.

Canned chicken broth is just fine! If you really wanted to go the route of pork bone broth, you can use pork riblets to make the broth. Again, the epitome of Vietnamese soups is a clear broth, just make sure you clean the riblets thoroughly before adding it to the final soup.

vietnamese bun rieu 001

Other Optional Ingredients and Variations to Include with Bun Rieu

bun rieu simple

Fermented Fish and Shrimp Paste

In the most authentic version of this recipe, fermented fish and shrimp paste is used to provide the umami flavor inside this soup. It is definitely pungent, so if you wanted to substitute this, you could totally use fish sauce as a replacement (use the Squid brand).

Ketchup

You can add ketchup to Bun Rieu to add a layer of saltiness, vinegar and coloration to this soup. It’s not authentic, but provides a level of flavor that is delicious.

Cha Lua

While I didn’t have any on hand for this recipe, you can always top Vietnamese cha lua with this dish if you wanted another layer of protein.

Congealed Pork Blood

Some recipes call for this as well, but I like to omit congealed pork blood for this specific recipe. Thisi s a poor man’s barbeque that has a spongy, juicy meatloaf and sausage taste.

How to Make Authentic Bun Rieu – Vietnamese Pork and Crab Noodle Soup

Ingredients

Stock

  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 quarts of water
  • 2 (32-ounce) cartons of chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon of salt

Crab, Pork, and Shrimp Mixture

  • 1 pound of pork, ground
  • 1 pound of shrimp, ground
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar of shrimp paste
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar of crab paste
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce

Noodles and Garnish

  • 1 package of vermicelli noodles
  • lime wedges
  • Thai bird’s eye chilis
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of water spinach stems, split
  • 1 small head of lettuce, julienned into thin strips
  • ½ head of green cabbage, julienned into thin strips
  • ½ head of purple cabbage, julienned into thin strips
  • ½ head of purple cabbage, julienned into thin strips
  • 1 cup of bean sprouts

Instructions

Prepare the Vermicelli Noodles

  1. Cook the vermicelli noodles per package instructions.
  2. When it done boiling, drain and rinse with cold water to remove the excess starch. THis will prevent the noodles from sticking together. 
  3. Take a handful of noodles and wrap them around your hand. Place them in a storage bowl wrapped in a moistened towel. Do it again for the noodles. This will allow the noodles to be prepared while the broth is being cooked.

Make the Mixture

  1. Mix the pork, shrimp, shrimp paste, crab paste, shallots, and eggs together.
  2. Add in the salt, sugar, black pepper, and fish sauce.

Broth

  1. Heat up the cooking oil in a pot. Add the shallots. Saute until light brown.
  2. Add in tomatoes, saute until the tomatoes are soft.
  3. Next, add in the water and chicken broth. Allow it to boil for 3 minutes.
  4. Reduce to medium heat.
  5. Scoop 1 tablespoon of the crab and pork mixture into the pot while the broth at a low rolling boil. Allow it to cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Break the meatball in half to make sure that the pork and crab has cooked all the way through.

Serving

  • To serve, divide the prepared vermicelli among the serving bowls.
  • Top with green onion and cilantro.
  • Ladle the soup broth over the noodles. Serve with extra crab meat on top and a handful of herbs, lime wedges, and Thai chilis. You can customize the toppings to what you want. Often, authentic Bun Rieu is topped with bean sprouts, shredded cabbage, mint, bean sprouts, and green onions.

Preserving Bun Rieu

Bun Rieu can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Can you freeze Bun Rieu?

No, Bun Rieu should not be frozen.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bun Rieu

Is bun rieu healthy?

Bun Rieu has fresh ingredients and is low in calories.

Is bun rieu gluten free?

Bun Rieu is traditionally gluten free.

What’s the difference between Bun Rieu and Pho?

While both Bun Rieu and Pho are very popular Vietnamese noodle dishes, they have different flavor profiles. Bun Rieu is made with pork broth and is topped with a mixture made with crab, pork, and shrimp over vermicelli noodles. Pho is a noodle dish with beef or chicken broth over rice sticks. Pho has slices of meat added, whereas Bun Rieu key protein ingredient is the crab meat mixture made with minced crab, ground pork, and egg.

What’s the difference between Bun Rieu and Bun Bo Hue?

Bun Rieu has a natural flavor of broth, with slightly sour undertones due to tomatoes. It also has a pillow bed of crab and pork meat. Bun Bo Hue has a stronger flavor profile due to the lemongrass and other kinds of herbs.

What type of noodles should be used for Bun Rieu?

Vermicelli rice noodles are the noodles used in Bun Rieu.

Summary About Bun Rieu – Vietnamese Pork and Crab Noodle Soup

This comforting, delicious and cozy noodle soup is absolutely delightful. Bun Rieu is a flavor packed noodle bowl that our family loves. It’s kind of like crab cake, but in a soup. The bold flavor combinations of sweet, svory, sour and hearty makes up the deliciousness of this dish.

Whether you are trying to comfort yourself in cold winter months or feeling like any type of comforting dish, Bun Rieu is a great dish to have year round.

vietnamese bun rieu 001

Simple Vietnamese Bun Rieu

Yield: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

. Bun Rieu is a flavor packed noodle bowl that our family loves. It's kind of like crab cake, but in a soup. The bold flavor combinations of sweet, svory, sour and hearty makes up the deliciousness of this dish.

Ingredients

Stock

  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 4 tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 quarts of water
  • 2 (32-ounce) cartons of chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon of salt

Crab, Pork, and Shrimp Mixture

  • 1 pound of pork, ground
  • 1 pound of shrimp, ground
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar of shrimp paste
  • 1 (7-ounce) jar of crab paste
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce

Noodles and Garnish

  • 1 package of vermicelli noodles
  • lime wedges
  • Thai bird's eye chilis
  • 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1 bunch of green onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch of water spinach stems, split
  • 1 small head of lettuce, julienned into thin strips
  • ½ head of green cabbage, julienned into thin strips
  • ½ head of purple cabbage, julienned into thin strips
  • ½ head of purple cabbage, julienned into thin strips
  • 1 cup of bean sprouts

Instructions

Prepare the Vermicelli Noodles

  1. Cook the vermicelli noodles per package instructions.
  2. When it done boiling, drain and rinse with cold water to remove the excess starch. THis will prevent the noodles from sticking together. 
  3. Take a handful of noodles and wrap them around your hand. Place them in a storage bowl wrapped in a moistened towel. Do it again for the noodles. This will allow the noodles to be prepared while the broth is being cooked.

Make the Mixture

  1. Mix the pork, shrimp, shrimp paste, crab paste, shallots, and eggs together.
  2. Add in the salt, sugar, black pepper, and fish sauce.

Broth

  1. Heat up the cooking oil in a pot. Add the shallots. Saute until light brown.
  2. Add in tomatoes, saute until the tomatoes are soft.
  3. Next, add in the water and chicken broth. Allow it to boil for 3 minutes.
  4. Reduce to medium heat.
  5. Scoop 1 tablespoon of the crab and pork mixture into the pot while the broth at a low rolling boil. Allow it to cook for 15 minutes.
  6. Break the meatball in half to make sure that the pork and crab has cooked all the way through.

Serving

  1. To serve, divide the prepared vermicelli among the serving bowls.
  2. Top with green onion and cilantro.
  3. Ladle the soup broth over the noodles. Serve with extra crab meat on top and a handful of herbs, lime wedges, and Thai chilis. You can customize the toppings to what you want. Often, authentic Bun Rieu is topped with bean sprouts, shredded cabbage, mint, bean sprouts, and green onions.

Notes

Bun Rieu can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 451Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 248mgSodium: 3816mgCarbohydrates: 34gFiber: 8gSugar: 13gProtein: 44g

Other Vietnamese Noodle Dishes You Might Like

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