The Australians have been producing some wonderful
Vietnamese cookbooks to capture how cooks in Vietnam are preparing food today.
The works are great travel books with provocative location photos and
interesting recipes. These are books that are perfect for people who’ve
traveled to Vietnam and have a sense for the ingredients there. For example,
Viet shallots are the size of boiling onions in the States.
I recently bought Vietnamese
Street Food by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl, Australian ex-pats living in
Hanoi. Tracey is a former chef who runs the Hanoi Cooking Centre, a place that I
point people to for cooking classes in the capitol city. Flipping through Vietnamese Street Food (released this year in the US and then pulled for a re-release next year, which I don't understand) I was captivated
by a number of recipes. One of them was a mock crab noodle soup prepared with
soymilk that’s directly coagulated in the pot to mimic rich crab tomalley. (Why
eat fake meat? There are many Asian Buddhists who are part time vegetarians and
others who want to try something interesting.)
The regular crab noodle soup is called bun rieu cua, a tomatoey,
briny northern Vietnamese specialty. In the regular version, there’s a prized
floater of crabbiness that you spoon atop the noodles before ladling in the
clear broth. In my recipe in Into the
Vietnamese Kitchen, page 215, I add eggs to facilitate as tasty floater of crab meat and fat (tomalley), ground shrimp and tomato. It’s magical and tasty.
I’d heard about the use of the tofu curds for mock crab
noodle soup from the people at Dong Phuong, a Little Saigon tofu shop in Garden
Grove that I wrote about in Asian Tofu.
I was curious about the dish but didn’t have enough space to include it.
However, a recipe from Vietnamese Street
Food got me to make the noodle soup.
I used organic soy milk and tweaked a few things to up
the flavor. You should not make this
dish from boxed soymilk because the curds will be grainy. Buy soy milk from an
Asian market or tofu shop in a 2-quart plastic container. Or, make your own
from the light soy milk recipe in Asian
Tofu. The coagulant used is vinegar, which imparts a light tang that goes
with the dish.
To prepare you for the coagulation process, here’s a
There’s a triple dose of soy in the recipe because along
with the soy milk, fried tofu is used as a garnish and soy sauce is a
seasoning. This noodle soup is light in
flavor, great for lunch or brunch. Many thanks to Tracey’s Vietnamese Street Food for inspiring
(NOTE: I’m embarking on adding metric to my recipes.
Please be patient and report things that may be incorrect.)
Crab Noodle Soup
Bun Rieu Cua Chay
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
- 10 ounces (280 g) firm tofu
- 5 ounces (140 g) shallots, sliced
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) canola oil
- 2 ripe tomatoes (about 10 oz /280 g total), chopped
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- About ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- About 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 8 cups (1 liter) soy milk
- About 3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
- 8 to 10 ounces (227 to 280 g) dried round
rice noodles (bun), boiled for 4 to 5 minutes, drained and flushed with
- 2 to 3 tablespoons cilantro or Vietnamese
balm leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 green onion, green and white parts, cut into rings
- 1 ½ cup shredded Romaine or iceberg lettuce
the tofu into 1-inch pieces, each about ¾ inch thick. Drain on a clean, dry
dishtowel or paper towels for 10 to 15 minutes. Take 1/3 of the shallots and
pat them dry with paper towel to fry later. Reserve the rest.
a 3-quart pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Pat the tofu dry, then in
batches, shallow fry until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes total. Flip them
midway. Transfer to a plate to drain. Lower the heat to medium, fry the
shallots that you blotted dry, stirring, until golden, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Drain on paper towel and cool to crisp. (See the crispy
caramelized shallot recipe for guidance.)
the remaining shallots to the pot, cook, stirring for 5 minutes, or until no
longer raw smelling and starting to turn blonde. Add the tomato, sugar, and
salt. Cook, stirring, until the tomato has totally broken down. Taste and add
extra salt or soy sauce for savory depth.
the soy milk. Increase the heat to medium-high, then bring to a boil. Remember
to stir often to prevent scorching. Lower the heat to a simmer, then follow the
above video to add the vinegar to coagulate. Taste and adjust the flavor with
extra salt or soy sauce.
the noodles among individual serving bowls. Gently scoop the curds on top, then
ladle on the broth. Top with the fried tofu, sprinkle of fried shallots,
scallion, and herb of choice. Serve with the lettuce on the side for guests to
add green crunch.
Noodles 101: Round rice noodles (bun)
caramelized shallot (Hanh Phi)
Pho (Pho Ga)
Pho (Pho Bo)
Penh Noodle Soup (Hu Tieu Nam Vang)
More recipes from 2012 Asian cookbooks
- Homemade Bun Rice
Noodles from Vietnamese Home
- Faux Viet Crab
Noodle Soup from Vietnamese
Street Food by Tracey Lister and Andreas Pohl
- Fried Ginger
Chicken from Japanese Farm
Belly, Pickled Mustard Greens and Tofu from Burma by Naomi Duguid
- Soy-Glazed Black
Pepper Chicken from The Hakka Cookbook by Linda Anusasananan