Vietnamese Crab & Asparagus Soup, Sup Mang Tay Cua or Sup Mang Cua for short, is a soup dish we always have at the dinner table for weddings and holidays. I was very excited to make this soup, as live crabs have been $4.99/lb for some time, the lowest I've seen in my area. However, by the time Christmas Eve came around, my Asian grocery store high-jacked the price to $7.99/lb. Not cool. I noped it out of there and settled on imitation crab that I already had in my freezer. Frozen crab would have been better but none was available. Imitation crab, it was and soup still turned out great. w00t w00t!
Vietnamese Crab & Asparagus soup is an elegant dish, which is why it's served only on special occasions. The broth is thick and clear, and the ingredients are plain in color. White asparagus, egg whites, white pepper and crab meat are traditionally used to elevate the elegance. I, on the other hand, just use whatever is more economical or what I have on hand. I went with green asparagus. White asparagus is rarely available and when it is, it costs twice as much. Canned white asparagus is an alternative, but I prefer fresh over canned any day. I also use egg yolks and not just egg whites. The yolks add more flavor and richness. Quail eggs are not required but they are a welcomed addition.
However you make it, it is a celebratory dish that tastes best when shared with family and friends. It's also a great appetizer to warm the belly for the onslaught of food during the holiday binge eating. Enjoy!
Vietnamese Crab & Asparagus Soup Recipe (Sup Mang Tay Cua)
12 cups chicken stock (96 oz)
2 tablespoons chicken stock powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fish sauce
3 teaspoons granulated white sugar
1 lb frozen, canned, fresh or imitation crab meat (shred into thin strips)
1 bunch white or green asparagus (discard woody stems, thinly slice tender stalks but keep top spears intact so they don't break apart in the soup)
2 dozen quail eggs (boiled and peeled)
2 beaten eggs
1/2 cup tapioca flour mixed with 1 cup water (whisk until fully dissolved)
1/2 bunch cilantro (remove stems and mince finely for garnish)
White or black pepper
In a large stock pot, heat up chicken stock.
Once it comes to a boil, add crab meat. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes to draw out the sweetness of the crab.
Season with chicken stock powder, salt, fish sauce, and sugar, a little at a time. You may not need all the seasoning, particularly the sugar if the crab meat already adds to the sweetness.
Add the tapioca mixture. Cook for 10 more minutes or until broth thickens.
While gently stirring the pot, add the beaten eggs in a slow stream to get long strands of cooked eggs.
Add asparagus and quail eggs. Turn off heat.
Serve with a dash of pepper and top with cilantro.