Vietnamese Pork & Crab Noodle Soup (Bun Rieu Cua Thit)

Bún Riêu is a Vietnamese rice noodle soup with a tomato and crab soup base. It is eaten with a lot of fresh veggies and Vietnamese herbs, the popular of which is split water spinach stems (Rau Muống).

There are many varieties of Bún Riêu. Some are made with crab (bún riêu cua). Some are made with fish (bún riêu cá) and others are made with small shellfish (bún riêu ốc). The stock is made from pork and/or chicken bones. Tomatoes, fried tofu, and sometimes pork blood are added. Then the stock is seasoned with fermented shrimp paste.

With the garden again exploding with super sweet tomato, I had to find a recipe that use up a lot of tomatoes and this the recipe that I turn to every Summer when tomatoes are aplenty. 

Vietnamese Pork & Crab Noodle Soup (Bun Rieu)

Vietnamese Pork & Crab Noodle Soup (Bun Rieu)

I wasn't a big fan of Bún Riêu until I tasted my mother-in-law's Bún Riêu and boy oh boy, was I pleasantly surprised at all the bold flavors. The fermented shrimp paste, the spiced minced crab, the tangy lime and the crunch of the water spinach, all made for a party in the mouth. The combination of flavors, sweet, sour, and savory, makes up the magical wonders of Vietnamese cooking.

Bún Riêu can be labor intensive, but I was surprised to find that my mother-in-law’s recipe took only an hour and a half to make. For a Vietnamese soup noodle dish, I would say that is pretty quick. You can get the Bún Riêu soup crab base (gia vị nấu bún riêu), already jarred or canned at Asian stores.  If you do opt to make this base from scratch, you will need a brick and mortar pestle to pound paddy crabs to a pulp. Then you would strain and sieve the mashed up crabs, and it is this mashed up paddy crab that makes up the essence of Bún Riêu. In Vietnam, you would see vendors in the early morning pounding fresh paddy crabs in the markets. 

Vietnamese Pork & Crab Noodle Soup (Bún Riêu)

Vietnamese Pork & Crab Noodle Soup (Bún Riêu)

Fun fact: Did you know why the soup is called Bún Riêu? Riêu is like sea foam in Vietnamese. If the soup is done correctly, the crab/egg mixture resembles sea foam as it floats on the top of the pot. Many years of being Vietnamese and I just found this out.


Vietnamese Pork and Crab Noodle Soup Recipe (Bún Riêu)

Serves 7-8

Pork Stock

  • 3 lbs pork bones

  • 5 liters water

  • 1 teaspoon salt

Tomato/Fried Tofu Mixture

  • 5 large ripe tomatoes (cut into wedges)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot

  • 1 lb fried tofu

  • 1/4 cup ketchup

  • 1/3 cup shrimp paste

Crab Mixture

  • 1 cup dried shrimp (soak in warm water for at least 15 minutes then drain/rinse)

  • 1 14-oz can minced prawns or crab in spices

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot

  • 4 eggs

  • 4 teaspoons salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

  • 2 tablespoons pork stock powder

  • 1 teaspoon MSG (optional)

Storebought Fried Tofu

Storebought Fried Tofu


  • 2 lbs medium rice noodles (cook per package instructions)

  • 1 bunch water spinach stems (split stems into thin strips)

  • 1 small head lettuce or cabbage (julienne into thin strips)

  • 1 bag bean sprouts

  • 2 limes/lemons (cut into wedges)

  • 5-7 green onions (slice green part thinly)

  • Assortment of Vietnamese Herbs (Perilla, Sorrel, Vietnamese Coriander, Mint, and Fish Mint)


Pork Stock

  1. Clean the bones: In a large stock pot, add water (enough to cover bones once added). Add salt. Bring pot to a boil. Add the bones and cook for 5 minute.

  2. Drain bones into a colander and rinse thoroughly.

  3. Clean pot thoroughly and add water (5 liters). Bring pot to a boil. Add cleaned bones. Simmer on low for 45 minutes.

Tomato/Fried Tofu Mixture

  1. In a large sauce pan, heat vegetable oil and saute garlic and shallots. Once fragrant and lightly brown, add tomatoes and fried tofu. Stir gently and cook for 3-5 minutes.

  2. Liquefy the shrimp paste with a little bit of water from the stock pot. Then add it to the sauce pan.

  3. To add the signature red in Bun Rieu, add ketchup and stir gently until combined. (Traditionally, red annatto seeds are fried in oil to release its red color. The seeds are discarded and the red oil is added to the stock pot)

  4. Add the tomato/fried tofu base to the stock pot.

Crab Mixture

  1. Put the dried shrimp in a food processor and chop finely. Set aside.

  2. In the same sauce pan used previously, heat vegetable oil on high.

  3. Add shallot and garlic. Saute until fragrant.

  4. Add minced crab in spices. Saute the mixture around until it becomes fragrant. Let the mixture cool completely before proceeding.

  5. Add the dried shrimp, eggs, salt, pepper, MSG and pork stock powder. Mix until combined.

  6. Turn up the heat on the stock pot to a rolling boil. Then slowly pour the mixture into the stock pot. You want the riêu to cook up fast and float to the top.

  7. Turn the heat down to a low simmer and cook for another 45 minutes.

Minced Crab in Spices

Minced Crab in Spices

To Serve

  1. Add noodles to a bowl. You can microwave the noodles if it has already cooled.

  2. Add in the soup, pork and riêu.

  3. Add in your favorite veggies, a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of green onions.

Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup Bun Rieu