Vietnamese Shrimp & Crab Thick Noodle Soup (Banh Canh Tom Cua)
Banh Canh is the only Vietnamese noodle soup that you will eat with a spoon. However, if you are like my kids, forego the spoon and chopsticks altogether, and slurp it directly from the bowl.
For this version of Banh Canh, I’m making Banh Canh Tom Cua. Banh Canh Tom Cua is an orange-colored thick Vietnamese noodle soup that consists of thick and round noodles, whole shrimp and crab meat, topped with fresh cilantro and green onions.
The thick and round noodles are made from rice flour and tapioca starch. However, I’m not a fan of store-bought Banh Canh noodles. I usually substitute them with store-bought Udon noodles. They are much better in flavor and texture. I’m hoping to perfect my homemade Banh Canh noodles soon and post it. Until then, store-bought Udon noodles is my go-to choice.
Because the noodles are round, they tend to slip from chop sticks and spoons. I’ve witnessed kids giving up Banh Canh entirely because of this. My little cousins in Vietnam were sulking because they couldn’t get the noodles to stay on their spoons. I swooped in and saved the day with a pair of scissors to shorten their noodles. Since then, I’m known as the Banh Canh hero.
The stock in this Banh Canh recipe is made from pork bones and thickened with a tapioca starch slurry. The orange color traditionally comes from the crab roe and guts, otherwise known as crab tomalley. Since I’m not using whole crabs but rather prepackaged crab chunks, I colored my broth with annatto oil and a bit of food coloring. Annatto oil tend to stay at the top only so the bit of food coloring gives a more even color. You can’t have Banh Canh Cua Tom without that signature orange color so cheating with food coloring will have to do.
For the clear pork version made with pork ham (Cha Lua) and fish cakes, click here.
Vietnamese Crab & Shrimp Thick Noodle Soup (Banh Canh Tom Cua)
- 1 large yellow onion or 4 shallots (leave whole)
- 3 lb pork bones (neck bones and/or spareribs)
- 1 teaspoon (for cleaning) plus 1 tablespoon salt (for stock)
- 3 liters water
- Large chunk daikon (peel)
- 2 tablespoons pork/chicken/mushroom stock powder
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon annatto oil
- 1 drop orange gel food coloring (optional)
- 1/3 cup tapioca starch
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1.5-2 lbs Banh Canh or Udon Noodles
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 16 oz (1 lb) cooked crab meat
- 1 tablespoon annatto oil
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 10-15 cooked shrimp (size 21-25, peel and devein)
- Black pepper
- 2 scallions/green onions (slice thinly)
- Small bunch cilantro (slice thinly)
- Fried shallots
- 1 lime (cut into wedges)
- Bake onion/shallots in the oven at 350°F for about 40 minutes or until soft. Allow them to cool then peel/scrap off all charred areas to prevent browning the broth. Set aside.
- Clean the pork bones thoroughly: Add the pork bones to a large stock pot and fill with water to cover by 1 inch. Add salt (1 teaspoon). Parboil the bones for 5 minutes or when you see a lot of foam forming. Drain content of the pot into a colander placed int he sink and rinse bones under cold running water. This cleaning will keep the stock clear. It also helps to get rid of the foul pork smell.
- In a large stock pot, add water (3 liters), cleaned pork bones, roasted onion/shallots and daikon. Bring pot to a boil and reduce the heat to a very low simmer. Cook for 1 hour, uncovered. If you are reusing the same stock pot that was used to clean the bones, make sure to clean the pot thoroughly before making stock. After 1 hour, remove onions/shallots from pot and discard.
- Season stock with pork/chicken/mushroom stock powder, sugar, salt (1 tablespoon) and fish sauce.
- Add annatto oil and/or food coloring to the stock for color.
- To thicken the broth, in a small bowl, mix tapioca starch and water (1/2 cup) until completely dissolved. Add slurry to broth and simmer for additional 5 minute to thicken.
- Cook the Banh Canh noodles per packaged instructions. Toss gently with sesame seed oil to prevent sticking.
- To prep the crab. heat annatto oil (1 tablespoon) in a small skillet at medium-high. Add garlic and pan-fry until fragrant. Add cooked crab meat and lightly saute until colored and aromatic. Set aside.
- To assemble, add a handful of Banh Canh noodles into a bowl. Ladle broth over noodles. Add 2-3 shrimp, desired amount of crab meat and pork spare ribs from broth. Garnish with a sprinkle of black pepper, scallions/green onions, cilantro and fried shallots. Serve with wedge of lime on the side.