Crabby noodle soup
Bun rieu — the r is pronounced ‘z’ — is a crab and tomato based noodle soup, with some versions so full of goodies you’ll never get bored. It’s currently vying for top spot in our list of noodle soup dishes in Hanoi.
Bun rieu comes in a number of varieties, including bun rieu cua be, bun rieu nam bo, bun rieu ca and bun rieu oc. The base of steaming tomato and crab broth — made with a paste of small brown paddy crabs — is the same, but the added ingredients differ. Bun rieu cua be is the most expensive of the lot, being served with pieces of cua be, or large crab. Bun rieu ca comes with chunks of fried fish — similar to bun ca — and bun rieu oc has the addition of snails.
We particularly like bun rieu nam bo — let them chuck everything in for you, as we tend to do, being not particularly fussy, or get choosy and point at what you want. Ingredients usually include pillows of crispy fried tofu, slivers of rare beef, soft pork meatballs, pork knuckle, nem (cured sausage) and jelly-like blood (okay, we’re not fans of blood, but why not give it a try?). The result: a bowl of delicious soup bursting with colour, balanced flavours and interesting textures.
Bun rieu is served with the usual basket of mixed leafy green herbs and lettuce, plus wedges of lime — give your bowl a good squirt and add chilli if you like it spicy.
Our favourite spot in Old Quarter is on Hang Bong, on the corner of Phu Dong. It’s certainly not in a salubrious position, being next to a motorbike workshop, but the bun rieu nam bo is the best we’ve tried. Other recommended places are outside Old Quarter: 195 Xa Dan, 1B3 Tran Huy Lieu (off Kim Ma).
Bun rieu is served at any time of day, though is particularly popular in the morning. Expect to pay 20,000 VND to 40,000 VND per bowl, the lower amount if it’s just tofu with the price increasing if you get meat.
By Sarah Turner
Last updated on 28th January, 2015.