My Favorite Vietnamese Noodle Soup • Bún Riêu
This post is sponsored by American Express.
While I’m lucky to head back to my hometown of Los Angeles pretty often, I’ve had plenty of homesick moments since moving to New Orleans a few years ago. One way to bring a bit of my old home to my new one is with food. Cooking was such a huge part of my upbringing, with my mom always whipping up some delicious dish or another. Of all of these, her bún riêu was by far my favorite, and the one I most associate with home.
Bún riêu is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup, and I swear it’s a cure-all — even if just emotionally. My mom made me a steaming bowl of this fragrant stuff when I got sick, when it was my birthday, my welcome home food, or when she felt bad for scolding me for no reason! Ha! In my opinion, it’s even better than pho. Setting out to recreate this dish, however, proved to be daunting task since it contains so many relatively exotic ingredients.
These are the moments you’ve got to be grateful for Amazon.com, because not only was I able to find Charles Phan’s The Slanted Door, an amazing cookbook filled with Vietnamese recipes I’m dying to make, but also all the components that aren’t available at my neighborhood markets (shrimp paste, crab paste, vermicelli, annatto seeds, for example). I even took a few liberties and made up my own version, omitting the pork elements and focusing on the seafood flavors, using dried scallops for the broth. It’s totally pescatarian friendly! It may not have been my mom’s exact bowl, but it certainly filled me with the sense of nostalgia I was searching for — and it tasted pretty darn good too, if I do say so myself! Scroll down for my tweaked recipe from The Slanted Door. Amazon actually features the original bún riêu recipe!
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Here's my tweaked bún riêu recipe from The Slanted Door.
10 cups water
¹⁄³ cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon minced Thai chile
½ teaspoon ground annatto seeds
1 pound large ripe tomatoes, peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons fish sauce
6 ounces dried scallops or dried shrimp
4 teaspoons shrimp paste
4 teaspoons crab paste
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of ground black pepper
1 tablespoon thinly sliced green onions, white and light green parts
3 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
5 teaspoons crab paste
1¹⁄³ teaspoon fish sauce
¹⁄³ teaspoon flour
4 cups cooked vermicelli
2 limes, quartered
4 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
1. In a large stockpot, bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the dried scallops or dried shrimp, turn down the heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the dried scallops are soft.
2. Meanwhile, coat the bottom of a medium, heavy pot with oil and heat over medium-high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add the shallots, garlic, chile, and annatto seeds, and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, fish sauce, shrimp paste, crab paste, sugar, and black pepper and stir for another minute. Add the contents of the pot to the broth in the stockpot and turn up the heat to high. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and let simmer for another 30 minutes.
3. To make the rieu balls, use a knife, mince the shrimp and place in a large mixing bowl with the eggs, 5 teaspoons of the crab paste, 1¹⁄³ teaspoon fish sauce , and flour. Stir together and set aside.
4. While the soup is simmering, drop the rieu balls into the broth 1 tablespoon at a time. Feel free to make bigger rieu balls. Simmer until the rieu is cooked through and rises to the surface.
5. In a 10- to 12-inch pot, bring the water to a boil at high heat. Add the rice noodles and cook for about 5 minutes until noodles are tender. Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse under cold water to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Serve at room temperature.
6. To serve, divide the vermicelli among soup bowls and ladle the soup and rieu over the noodles. Garnish with sliced green onions, mint, lime wedges, and chile slices!