Saigon has a number of noodle dishes from local samples like bun ca loc (snakehead fish noodles), bun mam (rice vermicelli soup), bun nuoc leo (fermented fish soup), bun cha ca (grilled chopped fish noodles) to international exports like Singaporean style noodles and Thai noodles. However, among Vietnamese culinary delights, bun rieu in Saigon (Vietnamese crab noodle soup) is seen as a favorite dish during summertime by both locals and foreigners. This is your guide to bun rieu – how to make it and where to find the best one in Saigon!
Try to make it at home? In actuality, bun rieu is seemingly complicated in flavor but easy to cook.
How to Make Bun Rieu
Bun rieu is a well-known traditional dish, both domestically and internationally, consisting of crab and rice noodles.
It has a slightly sour taste. The broth is cooked from crab paste and broth, tomatoes, fish sauce, salt, and onion. Bun rieu is often served with fresh vegetables (shredded lettuce and chopped water spinach), and in order to strengthen the flavor, eaters can also add a bit Mam Tom (a pungent shrimp paste).
The needed ingredients:
- Bun (noodles made from white rice): 1 kg;
- Crab: about 400 gr;
- Ground meat: 100 gr;
- Dried shrimp: 50 gr;
- Eggs: 2;
- Tofu, tomatoes, green onions, garlic, shallots, ham, shrimp paste, and some other spices.
Step 1: Wash the tofu and cut them into small blocks. Then fry until they are golden brown. Then chop the green onion. Wash and cut the tomatoes and quickly fry.
Step 2: After cleaning the crabs, use a small stick or a chopstick and scoop the natural broth out of the crab. Puree the crabmeat with a few grains of salt, then pour the mixture into a bowl. Add water to dissolve the crabmeat and filter the liquid several times. Season the mixture and put it on the stove at medium heat. Stir gently and as the mixture coagulates, take the solid parts out.
Step 3: Add the fried tomatoes into the crab soup and season the broth with one tablespoon of shrimp paste. Continue to simmer.
Step 4: To soften the dried shrimps, leave them in warm water and then puree them carefully. Mix ground meat, eggs, pureed shrimps, and chopped garlic in a bowl. Use a small spoon to scoop meatballs into the pot of boiling crab soup. Wait for the meatballs to cook, then add the fried tofu and a little vinegar.
Step 5: The last stage is to fry the onion and add the solid crabmeat into the soup pot.
Here you are! A tasty Vietnamese bun rieu cooked in the traditional way. Put some rice noodles in a bowl and then add the broth. The dish is even better when serving with fresh vegetables.
Did you know: In the north, the broth is soured by fresh tomato only, while in the south, people use tamarind to increase the sourness.
Where to Find The Best Bun Rieu in Saigon
In the vast collection of Vietnamese food, for rustic flavor, bun rieu is always high on the priority list for Saigon’s eats. Although there are countless of vendors selling bun rieu on the streets of Saigon, the five addresses below continue to warrant visits from both natives and tourists alike.
The Famous Bun Rieu Vendor at Ben Thanh Market
When it comes to Southern style bun rieu in Saigon, there isn’t a noodle lover who doesn’t know the bun rieu vendor on Phan Boi Chau Street, near the East Gate of Ben Thanh Market. This location has been operating for over the last three decades, open from noon until evening. This vendor enchants not only Saigonese folk, but also a significant number of foreign visitors.
There’s no sign marking the location, so your only assessment of having arrived is when you see a roadside establishment full of diners at all times. Just pick a spot along the sidewalk, order a dish, and your bun rieu will be served in no time. With a unique Southern-style flavor, bun rieu at Ben Thanh Market keeps foodies coming back for more.
There’s no sign marking the location, so your only assessment of having arrived is when you see a roadside establishment full of diners at all times.
Address: 4 Phan Boi Chau, Ben Thanh Market
Bun Rieu Oc Nguyen Dinh Chieu
Apart from the bun rieu vendor at Ben Thanh Market, another familiar place selling the southern style bun rieu in Saigon is in the market on Vo Van Tan Street. There are several bun rieu vendors around the area, but the best known is the one on Hem 287.
Because of its popularity, the restaurant is almost always crowded. As guests step into the restaurant, they are greeted by a big boiling pot of soup and close by are number of baskets brimming with colorful ingredients. The dishes served here have a delicate taste that is hardly found in any other restaurants.
It is open from noon to evening. Besides bun rieu, there are also delicious traditional pastries.
Address: 287/64 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, District 3
Bun Rieu Oc Thanh Hai
If you want to try out Northern style bun rieu, then the 30-year-old Thanh Hai Restaurant situated in an alley on Ky Dong Street is undoubtedly the soundest option.
The recipe here calls for crab and sea snails and is served with a multitude of fresh vegetables, like basil, perilla, bean sprouts. Every bowl is a combination of the pure sweetness of crab; the acidity of tomato and vinegar; and the saltiness of sea snail. Everything is likely to melt on the tongue, making bun rieu Thanh Hai an option that will certainly satisfy even the pickiest of customers.
In addition to the main dish, this is also a must-try if you are looking for authentic plates of sea snails such as sea snails steamed with lime leaves, sea snails stuffed with meat, etc.
Address: 14/12 Ky Dong, District 3
Bun Rieu Me Toi
Another place to try Northern style bun rieu is at the Bun Rieu Me Toi location. Situated on Le Van Sy Street next to the monorail, Bun Rieu Me Toi has also been nicknamed the rail bun rieu. The restaurant has had a long career running for over 30 years, which has led to a strong customer base. There are customers who have been eating here for decades.
Despite the bustling atmosphere, diners who visit Bun Rieu Me Toi never have to wait in a long queue for a bowl. The soup is quite simple, with just crab and some basic ingredients, but the aroma is absolutely appetizing and the flavor is highly refined. The vegetables served with the noodles usually include chives and boiled water spinach. The crabmeat here is so uniquely flavorful that the majority of guests who visit always ask for extra.
Address: 115/62 Le Van Sy, Phu Nhuan District
Bun Rieu at Van Lang Park
If this is your first visit, be patient, because you may have to wait a while to be seated. Regulars here rarely eat just one bowl, but two or three bowls to make their wait worthwhile
The restaurant opens at 5 pm. The broth tastes lighter than others so the bun rieu at Van Lang Park doesn’t pack the same punch as other canteens. However, to the citizens living around Van Lang Park, the hot bowl of bun rieu here is exceedingly appealing with its fresh crabmeat, its slight sourness, and sweet shrimps. In spite of being the farthest destination on the list, it definitely won’t waste your time and energy.
Address: At the Gate of Van Lang Park, Hung Vuong, District 5
If you are a true food enthusiast, why don’t you try to make bun rieu at home?
Enjoyed this article and want to learn about other Vietnamese food? How about some pho, bo kho, or oc (sea snails)?
Check out the food section in Christina’s blog for more information about delicious Vietnamese dishes!