Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bun Rieu Cua (Crab Noodle Soup) - In the kitchen with Mum again

        Bun Rieu is one of my favourite dishes! After an exhausting Friday at Planet Cake learning to decorate my own cake I didn't think that I would be in the kitchen again all weekend. How wrong I was, Saturday was spent in the kitchen helping mum prep for lunch which I'll blog about later and Sunday was spent in the kitchen prepping and also cooking Bun Rieu (Crab Noodle Soup) with her. 
        This post is a dedication to Mum, kind of a continuation to my banh xeo (vietnamese savoury pancakes) blog post. She actually made this about 2-3 weeks ago aswell and I took some photos but never got around to blogging about it. This time I managed to get some more detailed photos (because I ended up cooking it) so I'll combine photos from last time as well as from this time.

        So I wake up Sunday morning and see some tomatoes on the kitchen counter, some tofu and a can of crab meat. I also see that Mum has left out a bottle of home made stock to defrost. Instantly I know what we'll be eating today. Mum comes home and I ask her if we're having Bun Rieu for dinner and she says yes. While clearing the kitchen bench I pull out my camera and start taking some "random" photos of the can of crab meat, jar of crab paste with soya bean oil and tomatoes before putting it aside.
        Mum being mum, "Where's the rest of the stuff? You want to include everything else that goes into it. Get the Banana Blossom out of the fridge, and the herbs and bean sprouts". Yes, I have a bossy mum. =D If I did photograph everything that went into this dish they wouldn't all fit into the one photo, most vietnamese dishes are that complex in flavour. The Banana Blossom is also from our garden. One day I'll need to wonder into the garden and photograph all the goodies that my parents have planted.

        The flavour of the soup is mainly made up of these 4 ingredients. Crab Paste in Soya Bean Oil, Crab Meat (canned), tomatoes and egg. Well this is what mum uses in her version anyway. Upon googling Bun Rieu I found many variations on this dish posted out there. There is also an entry in Wikipedia for Bun Rieu. 
        Sometimes mum will add pork mince and small dried shrimps to the soup, she's also made it before with pig's blood jelly though that's saved for special occasions where alot of adults are present. Us "kids" don't like blood jelly. I don't like blood jelly. This dish is also really awesome if made with fresh crab though that is a rare luxury and I find that the canned stuff Mum buys does a good enough job.

        First thing that gets done is the rice noodles or vermicelli. This comes dried out of a pack.

        One packet expands hugely and you end up with a whole heap of noodles.

        Mum slicing the Banana Blossom. The outer layers all get stripped off leaving not much behind. As she slices through to the middle another few layers get peeled away. It does all eventually seperate and expand so you tend to underestimate how much of the Banana Blossom there really is.

        The Banana Blossom needs to go into water straight away or else it will oxodise. Mum also adds a preserving crystal of some sort to the water to help keep the colour.

        A Vietnamese dish is not complete without an array of fresh herbs. Mint, Basil, Perilla. Some of these herbs are also found in our garden though the colder weather and winter approaching means not alot of things growing in the garden.

        Traditionally we used to eat Bun Rieu with split water spinach stems. After time Mum gets lazy and serves them whole, or just split in half. The season is ending though so we don't get any of it this time, even though it was only a couple of weeks ago that we had it.

        At first it was just me taking photos of Mum cooking Bun Rieu, she then decides to hand the reigns over to me. "I'll teach you to cook, it's very very easy". She tells me all the steps/order of ingredients while I try to absorb it all in. It's actually the second time around because she tells me all this before she goes to have an afternoon nap after we finish all the prep work and I have to ask her again when I start cooking.
        So I open the jar of Crab Paste in Soya Bean Oil and pour the oil into a bowl with about 4 or 5 eggs and beat it all together (too many according to mum but I love my egg in soup). Apparantly I was meant to split both the oil and "Crab Paste" in half mixing half in with the eggs and half into the stock. Try translating Vietnamese intructions into English in your head... instructions must have got lost in translation or something =D.

        The "Crab Paste" (in Soya Bean oil) and the canned crab meat. Mix it all together and then once the stock is boiling stir the crab mix in.

        Mum always makes her own stock, she usually uses a mix of chicken carcasses and pork bones. This stock works for asian cooking though the flavour might not be suited for western cooking. She usually makes a big batch and freezes it in bottles. Most of it is mainly used as a noodle broth but occasionally she'll use it to cook things like this.

        Chop the tomatoes and quickly sautee them with some onion to enhance the flavour and give them colour. No need to cook them because they'll cook once added to the soup.

        Season the soup according to taste (salt, sugar, fish sauce). There is no measuring involved, it's all done by taste. Something that I have learnt to do by just watching Mum (and tasting and doing it myself). If it's missing a bit of sweetness, throw in a teaspoon or two of sugar, if it's too sweet, a spoon or two of salt. Needs some body? Sure, sprinkle in some fish sauce. Slowly swirl the soup and add in the egg mixture a ladle at a time beating it into the soup. This is Mum doing it last time, can't take a photo of myself doing this.

        Look at the colour of that soup. I get a little lecture on what I did wrong. Crab Paste should have been added to the egg as well as the oil, the egg and crab paste cling together and give you more textural bits in the soup. I poured the bowl straight into the pot, in a steady stream of course but this apparantly caused too many lumpy big pieces of egg in the soup. Also, too much egg, it overtakes all the soup. "You learn from your mistakes" I tell mum.

        Tofu cubes and something that Mum adds, Fish Tofu, pretty much fish cake made into the form of Tofu.

        I love the Tofu in this dish, the Tofu just soaks up all the soup and is just fantastic to eat. I love Tofu, as long as it's cooked/used well. This is my pot of Bun Rieu Soup.

This is Mum's pot from last time, who's looks better hey? ;)

        This was taken from the last time, Mum insisted I needed to take a before and an after shot. "You want to show the bowl before the soup".

        Mum's bowl of Bun Rieu with soup. From what mum says, the name Bun Rieu is an exact description of what the dish is, the word "Rieu" means floating, or something close to that. When you cook the soup everything ends up floating to the top, "Bun" means noodles, so literal translation, "Floating Noodles"? Vietnamese is a strange language, and my parents wonder why us kids struggle, Vietnamese is as strange to us as English is strange to them.

        Bun Rieu is usually eaten with a wedge of lemon and a spoon full of Mam Ruoc which is a salted shrimp paste. I'm not a huge fan of the smell and flavour so usually go without. Mum insists that Bun Rieu isn't Bun Rieu without the Mam Ruoc.

        So this is my presentation of a bowl of Bun Rieu. Ryan came over for dinner on Sunday (to return my iphone) and when he came into the kitchen where I was prepping him a bowl Mum proudly announces that I cooked it. I already told Ryan that I was cooking one of Mum's dishes. "So I heard" he says to her. And Ryan's critique of my cooking? Restuarant quality. =)

I'm entering this to Delicious Vietnam which is a blogging event run by A Food Lover's Journey and Ravenous Couple. I got asked to submit my Banh Xeo post but was too lazy to edit it to fit the criteria for last month.


Ravenous Couple said...

how fun to cook with your mom! great submission!

billy@atablefortwo said...

LOL I love supportive mums like yours! Urge to grab all things out of the fridge before taking photos!

It sure looks delicious! I want some now!

OohLookBel said...

I wish my mum could cook like this! Your dish certainly looks restaurant-quality and I bet it tastes good, too.

chocolatesuze said...

aw i wish my mum would teach me to cook! your noodle soup is making me drool

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That looks amazingly good! I've only had banana flower in a salad before but I can really see how good it would be in this! :)

thuy said...

yummy! I love Bun Rieu.

Betty @ The Hungry Girl said...

This looks great! Perfect for winter too! I remember my mum tried to teach me how to make this once, but I've completely forgotten!

foodwink said...

I've never heard of this great dish! But I think it's something that I would cook :) Thanks for sharing! I suppose I can get all the ingredients from Cabra?

And, can you recommend a restaurant that does this dish well? I want to try the real thing first :D

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

*If you're reading my replies, yes I know they are 6 days late but I like to reply so I'll do it anyway*

Hi Ravenous Couple: Thanks! I'll have to think of something or hope that I can catch mum cooking again for next month!

Hi Billy: Haha yeah, it's kinda cool that she doesn't shoo the camera away in the kitchen

Hi Belle: Thanks! Ryan picked up the bowl and drank all the soup, I guess that must say something? =D

Hi Suze: Hehe thanks, I'm sure if you asked she would be happy too?

Hi Lorraine: Thanks, yeah the banana blossom adds a nice texture to the dish, and the flavour goes well too.

Hi Thuy: thanks for dropping by!

Hi Betty: Thanks! It really isn't that hard, just gotta remember how to do the steps correctly

Hi foodwink: Thanks! Yes, Cabra, any good asian grocery really. I don't think I've ever had this dish out of home! I rarely eat Vietnamese when dining out, why when I have someone who does it so well at home hehe =D If I do hear of any places I'll let you know!

foodie-central said...

Oh yum! This dish looks fantastic..

Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said...

Thanks Daphne!