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.
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.
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".