Canh Bun Recipe Crab and Water Spinach Noodle Soup

canh bun

Canh bun is a lessor known variation of the bun rieu (crab noodle soup) and is very popular in northern Vietnam. Many moons ago we posted about a small restaurant called Quan Bun Ban Mai that has some of the best version of this soup in Little Saigon. Several key differences between exists between canh bun and bun rieu. The first key difference is the use of a thicker rice vermicelli similar to the type used in bun bo hue, rather then the very thin rice vermicelli.  This noodle is first precooked in boiling water then cooked again in the soup, rendering it silky soft and smooth.  The second major difference is the use of rau muong (ong choy, water spinach, kang kung) that is cooked in the broth infusing it with this favorite staple vegetable.  Just like bun rieu, you can fancy canh bun with blood cake, shrimp paste, or periwinkle snails. We’ve had this recipe in the queue for quite sometime and have had several requests, so here it is–it’s almost a repeat of our bun rieu recipe but with a few key changes.

bun bo hue noodles

Canh Bun Noodle Soup
Printable Recipe
  • 12 cups of pork (pork broth recipe here) or chicken stock
  • can of 14 oz of crab meat paste in spices (many brands available, we like Lee Brand)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup of crab meat, either fresh or canned/frozen drained
  • 1/4 lb of ground pork
  • 1/2 tbs of fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbs of sugar
  • 1 tbs of finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tsp of ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of of fine shrimp paste
  • 2 tablespoon of dried shrimp (soaked in warm water)
  • 4 medium to large ripe tomatoes (quartered)
  • 10 medium sized fried tofu (halved)
  • 2 tbs tomato paste or 1 tbs of annato seed oil mixture (see this post)
  • 1 packet of thick vermicelli noodles (bun bo hue style)
  • 1 bunch of rau moung, cleaned and cut about 3-4 inch lengths (water spinach, ong choy, kang kung)
  • accompaniments: fine shrimp paste, lime wedges 
Soak dried shrimps until softened, roughly about 1hr, and then mince finely. A small food chopper will work nicely here. Cook the thick vermicelli noodles al dente and set aside. 
Add pork or chicken stock into large pot and bring to boil.

In the meantime, make the crab mixture. Combine ground pork, crab, can of crab meat in spices, shallots, fine shrimp paste, fish sauce, coarsely chopped dried shrimps, pepper, and sugar. Add the beaten eggs and mix well. When the stock comes to a boil, slowly add this crab mixture into stock. Now add the tomatoes and tofu and bring to boil again and then turn off heat. Finally, season stock with additional salt or fish sauce. Mix in tomato paste or annato seed oil for nice distinctive reddish color broth.  

Ladle individual servings of the broth into a smaller sauce pan and add the cooked vermicelli noodles and a heaping handful of the rau moung and bring this to boil and serve immediately.

Cooks note: Keep additional boiled rau muong as a side. 

canh bun
So the next time you’re craving for bun rieu and make a big pot, make this easy twist and turn it into canh bun! Close your windows–garnish with some fine shrimp paste and a squirt of lime and enjoy!  

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26 Responses to “Canh Bun Recipe Crab and Water Spinach Noodle Soup”

  1. 1

    Tung — April 18, 2010 @ 5:07 am

    looks good! i want some!

  2. 2

    Linda — April 18, 2010 @ 5:16 am

    Are the green julienned noodle like topping the shallots?

  3. 3

    Ravenous Couple — April 18, 2010 @ 5:19 am

    Linda: Those are actually juliened water spinach stems, see our bun rieu post on how to do that..there's a really cool tool for that :)

  4. 4

    cookingpractice — April 18, 2010 @ 5:52 am

    Oh my god, looks so tempting!!! You do a good job to torture me!! :((

  5. 5

    Anh — April 18, 2010 @ 10:52 am

    yum!
    I may do something similar. Will have to thnk hard how to substitute the pork though!

  6. 6

    Ravenous Couple — April 18, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

    cooking practice: we try our darnest!!

    Anh: chicken broth would be fine, wouldn't it?

  7. 7

    Anonymous — April 18, 2010 @ 4:40 pm

    LOL!!! Close your windows?!? All the more to enhance the smell of the shrimp paste, eh? Anyways, your blog is very prolific – I enjoy reading the posts & drooling.
    -emii

  8. 8

    Jessica@Foodmayhem — April 18, 2010 @ 6:18 pm

    I'm not familiar with blood cake or periwinkle snails, but I love Vietnamese food and will try any dish you make.

  9. 9

    Ju (The Little Teochew) — April 19, 2010 @ 1:07 pm

    You know, I love to see noodle dishes topped with all sorts of condiments and ingredients. So appetising! The soup must taste really sweet, no?

  10. 10

    noobcook — April 19, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

    I should stop viewing your blog after midnight – now I can't help craving for a taste of your crab and spinach soup noodles. looks really yummy :p~

  11. 11

    5 Star Foodie — April 20, 2010 @ 2:22 am

    Sounds excellent and I would love to try this with blood cake or periwinkle snails, very neat!

  12. 12

    WizzyTheStick — April 20, 2010 @ 2:53 am

    I don't have to tell you cause I am sure you already no that you guys make the best stuff. Another bookmarked recipe

  13. 13

    triplescoopdesserts — April 20, 2010 @ 7:57 pm

    Yum. Good Stuff. I like the last comment about closing the windows so the neighbors don't smell the shrimp paste! Awesome.

  14. 14

    Julia — April 21, 2010 @ 4:51 am

    Nice dish! Thank you.

  15. 15

    Ravenous Couple — April 21, 2010 @ 5:51 am

    sorry we haven't been able to reply to your comments..been a busy week!

  16. 16

    OysterCulture — April 21, 2010 @ 1:03 pm

    Looks amazing and delicious – what a treat!

  17. 17

    biz319 — April 22, 2010 @ 4:28 pm

    That looks delicious!!! Can't wait to try it – I will add some sriracha to spice it up! :D

  18. 18

    denise — April 22, 2010 @ 9:23 pm

    Your posts are amazing. I am so new and glad you visited mine.
    I love the pictures, etc and I would love to make a water spinach dish this week, but bummer cannot find it! So I can look at yours and admire.

  19. 19

    Bonnibella — April 24, 2010 @ 12:16 am

    Love seeing more Northern Vietnamese cuisine!

  20. 20

    www.thangblog.com — April 24, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

    Looks absolutely delicious… bun rieu is so under rated

  21. 21

    dining table — October 12, 2010 @ 1:23 am

    This looks like a very nice treat! Delicious-looking! I haven't had Asian dish for months now.

  22. 22

    Anonymous — January 22, 2011 @ 9:26 am

    Thanks so much, ravenous couple! I looked through your blog and decided to cook canh bun. The picture looks delicious. Well, I finally cooked it tonight and it took 3 hours. Can't wait to eat tomorrow… Keep cooking and give us scrumptious recipes..Someone has to try it first…hehehe

  23. 23

    Taylor — September 5, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

    OMG your recipes look delicious. I am Vietnamese and I’ve been trying to find recipes for these dishes. Thank you for posting them!

  24. 24

    Michelle — September 12, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

    I made this dish last night! It was so delicious. Thank you guys.

  25. 25

    Tiffany Bui — November 26, 2013 @ 4:05 pm

    This was a childhood favorite for me in VN. My uncle’s next door neighbor was a vendor and was always so sweet to share what she didn’t sell with me. I have always had it with a rau muong sauteed with garlic and fish sauce as an accompaniment. It adds a certain depth of flavor.

  26. 26

    Favorite Posts from April 12-18, 2010 - Food GPS — April 21, 2014 @ 6:35 pm

    […] Canh Bun Recipe Crab and Water Spinach Noodle Soup (April 17, 2010) […]

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