Bun Ca Vermicelli Fish Soup

bun ca


With a coastline of over 3,000 km, the sea is a vital part of daily Vietnamese life.  No where is it more evident than the city of Nha Trang on the south central coast of Vietnam.  Blessed with a beautiful bay, Nha Trang enjoys some of the most pristine beaches and an abundant bounty of sea life from which tourism and fishing plays a key economic role.  On a bay tour with mom in 2002, we took a boat around the bay which stopped at a fishery in the middle of the bay. Here hundreds of live fish, lobster, giant spiny shrimp, and a variety of shell fish could become a meal cooked as you pleased in minutes and all you have to do is point your finger.


nha trang


Another memory that will stay with me forever is the water taxis taking you from the larger tour boats to the shore. No, not motorized boats, but large, round thatch tubs, ferried by children far too young for their line of work.  Hop on, work your way to the edge of the tub and make sure you’re sitting directly across the child or else the circular tub will just spin in circles no matter how hard he/she rows.


nha trang


And with an industrious work ethic and pleasant attitude, they row you ashore asking only for tip. It was bittersweet to be ferried by him–I was fascinated at the novelty, but most of the way, I was wishing he could be in school or play with friends like most kids his age–in America, that is.

Bun ca is a relatively unknown noodle dish from the region of Nha Trang that utilizes the abundance of fish from Nha Trang’s bay. This boy might enjoy his mom’s bun ca at home or at the market food stall. It’s a simple vermicelli noodle soup often with a large steak or filet of meaty white fish as well as fish paste meatballs.  The broth is pork or chicken stock sweetened with pineapple and tomatoes.


bun ca



bun ca

Bun Ca Vermicelli Fish Soup


1/2 lb mackeral (ca thu) steaks or any meaty white fish steak/filet
1-2 cloves garlic chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 tbs fish sauce
1/2 ts pepper
1/2 ts sugar

1/2 lb fish paste
1 bunch of dill, chopped
salt and pepper
10 cups chicken broth or pork broth
1/2 pineapple, cut in wedges
3 medium tomatoes, cut in wedges
1/2 tbs salt
1/2 tbs sugar

1 package vermicelli noodles
1 bunch of mint, tia to (perilla), bean sprouts, banana blossom
fried shallots


First marinate the fish steaks with 2 tbs fish sauce, garlic, shallots, and 1/2 ts pepper and sugar for at least 15 minutes. Then mix the fish paste with the minced dill, season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

fish paste

Using large saute pan and small amount of cooking oil, saute the marinated fish steaks till golden brown and set aside, flipping once.

Bring the stock to boil and add the pineapple and tomatoes. Keep heat at low rolling boil and spoon in small walnut sized portions of the fish paste. The fish paste cooks rather quickly and is done after 5 minutes. The tomatoes and pineapple should be tender at this point, but not too soft and overcooked. Reduce heat and season stock with 1/2 tbs salt and sugar and adjust to taste.

Ladle hot stock into a bowl of vermicelli noodles and top with a fish steak and herb accompaniments and enjoy immediately.

This is our entry to Delicious Vietnam,a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese cuisine created by Anh of A Food Lovers Journey and yours truly! This month’s host is Nam of The Culinary Chronicles blog. For instructions on how you can participate, visit Delicious Vietnam information page.


delicious vietnam 

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13 Responses to “Bun Ca Vermicelli Fish Soup”

  1. 1

    Jill Shepherd — March 14, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

    What's fish paste? Do you have an online source for it or have suggestions for where to look for it? Can it be easily made at home?

    My 9-year-old is nuts for Pho, Ramen and all of these clean, hearty Asian soups. This looks pretty simple and delicious.

  2. 2

    Ravenous Couple — March 14, 2011 @ 8:04 pm

    @jill: fish paste is basically ground up fish. most asian grocers sell it fresh and it's often preseasoned. however, you can find it in the frozen section. feel free to substitute with shrimp or any other variety.

  3. 3

    spicecook — March 14, 2011 @ 8:18 pm

    I am a great fan of yours and have tried many of your recipe. Thanks so much for this recipe, just the thing I was looking for. I cook for a group of Vietnamese Seniors and was donated 100 pounds of swordfish and was having a hard time figuring out what to do with it. I will try your soup because I have tomatoes and Pineapple on hand too. Looks so easy and delicious. Any other ideas for swordfish?

  4. 4

    Nam @ The Culinary Chronicles — March 14, 2011 @ 8:34 pm

    As always, this looks beautiful and delicious! Can't wait to see what you two come up with next :)

    On a totally random note, do you two ever think you'll host an "in-person" Delicious Vietnam? It would be such a fun "potluck" party event for local bloggers in CA. :)

  5. 5

    Anonymous — March 14, 2011 @ 9:45 pm

    Hi, I love your site and all your wonderful recipes.
    I have one request, perhaps you can post more pictures when you post up a recipe..like how this site does it


    thanks and keep up the good work!!!


  6. 6

    Angry Asian — March 15, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

    a few things about this post.
    thank you for posting it, my phamily is from Nha Trang and tho i do not remember it, your b/w pix stir up such feelings of NOSTALGIA for me! this is not my favoritest nha trang dish but it certainly is delicious. your pictures, as always, are beautiful.

  7. 7

    Ravenous Couple — March 15, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

    @spicecook: Thank you for the compliments! Thats wonderful that you try to cook Vietnamese food your the seniors. Perhaps you can try making caramelized fish such as meaty swordfish would be great too http://ravenouscouple.blogspot.com/2009/08/ca-kho-to-vietnamese-braised-fish-in.html

    @nam: that's a wonderful idea–as soon as we move out of our tiny apt! :)

    @anonymous: thank you for the suggestion, we'll keep that in mind.

    @angryasian: thank you for the visit, we don't claim to know everything that is bun ca and according to a reliable source it's from there, but we're sure it's varies by region, but glad it brings back memories in a good way!

  8. 8

    Andrea @ HighLowFoodDrink.com — March 16, 2011 @ 5:35 pm

    I've been looking for more hearty seafood recipes and this Bun Ca Vermicelli Fish Soup sounds perfect – especially on a cold rainy day! Thanks for the recipe! By the way, is banana blossom easy to find? My friend shared a recipe using banana flower with me that he learned while taking a cooking class in Vietnam but I haven't seen the ingredient here in NYC.

  9. 9

    Ravenous Couple — March 17, 2011 @ 3:43 am

    @andrea: unfortunately in the NYC area banana blossom might be hard to find. It's pretty widely available here in SoCal and we love using it as garnishes in soups and in salads. In the year that I lived there, couldn't find it, but if i had to guess, chinatown would be the first place to check.

  10. 10

    Jenny @ Musings and Morsels — March 20, 2011 @ 4:48 pm

    I love it when you highlight a regional dish that's gone under the radar; I've learned so much. Keep up the fantastic job!

  11. 11

    Maias Lille Verden — March 20, 2011 @ 9:00 pm

    I stumbled over your blog, and I just love, love, love it!

    Keep up the good work! I'll put you in my blogroll, so I can visit you're site everytime you post something new!

    greetings all the way from Norway!
    Maia Hoang

  12. 12

    2. nem nuong, bun ca, and beignets « New Beginnings — January 3, 2012 @ 12:36 am

    [...] my first time eating both at Brodard’s and Lily’s Bakery. I had nem nuong cuon, bun ca, and beignets for the first time. Grilled pork with lettuce, cucumber, daikon, garlic chives, and [...]

  13. 13

    Asian Soups That Go Way Beyond Ramen | Gymrat Fitness — December 15, 2014 @ 1:44 pm

    […] Spiegel Get a Bun Ca recipe from The Ravenous […]

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