Some of my childhood comfort food were mostly something very simple but yet very flavorful and "Bun rieu" is a one of them. It is something that I can just eat everyday without getting tired of. Growing up I remembered to have this for breakfast most days of the week. My younger brother and I, we both share the same desire for this very Northern noodle dish. The melt-in-your-mouth texture of the crab paste (rieu), the pungent taste of the fishy broth, the sweet and sour flavors of the tamarind, the softness of the fried tofu and the fragrant of the Vietnamese herbs are dancing harmoniously in your mouth creating an unforgettable flavor. The tradition way of cooking this dish involves using the little rice-field crabs for the "rieu", and it can be quite messy and time consuming. But since these little crabs are scarce to find here, I substitute them with fresh shrimps, dried shrimps, shrimp paste, crab meat and eggs. This shrimp paste that I've created has a different texture than the traditional "rieu" that I used to have as a kid. However, it is just as good if not better in term of flavor. I also got my hubby hooked with this noodle dish. For now, it stays on the list of his favorite Vietnamese food. So what are we waiting for? Let's get cooking, shall we?
For the "rieu":
1. 1/2 lbs of medium size shrimps with heads (peeled, deveined , keep the gut of the head)
2. 1 cup of dried shrimp (soaked in hot water)
3. 1 jar of crab meat and 1/2 a jar of the shrimp paste in oil (Pantai brand)
4. 4-5 eggs
5. 1 tsp mam tom, 3 tsp sugar, 1 tsp of fish sauce, pepper
For the broth:
1. Chicken broth (enough to make 8 bowls)
2. 5 tomato ( cut into wedges)
3. Fried tofu
4. Shallots (thinly sliced)
5. 1/2 jar of the shrimp paste in oil (Pantai brand)
6. 2 tbsp of shrimp paste (mam tom)
7. Annatto seed infused oil (a few tbsp)
8. Salt, rock sugar, fish sauce
For the bowl:
1. Thin vermicelli noodle (1 bag, boiled and rinsed)
2. Bean sprouts, mixed vietnamese herbs
3. Tamarind juice or lime juice
4. Red chili pepper and shrimp paste
5. chopped green onion for garnish
Process the dried and fresh shrimp well in the food processor until they become a fine, smooth paste. Then add the rest of the ingredients into the shrimp mixture, mix well and set aside.
In a large stock pot, add some oil and shallot, stir until it turns slightly brown. Add in tomato, annatto oil, and 1/2 shirmp paste jar, mix well. After a few minute, add in the chicken broth and let the broth simmer until boil. Season the broth with salt, rock sugar, shrimp paste (mam tom) and fish sauce. Add the "rieu" mixture into the broth, be careful not to mix or stir it. The rieu sit in the broth and it will float up once it's done, then add in fried tofu.
Assemble the noodle in the bowl and pour over the hot soup with pieces of tofu, "rieu" and tomato. Garnish with fried shallot, green onion, red chili pepper, "mam tom" and tamarind juice. Served hot with bean sprout and herbs.
I hope you will enjoy this dish as much as I do! Bon appetite!