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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bánh Canh Cua Tôm (Crab and Shrimp Tapioca Noodle Soup)

One of my fondest childhood memories was having a delicious steamy bowl of bánh canh for breakfast sold by a lady who always sat at the same spot nearby my elementary school; her specialty was bánh canh chả cá (fish patty rice noodle soup). In the afternoon, there was another lady who made a wonderful bánh canh giò heo (pork hock rice noodle soup). I love both types of these bánh canh. You have to realize that it's extremely difficult for me to not eat out as food vendors permeate every corner of my hometown Pleiku.

When I arrived in the United States, I didn't want to lose the flavors that have been so fundamental to my upbringing. I thought the only way to preserve this was to start cooking these recipes the way I remember eating them. Now that I'm married to my husband who is a seafood fanatic, I started incorporating seafood into my recipes; I thought making Bánh Canh Tôm Cua would be the ideal way to combine what I enjoy and what my husband loves to eat.

Bánh Canh Tôm Cua is a crab tapioca noodle soup packed with fresh crab and shrimp flavors. The broth has been slightly thickened with tapioca noodles which has a more chewy texture compared to the rice noodles. My husband prefers the less chewy noodles as he thinks that they have just the right texture. It's hardy, comforting, and delicious!
RECIPE: Bánh Canh Cua Tôm


For Broth
8 cups Chicken Broth
4 cups Water ( no water or chicken broth needed, if used homemade pork stock)
1 cup Crab Meat
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 tablespoons Salt
1 1/2 tablespoon Fish Sauce
1-2 tablespoons Annatto Oil

For Crab Claws and Shrimps Topping

16-20 Crab Claws
1 pound Shrimps, peeled, deveined, tail on
2 tablespoons chopped Shallot
1 tablespoon chopped Garlic
3 tablespoons Annatto Oil
1 teaspoons Fish Sauce
1 /2 teaspoon Black Pepper
3 tablespoons Crab Paste in soy bean oil

prefer this brand since it's less
purgent than a jar of shrimp or
crab paste labeled as gia vi nau
bun rieu.

For Shrimp and Crab Balls
1 pound Shrimp, peeled, deveined
1/3 -1/2 cup Crab Meat (available at Costco or Sam's Club)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Fish Sauce
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
2 teaspoons Annatto Oil

For Bánh Canh Noodles
Tapioca Starch
 Rice Flour
 Boiling Hot-Water

Spring Onion, finely chopped
Cilantro, finely chopped
Fresh Black Pepper
Fresh Chili Pepper, thinly sliced

Making Noodles

click here for the recipe

Alternatively, you can purchase premade bánh canh noodles at store.  
Making Annatto Oil

Click here for the recipe
Making Shrimp Crab Balls

Place shrimps in a food processor and grind until fine grind is achieved. Transfer to a bowl and add crab meat, salt, pepper, fish sauce, sugar and annatto oil. Mix it well until smooth paste is achieved. Keep it in the fridge or freezer until the shrimp paste mixture is cold. This process will help the shrimp mixture to bind together and become crunchy.

Cooking Broth

Bring a pot of water and chicken broth to a boil. If used whole crab, add crab in the broth pot and cook until crab is cooked. Remove any scum at the surface.

Remove the meat from the body and claws. Scrape out the gooey stuff that is in the center of the body's two equal solid parts. The greenish stuff is the tomalley, or mustard; it's the liver. You can eat it, and many love this part of the crab. Save the gooey stuff to saute it in crab claws and shrimps.

In a frying pan, saute garlic and and shallots until fragrant. Add crab meat and give it a quick stir. Transfer crab meat into the broth pot. Seasoning it with salt and fish sauce.

Remove the shrimp paste mixture from the fridge or freezer. Use a spoon to scoop the shrimp paste and make it into balls. To avoid the shrimp paste from sticking on our hands, wet your hands and a spoon with water. Place shrimp ball into the boiling broth.

Sauteing  Shrimps and Crab Claws

In a large pan, heat 1/2 annatto oil and saute garlic and shallots until fragrant and lightly golden brown.

Add shrimp, crab claws, crab meat and crab paste in soy bean oil, fish sauce and pepper. If you have the gooey stuff from fresh crab, add it in. Stir and cook for until shrimps are cooked. Set aside.


Bring a broth pot back to a boil. Add noodles into the pot over medium heat until the noodles are cooked, about 5 minutes. If you only need to make a few bowls, just cook a small batch of broth and noodles to keep it fresh. Noodles wont taste and look good when they soak in the broth for too long as the noodles do expand.

Ladle bánh canh into a serving bowl, top with crab meat, shrimp balls and shrimps. Garnish with green onions, cilantro, and fresh black pepper. Serve with a side of sliced fresh red chili pepper and fish sauce.

Ăn ngon !


  1. Can you please provide steps on how to make the banh canh noodle?

  2. I will make sure to post "How to make banh canh" entry tomorrow. Sorry.

  3. Hi Loan,
    How many serving can this recipe serve? Also , can the shrimp paste mixture be make in advance (the day before?) Thanks

  4. Shrimp paste mixture turns out even better if made in advance and keep it in the fridge until you're ready to. Oil it.
    I would say this recipe can serve about 10 servings. I had a lot of filling left but lack of broth. So you might want to cook more broth.

  5. Where do you buy the crab claws?

  6. You can find crab claws at most of the Asian Supermarkets. It's in the frozen section.

    1. Thank you. I checked with a couple of them (Marina and Seafood City) and they don't carry them. :(

  7. Sorry you can't find it. It's still delicious without the crab claws though.

  8. By any chance you have recipe for canh chua? I can't seem to get the right sweet & tangy combination for the broth. By the way, I'm so happy to find your blog. Many great home-cooked recipes and easy to follow instructions! THANK YOU!!!

    1. I usually bring water and pineapple and bamboo shoot if used to a boil, then add fish. After it reaches a full boil again, add the remaining vegetables (bac ha, tomatoes, ngo om and some basil leaves), sugar, fish sauce tamerind powder to get the sweet and tangy combination of the broth. I don't like bean sprout to be overcooked so I usually add bean sprout in a serving bowl then pour canh chua on top of it. I also fry some finely chopped garlic and add it to the canh chua bowl. If you like the red color in the broth, use Annatto oil (dau hat dieu) to fry the garlic. Annatto oil recipe is on my blog.

  9. Thank you so much for your blog. Your cooking and instructions are so clear.

  10. I like the trick that you keep shrimp mixture in fridge to make it comes bind & crunchy.

  11. So I made it without the crab claws. I attempted to find them at our local Vietnamese seafood market and had no luck. The shrimp/crab balls were phenomenal. The tapioca/rice noodle o made by hand and although after cooking it was amazing. Texture was perfect. I couldn't seem to get them to stop breaking and they kept sticking together even after I cut them and separated it with a knife and rice flour. Hmmm.any suggestions? It was still awesome though. Family loved it! Thank you for an awesome recipe.