Authentic Bun Rieu Gio Heo Recipe: A Guide to Vietnamese Noodle Soup

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Written By Hot Thai Restaurant

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Imagine diving into a bowl of Bun Rieu Gio Heo, a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup that’s both vibrant in flavor and rich in heritage. This delightful dish is a symphony of tastes and textures, featuring a tomato-based broth, tender pork, and airy crab meatballs, all swirling around with silky rice noodles.

Originating from the lush landscapes of Vietnam, Bun Rieu is not just food; it’s a cultural experience. Each ingredient tells a story of the land and the hands that have cultivated Vietnamese culinary traditions over centuries. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie or a curious novice, preparing Bun Rieu Gio Heo at home can transport you straight to the heart of Vietnam.

So, roll up your sleeves and get ready to explore how you can create this exquisite soup in your own kitchen. It’s more than just a meal—it’s a journey through the essence of Vietnamese cuisine.


For the Pork Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped spring onion

For the Tomato and Crab Broth

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can (8 ounces) crab meat, drained
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 200 grams rice vermicelli noodles, prepared according to package instructions
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • Fresh herbs (coriander, Thai basil, and mint), roughly chopped
  • 2 limes, cut into wedges
  • 2 fresh red chilies, sliced (optional)
  • Fried tofu, cubed (optional)

Equipment Needed

To prepare Bun Rieu Gio Heo effectively, having the right equipment will ensure that the cooking process is smooth and efficient. Here’s a list of essential tools you will need to bring this traditional Vietnamese dish to life in your kitchen:

  • Large Stock Pot: Essential for simmering the broth, which forms the base of your soup. A pot with at least a 6-quart capacity is recommended to accommodate all ingredients comfortably.
  • Skimmer Spoon: This handy tool will help you skim off any impurities that rise to the surface of the broth for a clearer soup.
  • Blender or Food Processor: Used for combining the crab meat and other ingredients to form the meatballs. Ensuring they are well blended will give you smoother, more uniform meatballs.
  • Strainer: A strainer is necessary to rinse the rice noodles and to help remove any fine particles from the broth to keep it pristine.
  • Large Bowl: Needed for mixing the pork and crab meat with the seasonings.
  • Cheesecloth or Fine Mesh Sieve: Useful for extracting juice from the tamarind paste, crucial for adding that distinct tangy flavor to your soup.
  • Ladle: To serve the hot broth and distribute the solid ingredients evenly among serving bowls.
  • Chopping Board and Sharp Knife: For preparing your vegetables, herbs, and lime wedges.

Gathering all these tools before you start cooking will streamline your preparation process and enhance your cooking experience. Make sure each item is clean and ready to go, so you can focus on the art of crafting a delicious Bun Rieu Gio Heo.

Prep Work

Before you dive into cooking, organizing and preparing your ingredients ensures a smooth and enjoyable cooking process. Let’s start by prepping various components of the Bun Rieu Gio Heo.

Preparing the Pork Meatballs

  1. Begin by soaking 100 grams of dried shrimp in warm water for 10 minutes until they soften. Drain and keep the water for the broth.
  2. In a blender, combine the softened shrimp, 300 grams of minced pork, two finely chopped shallots, and three cloves of minced garlic to form a smooth mixture.
  3. Transfer the pork mixture to a bowl. Mix in one beaten egg, two tablespoons of fish sauce, and a pinch of black pepper to season.
  4. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes; this will help firm up the mixture, making it easier to handle.
  5. After chilling, wet your hands with some water and form the mixture into small, round meatballs. Set aside on a clean plate.
  1. Thoroughly rinse 200 grams of fresh tomatoes. Cut them into wedges.
  2. Slice two spring onions and roughly chop a small bunch of fresh coriander. Set these aside for garnishing your dish later.
  3. Wash and trim 200 grams of bean sprouts; ensure they are crisp and fresh.
  4. For an aromatic touch, finely chop two cloves of garlic and a small chunk of ginger; these will be sautéed to start building your soup’s base.
  5. If using tofu, cut 150 grams of firm tofu into small cubes. This will be added to the broth later for an extra layer of texture.
  6. Keep all prepped vegetables on separate plates, clearly arranged for easy access while cooking. This will help keep your cooking process organized and efficient.

Cooking the Broth

Once your ingredients are prepped and organized, the next step is to create the flavorful foundation of Bun Rieu Gio Heo: the broth. This section will guide you through cooking the tomatoes and simmering the crab paste to develop a deep, rich flavor.

Cooking the Tomatoes

Start by heating two tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add your prepped garlic and ginger, sautéing them until they become fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. This will form the aromatic base of your broth.

Next, add the chopped tomatoes to the pot. Stir frequently and cook the tomatoes until they break down and become soft, about 5-7 minutes. This process is not only about cooking the tomatoes but also about releasing their natural juices and flavors, which are crucial for the broth’s tomato base.

Simmering the Crab Paste

After the tomatoes have softened, stir in the crab paste. To ensure that the crab paste is evenly distributed and fully integrated into the broth, use a whisk to break it down as you stir. Allow the mixture to come to a gentle simmer.

Continue simmering the broth on low heat for 15 minutes to meld the flavors. This simmering process is key to infusing the broth with the rich seafood flavor of the crab paste, providing a savory depth to your Bun Rieu Gio Heo.

During this time, you may notice some foam forming on the surface; use a skimmer spoon to remove this and keep your broth clear and clean. Keeping the heat low is crucial to avoid burning the delicate flavors of the tomato and crab.

Assembling the Meatballs

After your broth has begun to simmer and infuse with flavors, it’s time to prepare the pork and crab meatballs, a crucial component of Bun Rieu Gio Heo. These meatballs lend a delightful texture and richness to the soup. Here’s how to assemble them with precision and care.

Gathering Your Ingredients

First, ensure you have all the necessary ingredients at your disposal:

  • 200 grams of ground pork
  • 100 grams of crab meat
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons of minced shallots
  • 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of fine rice flour

Mixing the Ingredients

Begin by placing the ground pork and crab meat in a large mixing bowl. Add the egg, which acts as a binding agent to keep the meatballs intact during cooking. Mix these together gently but thoroughly.

Next, incorporate the minced shallots and garlic into the mixture. These ingredients provide a subtle aromatic backbone that enhances the overall flavor of the meatballs. Pour in the fish sauce for a touch of savory depth, sprinkle the sugar to balance the flavors, and add the black pepper for a slight kick.

Forming the Meatballs

Once all the ingredients are well-mixed, sprinkle the rice flour over the mixture. The rice flour helps to firm up the meatballs and contributes to their tender texture once cooked. Mix until just combined — be careful not to overwork the mixture to avoid tough meatballs.

With moistened hands, scoop out portions of the mixture and roll them into balls about the size of a walnut. This size ensures they cook evenly and soak up the flavorful broth effectively.

Cooking Your Meatballs

Carefully drop the meatballs into the simmering broth. Doing this gently ensures they remain intact and begin to cook in the flavorful liquid. Allow the meatballs to simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until they are fully cooked through. The meatballs should be floating to the top and firm to the touch when they’re done.

As you finish cooking these meatballs, the blend of pork and crab, enriched with the subtle notes of shallot, garlic, and fish sauce, will fill your kitchen with an inviting aroma, promising a delicious addition to your Bun Rieu Gio Heo soup.

Cooking the Meatballs in the Broth

After forming your pork and crab meatballs, it’s time to cook them in the simmering broth, which will further enhance their flavors and meld wonderfully with the tomato-based soup. Here’s how to perfectly cook your meatballs in the broth for the Bun Rieu Gio Heo.

  1. Heat the Broth: Bring your tomato-based broth to a gentle boil. If you’ve followed the previous steps, your broth should be fragrant with the essence of tomatoes, tamarind, and aromatics, setting a perfect base for the meatballs.
  2. Add the Meatballs: Gently drop the meatballs into the boiling broth. Ensure you do this one at a time to keep the broth from cooling down too quickly and to prevent the meatballs from sticking to each other.
  3. Simmer: Once all the meatballs are in the pot, reduce the heat to a simmer. This will help cook the meatballs thoroughly without breaking them apart. Let them cook for about 20-25 minutes. The slow cooking process will infuse the broth with the rich flavors of pork and crab.
  4. Skim the Fat: As the meatballs cook, fat will rise to the surface. Use a spoon to skim off this excess fat and keep your broth clear and appealing. Skimming the fat not only improves the soup’s appearance but also its overall flavor profile.
  5. Taste and Adjust: As the cooking nears completion, taste the broth and adjust the seasoning if necessary. You might want to add a bit more salt or fish sauce, depending on your preference for saltiness and umami.
  6. Serve: Once the meatballs are cooked, and the broth is seasoned to your liking, it’s time to assemble the dish. Pour the hot broth and meatballs over a bowl of prepared rice noodles, and then add your chosen toppings like bean sprouts, fresh herbs, and tofu.

Preparing the Noodles

As you craft this delightful Bun Rieu Gio Heo, knowing how to properly prepare the noodles is crucial for achieving an authentic texture and taste. Follow these steps to ensure your noodles are perfectly cooked and ready to complement the rich, flavorful broth.

Step 1: Choose the Right Noodles

Opt for thin rice vermicelli noodles for this recipe. These noodles are traditional and absorb the flavors of the broth beautifully, enhancing the overall eating experience.

Step 2: Boiling the Noodles

Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a rolling boil. While waiting, portion your noodles. Usually, about 4 ounces per serving is sufficient.

Step 3: Cooking the Noodles

Once the water is boiling, add the rice vermicelli. Stir gently to prevent them from sticking together. Depending on the noodle brand, they should be cooked in about 5 to 7 minutes. Check the package for specific cooking times to ensure ideal texture.

Step 4: Testing Noodle Doneness

To check if the noodles are properly cooked, taste one. It should be soft but still have a slight chewiness, known as ‘al dente’ in Italian cooking terms. Avoid overcooking as it can make the noodles mushy.

Step 5: Draining and Rinsing

After the noodles are cooked to your liking, drain them in a colander. Then, rinse them under cold running water to stop the cooking process. This rinse also removes excess starch, which helps in preventing the noodles from sticking together.

Step 6: Serving

Lay a generous portion of noodles in the bottom of each bowl. They are now ready to be ladled over with your simmering broth and deliciously combined pork and crab meatballs, ensuring each spoonful is immersed in the delicious flavors of your Bun Rieu Gio Heo. Add your selected garnishes like bean sprouts, fresh herbs, lime wedges, and chilies to elevate the dish further.

By preparing the noodles correctly, you set the stage for a wonderfully textured and gratifying meal, allowing all the components of the Bun Rieu Gio Heo to shine through.

Assembling the Dish

Now that your noodles are perfectly cooked and your tomato-based broth is simmering with flavors, it’s time to bring all the components of your Bun Rieu Gio Heo together. Assembling this dish is an art of balancing the textures and tastes to achieve that harmonious bowl of noodle soup cherished in Vietnamese cuisine.

Preparing the Bowls

Start by selecting large soup bowls, which will allow ample space for broth, noodles, and toppings. Make sure these bowls are pre-warmed if possible, to keep the soup hot longer when served.

Layering the Noodles

Take a generous portion of the boiled rice vermicelli noodles and place them at the bottom of each bowl. The noodles should form a substantial base but leave enough room for broth and other ingredients.

Adding the Broth and Meatballs

Ladle the hot, aromatic tomato-based broth over the noodles in each bowl. Ensure to get an equal distribution of the crab and pork meatballs in each serving. The broth should sufficiently cover the noodles, allowing the flavors to seep into them.

Topping Up

Here comes the fun part—adding the garnishes! Scatter a handful of fresh bean sprouts on top for a crunchy texture. Follow this with a generous amount of chopped herbs – typically a mix of cilantro, green onions, and perilla leaves – to add freshness and a burst of color. If you like a bit of heat, slices of red chili or a dollop of chili paste can elevate the spice level.

The Final Touches

Squeeze a wedge of lime over the bowl to introduce a zesty brightness that contrasts beautifully with the richness of the broth. If using, place a few slices of soft tofu around the sides of the bowl for added silkiness and protein.

Ready to Serve

Give your bowl a gentle stir to mix all the elements lightly. Now your Bun Rieu Gio Heo is ready to enjoy, brimming with flavors and textures that transport you straight to the heart of Vietnam. Grab your chopsticks and a soup spoon, and dive into this delightful culinary creation.

Serving Suggestions

After you’ve skillfully assembled your Bun Rieu Gio Heo, enhancing the dining experience with the right accompaniments and presentation is key. This dish, brimming with flavors from the rich tomato-based broth and hearty meatballs, pairs beautifully with a variety of sides and settings.

At the Table

Serve Bun Rieu Gio Heo in deep bowls to showcase its vibrant colors and textures. Offer each guest a bowl and encourage them to adjust the flavors to their liking. Place a variety of fresh herbs, lime wedges, extra chili slices, and bean sprouts on the table, allowing everyone to personalize their soup. This not only caters to individual tastes but also adds an interactive element to the meal.

Accompanying Beverages

Complement the bold flavors of Bun Rieu Gio Heo with a light beverage. Traditional options like iced tea or salty lemonade can cleanse the palate and balance the richness of the soup. For a more celebratory occasion, a crisp white wine or a light beer could also pair excellently.

Side Dishes

Although Bun Rieu Gio Heo is a standalone star, consider serving it with a side of crunchy pickled vegetables. These not only add a refreshing crunch but also work wonders in cutting through the soup’s deep flavors. Simple steamed greens dressed with a touch of garlic and fish sauce could also be a delightful addition to round out the meal.


Finally, create an inviting atmosphere. Whether you are eating indoors or out, consider simple, elegant table settings that complement the dish’s rustic charm. Soft lighting and minimalistic decor can enhance the warm and welcoming vibe, making your meal a truly memorable experience.


Now that you’ve got the scoop on crafting the perfect bowl of Bun Rieu Gio Heo it’s your turn to bring this Vietnamese classic into your kitchen. Gather your ingredients and let the rich aromas fill your home. Remember to personalize your dish with your favorite garnishes and perhaps try pairing it with a refreshing drink. Whether it’s a quiet dinner or a vibrant family gathering this soup is sure to impress. Enjoy the warmth and joy of sharing a delicious meal lovingly prepared by you. Happy cooking!

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