Ultimate Guide to Vietnamese Bun Rieu: Preparation, Storage, & More

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Written By Hot Thai Restaurant

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Imagine diving into a bowl of Bun Rieu, a traditional Vietnamese soup that’s as vibrant in flavor as it is in color. This beloved dish, originating from the northern regions of Vietnam, offers a tantalizing mix of fresh tomatoes, hearty crab, and silky vermicelli noodles, all swimming in a rich, savory broth. It’s a feast for the senses that you won’t want to miss.


Dive into the preparation of Bun Rieu by gathering all the necessary ingredients. This recipe involves several components that come together to create a flavorful and aromatic dish.

For the Broth

  • 8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 4 medium tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste
  • 3 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 white onion, peeled and halved
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Salt to taste

For the Meatballs

  • 1 pound of ground pork
  • 1 can of minced crab in spices or 1/2 cup of fresh crab meat
  • 1/2 cup of minced shrimp
  • 2 teaspoons of fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup of finely chopped shallots
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 4 cups cooked vermicelli noodles
  • Fresh herbs: cilantro, Thai basil, and mint
  • Bean sprouts, washed
  • Lime wedges
  • Sliced chili peppers
  • Fried tofu, cubed (optional)
  • Shrimp paste (optional)

Required Tools and Equipment

To embark on making Bun Rieu, an exquisite and flavorful Vietnamese noodle soup, it’s essential to have the right tools and equipment on hand. Here’s what you’ll need to ensure your cooking process is smooth and successful:

Cooking Pots

  • Large Stock Pot: You’ll need this for simmering the broth. A pot with at least 8-quart capacity is ideal to accommodate all the ingredients and provide sufficient space for the broth to brew.
  • Saucepan: A medium saucepan is perfect for sautéing the tomatoes and other spices which form the base of your broth.


  • Ladle: To skim broth and serve the soup.
  • Wooden Spoon: Essential for stirring the ingredients as they sauté and simmer.
  • Fine Mesh Strainer: This is crucial to ensure your broth is clear and free of any unwanted bits.

Prep Tools

  • Sharp Knife: A good quality chef’s knife will help you efficiently chop herbs and slice ingredients.
  • Cutting Board: Opt for a large one to handle all the chopping of vegetables and preparation of meats.
  • Mixing Bowls: Several sizes for mixing the meatball ingredients and to hold prepped items before they go into the pot.
  • Mortar and Pestle: Optional, but great for mashing shrimp paste or making a finer paste of the pork and crab mixture.
  • Food Processor: This can be a quicker alternative to a mortar and pestle, especially useful in blending shrimp and pork for meatballs.

Gathering these tools before you begin cooking not only assures that the preparation phase goes without interruptions but also enhances your overall cooking experience, making it more enjoyable and efficient. Now, with everything in place, you’re ready to start crafting your savory Bun Rieu.

Prep Work

Before diving into the cooking process, proper preparation is key. This section will guide you through preparing the ingredients and forming the meatballs for your Bun Rieu.

Preparing the Ingredients

  1. Tomatoes: Wash and quarter 5 large ripe tomatoes. This will help them break down faster in the broth and release their flavor.
  2. Tofu: Cube 200 grams of firm tofu into 1-inch pieces. Set aside on a paper towel to drain any excess moisture.
  3. Crab: If using fresh crab, crack the shells and extract the meat. For canned crab, ensure to drain and flake the meat thoroughly to remove any liquid.
  4. Shrimp: Peel and devein 100 grams of shrimp. You’ll use these to give extra flavor to the meatballs.
  5. Pork: Mince 200 grams of pork belly or ground pork. This will be mixed with the shrimp to form the meatballs.
  6. Aromatics: Finely chop 2 shallots and 3 cloves of garlic. These will be sautéed briefly to start the base of your broth.
  7. Vermicelli noodles: Soak 200 grams of dried vermicelli noodles in warm water until they are soft, usually about 20 minutes, then drain.
  1. Combine the proteins: In a large bowl, mix the minced pork with the minced shrimp. This combination ensures that the meatballs hold together and remain tender when cooked.
  2. Season: Add 1 teaspoon of fish sauce, a pinch of salt, and black pepper to taste. Mix well to distribute the flavors evenly.
  3. Form the meatballs: Wet your hands to prevent sticking and form the mixture into small, even balls, about an inch in diameter.
  4. Refrigerate: Place the formed meatballs on a tray lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate them for about 30 minutes to firm up before cooking. This step is crucial as it helps the meatballs maintain their shape during the cooking process.

By following these steps carefully, your ingredients will be well-prepared, paving the way for a smoother cooking process and ultimately a more flavorful Bun Rieu.

Cooking the Broth

Now that you’ve prepped all your ingredients, it’s time to bring the Bun Rieu to life by creating its soulful broth.

Simmering the Base

Start by filling a large pot with about 2 quarts of water. Bring this to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the pork bones or chicken carcass that you have prepared earlier. These will simmer for about 30 minutes to extract their rich flavors, which form the foundation of your broth.

Next, incorporate the chopped tomatoes, the fried tofu cubes, and the minced shallots. Stir these into the pot, ensuring they are fully submerged. Let these simmer together with the meat bones, gradually releasing their flavors into the broth. This process should take approximately 20 minutes. You’ll notice the broth starting to take on a deep, vibrant hue as the ingredients meld.

To enhance the broth’s depth, add a tablespoon of fish sauce for an umami kick, a teaspoon of sugar to balance the acidity, and a pinch of salt. Continue to simmer the mixture for another 10 minutes. Make sure to skim off any impurities that rise to the surface, leaving you with a clear, aromatic broth.

Adding Seafood and Tofu

Once your base has simmered and is rich in taste, it’s time to add the seafood and more tofu to the broth. Gently drop the crab meatballs you prepared earlier into the broth. They need to cook thoroughly, which should take about 5-7 minutes depending on their size. Watch as they begin to float to the top, a sign they are nearly done.

Following the meatballs, add the shrimp. Since shrimp cooks quickly, it only needs about 3-5 minutes to turn pink and opaque. Stir gently to ensure they cook evenly.

Finally, add the remaining tofu pieces. The tofu will absorb the surrounding flavors, becoming savory bites within your soup. Simmer everything for an additional 5 minutes to allow the flavors to fully combine.

Throughout this process, keep the heat at a gentle simmer. This slow cooking method is key to achieving the profound and distinctive flavors characteristic of a traditional Vietnamese Bun Rieu. Adjust the seasoning if needed, adding more fish sauce or salt, to suit your taste.


Now that your broth is rich and flavorful, it’s time to assemble the vibrant and enticing bowls of Bun Rieu that promise a delightful blend of textures and flavors.

Preparing the Bowls

  1. Start by bringing a large pot of water to a boil. Add the vermicelli noodles and cook according to the package instructions, usually about 5-7 minutes, until they are just tender.
  2. Drain the noodles and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. This also helps to keep the noodles from sticking together.
  3. Place a generous portion of noodles into each serving bowl. The noodles form the base of your Bun Rieu.
  4. Ladle the hot broth over the noodles, ensuring to include tomatoes, tofu, and pieces of the crab-pork meatballs. The hot broth will heat the noodles and begin to meld the flavors together.
  1. Now, enhance your Bun Rieu with a variety of fresh garnishes. On a plate, arrange sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, fresh bean sprouts, and lime wedges for easy access.
  2. Invite your guests to add these garnishes to their bowls according to their taste preferences. This personal touch allows each diner to customize their soup.
  3. For a final flourish, add a few drops of fish sauce or a sprinkle of chili pepper to tailor the soup’s zest and spice level to your liking.

As you complete these steps, enjoy the aroma and colors that make Bun Rieu not just a meal, but an experience. Each bowl is a canvas for individual expression through flavors and textures.

Serving Suggestions

Once you have assembled your aromatic bowl of Bun Rieu, the joy of personalizing it begins. Each bowl can be tailored to individual tastes, making it a delightful experience for both cooking enthusiasts and novice chefs alike.

Personalize Your Bowl

To elevate your Bun Rieu, consider adding a variety of fresh herbs and condiments to your table. Arrange small plates of chopped cilantro, sliced green onions, bean sprouts, and basil. These add not only a punch of freshness but also a wonderful texture contrast to the rich and hearty soup.

Add Some Crunch

A popular addition is fried tofu, which introduces a satisfying crunch and an extra layer of umami. If you enjoy a bit of extra spice, a few slices of fresh chili pepper or a dollop of chili garlic sauce can make a world of difference.

Accompanying Beverages

Pair your Bun Rieu with a light beer or a crisp white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc to complement the soup’s richness. For a non-alcoholic option, a chilled glass of sweet iced tea can be very refreshing.

By experimenting with these suggestions, you can truly make each bowl of Bun Rieu your own unforgettable creation. Enjoy the process of customization and savor every spoonful of this delicious Vietnamese classic.

Storing and Reheating

Once you have savored a fresh bowl of Bun Rieu, you might find yourself with leftovers that are too good to waste. Proper storage and reheating techniques will ensure that the distinct flavors and textures of this aromatic Vietnamese dish are maintained.

Storing Bun Rieu

To store leftover Bun Rieu, first, allow the soup to cool to room temperature. This prevents the growth of bacteria that can occur when hot food is sealed in an airtight container. Once cooled, separate the broth from the noodles and other solid components like tofu and meatballs. Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Ladle the broth into airtight containers, leaving about an inch of headspace to accommodate any expansion.
  2. Store the noodles and solid ingredients in separate containers to prevent them from getting soggy.
  3. Refrigerate everything promptly. The broth and ingredients can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Reheating Bun Rieu

When you’re ready to enjoy your stored Bun Rieu again, it is crucial to reheat it properly to preserve its taste and ensure food safety:

  1. Gently reheat the broth on the stove over medium heat until it’s hot and steaming. Avoid boiling vigorously as this can alter the flavor and texture of the broth.
  2. While the broth reheats, separately warm up the noodles and solid ingredients in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes or until heated through.
  3. Once everything is warmed, combine them in a bowl.
  4. Add fresh herbs and a squeeze of lime to brighten the flavors after reheating.

By storing and reheating your Bun Rieu correctly, you’ll ensure that each bowl is nearly as good as when it was freshly made, letting you enjoy the delightful flavors and textures without a dip in quality.


Now that you’ve mastered the art of making Bun Rieu let these tips guide you to enjoy every bowl to its fullest. Whether you’re tweaking the recipe to suit your taste buds or carefully storing leftovers for another day you’re all set to keep this delightful dish as a comforting staple in your culinary repertoire. So go ahead savor the rich flavors and share the joy with friends and family. Every spoonful promises a taste of Vietnamese tradition right from your kitchen.

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