In Vietnam, rice paddy or rice-field crabs, known as "cua đồng" in Vietnamese exist in the rice paddies or rice fields. They are similar in size as the green crabs found here in the Northeast United States. My parents tell me they cause havoc by eating young rice shoots. I have not found any research that confirms that they actually ingest or simply just cut the young shoots while foraging. People have found a way to catch and eat them to near extinction just like most wildlife in Vietnam, according to my father. My cousins in Vietnam tell me that in recent years there are fewer of these once abundant crabs due to excessive use of pesticide. Although many people including my cousins in Vietnam buy these tiny crabs so they can make the classic Vietnamese crab noodle soup known as bún riêu, but are afraid to eat these freshwater crabs because of the potentially harmful chemicals used. Cousin Khiêm, an inspector for seafood in Vietnam, tells me that due to a demand for these crabs in central and northern parts of Vietnam, people have started to farm them in these regions. He has not seen or heard of anyone farming for them in the southern part of Vietnam. One of my aunts who resides in Los Angeles, California recently sent me a photo of imported frozen rice paddy crabs from Vietnam labeled as"cua đồng" sold in plastic bags in her local Asian markets.
The stock or broth used in this soup is made using a traditional Vietnamese method by hand crushing the crabs to a pulp. Nowadays many people (in Vietnam) purchase the prepared crabs all ground up for convenience. You can use a blender to puree the crab bodies or you can hand pound the crab bodies, legs and claws. If you choose to use a blender you may want to avoid adding the legs and claws since these are tough and may damage your equipment.
|crush the prepared crabs with a heavy object on a stone or hammer|
|filter out the fine crab meat with a little water and strain|
|boil the broth until the fine crab meat floats to the surface in pieces|
|gently remove the white foam|
Green crabs (see How to Prepare Hard-Shell Green Crabs link)
Prepare the crabs by removing and discarding the carapace, gills, and apron. Save the roe and crab mustard in a separate bowl to be used later. Gently rub the bodies, claws and legs with about 1 tablespoon of salt. Rinse with fresh water 2-3 times to remove all the salt and drain off the water. Place the crabs in 1-2 freezer or heavy duty plastic bags and crush everything using either a hammer, stone or a heavy object against something hard such as a stone or brick. For best results add a handful of crabs at a time. Pour the crushed crabs in a pot or container. Repeat the process until all the crabs are crushed. Add a little water to the crushed crabs and stir well to help remove the fine meat bits. Using a fine strainer, strain and filter out the crab meat and liquid. Add a little more water to the crushed crabs and repeat the process 2 more times or until most of the crab meat is strained out (the water will become more clear with less crab bits). Save the strained fine crab bits and crab liquid for cooking. Discard the rest.
In a medium sized pot add the crab liquid, turn the heat to high. Do not stir and let the broth comes to a boil. Once it boils the fine crab meat will float to the surface in large pieces. Turn the heat down slightly if needed so the liquid does not boil over the pot. After about 4-5 minutes stir once and gently scoop out and discard the white foam (impurities) if interested. Avoid discarding the crab meat. Save the broth and crab pieces for making soups or stews.
*I use 30 green crabs ranging from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches to make 4 cups of broth for this soup.
*The unused crab parts make great fertilizer for your garden.
|prep for soup|
|julienned zucchini and beans|
4 cups of Vietnamese-style Crab Stock (see recipe above)
1 large garlic clove, smashed, peeled
2 large eggs, whisked and placed in a small seal-able sandwich bag
1 tsp oil
1 small shallot, peeled and chopped
2 beans, julienned
1 small zucchini, peeled and shredded or julienned
2 Tbsp chopped scallion
8 zucchini flowers, removed and discarded pistils, sliced
1/4 tsp sea salt (more or less depends on your taste)
1/4 tsp sugar
Fresh crab meat, optional
Freshly ground pepper
Heat a small pan and add oil. Once the oil is hot add shallot and saute about a minute or until the shallot is soft. Add peas and zucchini. Saute about 30 seconds and remove from heat.
In a medium sized pot add the Vietnamese-style Crab Stock and garlic, turn the heat to high. Do not stir and let the broth comes to a boil. Once it boils the fine crab meat will float to the top in large pieces. Turn the heat down slightly if needed so the liquid does not boil over the pot. After about 4-5 minutes stir once and gently scoop out and discard the white foam (impurities) if interested. Do not scoop out the crab meat that float to the top. Make a tiny cut about 1/8 inch on a corner of the sandwich bag (that has the whisked eggs). Stir the pot in one direction and let the whisked eggs pour out of the corner of the bag into the pot to create string-like texture.
After adding the eggs to the broth then add the sauteed contents, scallion, zucchini flowers and season with salt and salt. Turn off heat.
Serve the broth hot and garnish with fresh crab meat, black or white ground pepper and more zucchini flowers.
*The freshly picked crab meat is Maine's peekytoe crabs.
*If you like cilantro then garnish with a little chopped cilantro leaves.
*Instead of salt you may season this soup with fish sauce.