Saturday, June 3, 2023

Vietnamese Crab and Asparagus Soup (Sup Mang Cua)

Apparently Vietnamese crab and asparagus soup (súp măng cua) is a popular soup eaten on special occasions such as wedding banquets in Vietnam. My parents grew up eating this soup (in Vietnam). My father remembers his older brother, a self-trained chef who owned a catering business would make this delicious soup for weddings and other ceremonial events. Fresh asparagus was not available so he made it using canned ones imported from Taiwan. My father said the asparagus became thin strands when cooked. My mother said her family would make this soup also using canned asparagus. I don't remember ever eating this soup as a child in Vietnam. Perhaps during the war people lacked access to these luxury items. Over the last several decades I have traveled to Vietnam countless times, attended many special events and ate in restaurants all over the country I don't recall eating this soup or seeing it on a menu. Once in Da Lat I was delighted to find a vendor selling fresh but very tall thin asparagus in a market. I bought some to cook for my grandmother. I was disappointed to find that they were tough and inedible.

During the beginning of the pandemic I started a small garden. It wasn't intentionally planned but it turned out to be quite therapeutic, educational and kept me busy during the spring and summer months. In the spring of 2021 my father came and helped me plant asparagus roots, other vegetables and berries. The following spring I planted more asparagus roots and seeds. As some of you may know they take about 2-3 years before they can be harvested. Finally this spring I am able to pick some. Freshly harvested asparagus are delicious--tender and sweet.

In this simple recipe you may use as much asparagus and crab meat as you prefer. My mother picked the scrumptious crab meat from 4 large fresh caught Maine Jonah crabs. If you are not very skilled at picking crab meat you may certainly purchase from a can or already picked meat from a fish market. Some people cut the asparagus in 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. I prefer to slice mine as thinly as possible on a bias. I like to place my whisked egg in a small bag, cut a tiny hole in one corner and while stirring the pot I drizzle the egg in the pot. This will create elongated wispy strands. If you prefer the soup to be thicker then add more cornstarch or tapioca. Be sure to mix it with cool or cold water before you add it to the pot. The Vietnamese people generally make this soup using chicken or pork broth, but not me. I am trying to make a dent in the population of the highly invasive green crabs! I seasoned my soup only with fish sauce. Feel free to garnish with fresh chopped scallions, chopped cilantro and white or black pepper.

    Vietnamese Crab and Asparagus Soup (Sup Mang Cua)

Vietnamese Crab and Asparagus Soup (Súp Măng Cua)


4 cups of Basic Green Crab Stock

 About 1 Tbsp of oil

1/2 small onion or 1 shallot, finely chopped

1 thumbnail size ginger, washed, finely grated, optional

About 8-10 tender asparagus shoots, washed, cut on a bias

Crab meat, about 8-10 oz

1 egg, whisked

Salt or fish sauce to taste

2-3 Tbsp of cornstarch or tapioca starch and 1-2 Tbsp cold water, mix well 

1 scallion, chopped  

Ground white or black pepper, optional

Chopped fresh cilantro, garnish, optional


Heat a pot with crab broth until it starts to boil then turn the heat to low.

Heat a pan with oil. Add onion and ginger. Saute until onion is soft. Add asparagus and saute until asparagus is soft. Add crab meat and gently saute a few times, try not to break the crab meat into smaller pieces. Add the contents to the crab broth. Turn the heat to medium high. Once the broth is simmering slowly stir in the egg. Season with salt or fish sauce to taste. Add cornstarch or tapioca and water mixture. Add scallions and turn off heat. Sprinkle in pepper and garnish with chopped cilantro and more chopped scallion with each serving if interested.

crab broth, crab meat, asparagus, onion, ginger, and scallion

Vietnamese Crab and Asparagus Soup (Sup Mang Cua)

Apparently Vietnamese crab and asparagus soup (súp măng cua) is a popular soup eaten on special occasions such as wedding banquets in Vietna...