The first thing you encounter when you stumble on Bún Riêu Gánh is the colossal pot of red-orange crab broth simmering right there on the sidewalk. The name of the venue alludes to the gánh, or a wooden yoke traditionally used by street vendors to carry their goods, to which the pot is attached. From this pot, brimming with seafood and herbs, the shop’s owner, Mrs. Mai Thi Lien, ladles each bowl to order.
A four-decade-old mainstay located near the bustling Ben Thanh Market, the restaurant’s namesake noodle soup, bún riêu, combines rice vermicelli noodles, or bún, with riêu, or a crab paste which is typically combined with pork, shrimp, and prawns to create a solid, meatloaf-like consistency. Also in the bowl are heaping chunks of tofu as well as huyet, or coagulated pork blood, while a side plate of herbs includes perilla leaves and basil.
Though the dish is believed to have originated in northern Vietnam, it’s become one of the most popular noodle soups throughout the entire country. Here, Mrs. Lien serves her bún riêu with an accompanying dipping cup of tamarind fish sauce with sliced chili and pure shrimp paste. The use of tamarind is distinctly southern: twirl up the noodles with a piece of crab paste and dip it all into the sauce for a pop of tangy brightness.
Know Before You Go
Upon arrival, you’ll be asked if you want a bowl đầy đủ (with all the fixings), but you can easily request omissions if there’s anything you don’t want. This doesn’t make the experience any less authentic, per se, as Vietnamese people tend to eat according to individual preference.