Bún riêu is a truly sensational Vietnamese street food — if you forgo the blood cubes.
People have told me blood cubes don’t have much taste beyond a mild saltiness, but I just don’t want to try this particular Asian delicacy. I’ll get my iron from other sources, thank you very much.
And so I always order my bún riêu “không huyết” — with no congealed pig’s blood.
Unless you’re an old street food hand, the tastes in bún riêu are hard to identify. That unusual not-quite-seafood flavour is rice paddy crab, which has been pounded into a paste, shell and all, and is supposed to be very high in calcium.
The freshwater crab flavour is enhanced with tomato, an ingredient which is not so common in Vietnamese cooking but does pop up regularly in southern dishes.
The soup is bulked up with white bún noodles, cubes of tofu and a thick slice or two of chả lụa, a type of Vietnamese sausage sometimes translated as pork roll.
Like a lot of street food dishes, you add your own vegetables from a little dish that is served up alongside the soup. Darling Man and I usually just divvy the vegetable dish in half and dump the mix into our bowls.
The “vegetables” are commonplace to me now, even though I remember facing my first dish of multi-coloured strips of vegetation and having no idea what they were. The tiny dish served up alongside bún riêu usually includes shredded rau muống (water spinanch), shredded banana flower, bean sprouts, perilla leaves and Thai basil.
Bún riêu is a common breakfast dish and well worth trying if you see a stall that advertises the dish.