Vietnamese tapioca noodle soup is called Banh canh in general. The many variations of this dish include Banh canh cua, Banh canh Trang Bang, Banh canh gio heo, and Banh canh Nam Pho. The words Banh canh means tapioca noodles and the rest of the name indicates the cooking style, each of them includes different predominant ingredients, and thus, offers a different flavor. However, within this article, we will mostly mention the first one - Banh canh cua, crab tapioca noodle soup, as it is more popular, easy to find, and looks more different from the rest.
Vietnamese tapioca noodle, which is called Banh canh in Vietnamese, closely resemble the Japanese Udon but a little more transparent in color, more slippery, and softer in texture because it is mostly made out of tapioca starch instead of wheat flour.
A closer look at rice noodles (rice vermicelli) on the left versus Vietnamese tapioca noodles on the right side of the picture
The main difference between these two types of noodles lies in the ratio of tapioca starch to rice flour in the dough mixture. While the main component of tapioca noodle is tapioca starch which makes it sticky, rice noodle's main element is rice flour. The dough is mixed, kneaded, roll, and finally cut into large and short cylindrical pieces, like vermicelli but much larger.
Vietnamese tapioca noodle soup is extremely varied, and its cooking style changes geologically. For example, in Hue, we have Banh canh Nam Pho and Banh canh ca loc, which are very different from each other.
Tapioca starch and rice flour are mixed with water and stirred evenly with a bamboo stick. This bamboo stick will be used in dragging tapioca noodles. Since it must be hand-held, it is required that the laborer be proficient in dragging. The man must skillfully stir the flour when picking up the bamboo stick. When the dough on one end is running down the stick, the workers must be very handy so that the dough falling into the boiling water below to form evenly rounded noodles. Alternatively, people also using the piping bag to make the noodles.
With Banh canh ca loc, the method of cooking is different. Fine ground rice flour with tapioca starch it mixed with a bit of hot water and knead the powder until the powdered flour is smooth. Then the dough is rolled, cut with knives into a pot of broth.
The method of making Banh canh Binh Dinh is the same as Banh canh ca loc, but the powder must be mixed with warm water and then stuffed. After this, the mixture is added with wheat flour to soften but still remains sticky. The broth in Binh Dinh is very special, like the broth in the Chinese restaurant in Saigon, and the flavor of Binh Dinh soup is different from other types of tapioca noodles.
About crab soup, this dish is exactly the sum of the above dishes. Crab soup has the salty taste of the sea specialties, just a few slices of boiled pork of Trang Bang, the crab flavor of Southern Vietnam, and the very slippery style of Banh canh Hue. The combination of many types of dishes to make a unique characteristic of the crab tapioca noodle soup.
The scene of the Vietnamese tapioca noodle soup at Banh canh cua Tran Binh Trong
Besides tapioca noodles, a bowl of this soup includes varied topping such as crab sausage, fresh shrimps, a few slices of boiled pork, jelly-like blood sausage, quail egg, mushroom, and crab meat. On the top of the bowl, some chopped shallot, hot chili, and black pepper powder might be added, which add more color and bring more flavor out of the bowl.
The bowl served at Banh canh cua at Me Pu Restaurant
Fried churros, which is known as Banh quay in Vietnamese, is also available. You can dip them into the gravy soup, which helps balance the flavor and adds a crispy bite to the bowl.
A bowl of Vietnamese tapioca noodle soup with fried churros is served at the restaurant on Tran Khac Tran Street
There are various popular types of drink are available for you to choose such as herbal drink (including dandelion and other herbal glasses) and ice tea.
Different kind of drinks at Me Pu Restaurant
As other Vietnamese foods, there are always some small dishes with red chili, lime, black pepper, and fish sauce for you to seasoning according to your own flavor.
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Crab tapioca noodle soup is only popular in the Central (from Hue) and Southern Vietnam, especially in Tay Ninh- a rural province located Southwest of Vietnam, on the border with Cambodia, this place is famous for produce the best tapioca noodles. In Hanoi or other northern provinces, it is hard to find tapioca noodles.
In Ho Chi Minh city, you can easily find crab tapioca noodles being sold in both big restaurants and small food stalls on the pavements.
Each place has its own recipe and delivers a distinct flavor. However, below is the list of selected restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City that might give you the perfect taste of the best crab Vietnamese tapioca noodle soup.
The menu of each place usually has customized options based on the topping such as shrimp, crab sausage, and pork. You can choose to have your own type of topping or have all of them in one bowl.
Address: 87 Tran Khac Chan, Tan Dinh Ward, District 1
Opening hours: 2 PM - 8 PM
Price: VND 40,000 - 50,000
The food stall at the restaurant on Tran Khac Chan Street
This single-dish restaurant is located on a quite busy small street in District 1, Tran Khac Chan Street. It can be easily recognized since it is almost always full of customers. It is situated next to a small alley, so if you go to the restaurant in the late afternoon, the food stall could be placed in the alley instead of being in the front door.
The alley where the food stall is situated
In our opinion, the quality of the food is the most amazing, outstanding restaurant among other crab soup restaurants. The tapioca noodles are thick, stunning, and soaked in the flavorful gravy; the shrimps and crab meat are so fresh that you can feel the smell of the sea in every bite. The crab meatball is incredible too. To sum up, everything in this tapioca noodle soup here is excellent. A must-eat restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City.
Address: 223A Tran Binh Trong, Ward 3, District 5
Opening hours: 7:30 AM - 12 AM
Price: VND 40,000 - VND 60,000
At this street-side restaurant, you can experience iconic street food, sitting on a small little plastic stool at a little table in the evening on the pavement in District 5, witness local activities on the street or sitting comfortably in the house while eating.
The restaurant is very crowded at night
The service at this restaurant is outstanding. The staff is very friendly. As soon as you reach the restaurant, they would quickly arrange your table and ask for your order with a smile on their face.
This bowl would definitely make your mouth watering
Address: 483/10 Le Van Sy, Ward 12, District 3
Opening hours: 10 AM- 8 PM (closed on Sunday), but this restaurant often runs out of food after 7 PM, so ideally, you ought to come before 7 PM.
Price: VND 55,000 - VND 70,000
This small restaurant is situated in the small alley in Le Van Sy Street; consequently, it could be a little difficult for you to find. The restaurant is probably renovated from a personal house because it has very cozy vibes and does not have many employees.
The decoration of the restaurant. It was late noon, so there were not many customers.
When we come to the restaurant, the owner prepared the food herself then bring the bowl out. She even gave a lecture on the Vietnamese tapioca noodle and boasted about her homemade seasoning sauce, which is very tasty and distinctive for this restaurant.
The appealing bowl is served at Me Pu Restaurant
The owner of the restaurant seems to be very detailed-oriented because everything is very clean, neat, and well-prepared. This place also has an air-conditioner, so if you want a place to hide from the wet hot Vietnamese weather with delicious food, this place is an ideal option.
This restaurant also serves Bun oc - snail vermicelli soup and other Vietnamese snacks such as chicken floss, which could be taken away and eat along the way.
Besides Vietnamese tapioca noodle soup, Vietnam is also well-known for other noodle dishes such as Pho and Bun thit nuong (commonly known as Vietnamese rice vermicelli). Each of them has a unique flavor, which combines together and makes up a variety of Vietnamese cuisine.
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