Noodle soup with signature crab meatball in Saigon

A bowl of crab meatball noodle soup at 40-year-old “Bun Rieu Ganh” in Saigon's District 1 might appear rather pricey for its first look but proves “good value for money”.

Located at 4 Phan Boi Chau Street, adjacent to Ben Thanh Market, the food stall was well known as the stomping ground of many foreign visitors, overseas Vietnamese and artists prior to the pandemic.

Unlike other versions of crab noodle soup, or bun rieu, the dish here consists of a big chunk of fried tofu, congealed duck blood, a slice of tomato and its huge, signature crab meatball instead of the typically lumpy crab meat with small bite-size pieces on top.

It would seem the cook aims to preserve all original flavors pertaining to this dish, allowing guests to enjoy the rich and soft tofu, chewy blood jelly and firm, tasty crab meatball and thin rice vermicelli.

The dish is served with a plate of special fish sauce, chili, shrimp paste and tamarind dipping and a plate of fresh split morning glory, mung bean sprouts, thin strips of banana blossom, cilantro and basil leaves.

Saigon, noodle soup, dried shrimp noodle

A bowl of noodle soup at "Bun Rieu Ganh" in Saigon. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.

Mai Thi Lien, 60-year-old owner of "Bun Rieu Ganh", has always been loyal to the traditional soup taste for over 40 years with her mother’s recipe.

"The noodle soup is well seasoned. To add sourness, we do not use lime or kumquat juice but tamarind instead," Lien said.

Quán bún riêu không cua, không ốc 40 năm ở chợ Bến Thành

The food stall has been serving only "bun rieu" for over 40 years. Video by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.

Even though the price per serving is VND55,000 ($2.4), considered higher than at other stalls in the city, Lien claims she is not thrifty when spending money on ingredients since when it came to good food, it was quality that counted.

Besides, inner-city rent further explains the higher price. "In the past, it used to be a street vending business, my customers had to borrow seats from nearby stalls. So seven years ago, I started to rent a fully equipped place with seats and air conditioners and needless to say, the fee is exorbitant," she said.

Saigon, noodle soup, dried shrimp noodle

Special crab meatballs in a bun rieu pot at the shop. Photo by VnExpress/Huynh Nhi.

Nguyen Nhat Huy from District 4 first visited the food stall thanks to word of mouth. He was impressed with the umami of the stock and clean, tidy space.

"VND55,000 for a bowl at a long established stall reputed for its traditional recipe is not pricey. Even an optional choice of a pork stick sausage at VND10,000 ($0.4) is quite reasonable, I think," Huy said.

The stall is open from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. In addition to the price for a bowl of bun rieu, guests should be aware they have to pay VND3,000 if they use wet tissues and VND5,000 for motorbike parking.

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