This version of a classic dish from southern Vietnam’s Kiên Giang province comes from Son fish sauce boss Albee Tran and was perfected by Andrea Nguyen. An aromatic pork and shrimp broth holds slick rice noodles and crisp bean sprouts, and it gets topped with silky poached fish, a garlicky shrimp and egg stir-fry and refreshing cucumbers and herbs. You should be able to find all the ingredients in a well-stocked Southeast Asian grocery; if you can’t find Chinese yellow rock sugar, you can substitute 2 peeled, cored and chopped small Fuji apples.
Bún Cá Kiên Giang Fish and Shrimp Rice Noodle Soup
3 ½ hours. Serves 8.
- 5 pounds pork neck or leg bones, cut into 3-inch pieces
- 1 ounce Chinese yellow rock sugar (about one 2-inch chunk)
- 2 medium yellow onions, quartered
- Fine sea salt
- Pickled Leek and Chile Sauce
- Garlicky Shrimp and Egg Stir-Fry
- 1 pound dried round rice noodles
- 12 ounces mung bean sprouts
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce, plus more
- 2 pounds catfish or tilapia fillets, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces
- 2 large Persian cucumbers, quartered lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced at an angle
- 1 ⅓ cups rau ram (Vietnamese coriander) or cilantro, torn if large, plus more for garnish
- 2/3 cup sliced scallion greens
- ½ cup Asian fried store-bought shallot or onion
- Lime wedges and mint sprigs, for serving
- To ensure clear broth, parboil the bones first by putting them in an 12-quart stockpot with just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil until all the scum is released, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse until the scum comes off the bones. Scrub the pot, then add the rinsed bones and 6 quarts water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then add the rock sugar, onions and 5 teaspoons salt. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer and simmer uncovered for 1½ hours, skimming any foam that rises to the surface.
- While the broth simmers, prepare the leek-chile sauce and shrimp stir-fry.
- When the broth is done, remove from the heat and let rest uncovered for 15 minutes to further concentrate its flavor and settle any remaining impurities.
- While the broth rests, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the noodles and boil until just tender. The timing varies, so test for doneness by picking out a noodle, rinsing it under cold water and biting into it. It should be cooked through, but remain slightly firm. Drain in a fine colander, rinse under cold water until cool, and drain again. Divide the bean sprouts among 8 serving bowls, then top with the drained noodles.
- Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve set over a 6-quart pot. Season with 3 tablespoons fish sauce. Taste and add more if desired. Bring the broth to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a steady simmer. Season the fish with salt, then add to the simmering broth and poach until the fish is just opaque throughout, 2 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, scoop out the fish and divide among the serving bowls.
- Divide the shrimp among the bowls as well, along with the cucumbers and rau ram. Add a spoonful of the leek-chile sauce to each bowl and place the remaining in a serving bowl for passing at the table. Sprinkle the scallion greens on top. Return the broth to a boil and divide it among the bowls. Crown with the fried shallots. Serve immediately with the leek-chile sauce, more fish sauce, lime wedges and mint sprigs.
The strained broth can be stored in airtight containers and refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months. The poached fish can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Bring the broth to a simmer before serving and rewarm the fish in it.