Food File: Bun Rieu

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 riêukhông 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.

Bun rieu

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.

8 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Kieu says:

    Gosh I miss Vietnamese food.. You summed up bin rieu quite nicely. The blood cakes really don’t have much of a taste.. Honestly. 😀

  2. YUM (but not the blood cubes).
    wandering educators recently posted..A Great Place To Start Your Overseas Job Search

  3. Budget Jan says:

    This is a great idea, explaining what is in the vietnamese dishes. I am queasy about blood products also. Saw Rick Stein making Spanish blood pudding the other night – no thanks.
    Interesting that the shell is crushed up as well. Saves peeling them, and it would make it high calcium. If you add the blood it would be a very nutritious dish.
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  4. Budget Jan says:

    Ha Ha I would not do that to you Barbara. There is no way I would eat it.
    Budget Jan recently posted..Bad Luck comes in Threes

  5. Ayngelina says:

    As much as I love pig I would definitely pass on the blood cubes too.
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  6. robingraham says:

    They serve blood in cubes in Spain as well. They can be delish – not at all gross if you can get over the idea. As usual a food post of yours has mad me hungry AND been informative. Haven’t been here for a little while – I like the blog’s new look.
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    • Barbara says:

      Thanks for the complement, Robin! I’m still working on the new look, it’s still a bit buggy.

      And I cannot get over the grossness of blood cubes. Call me a squeamish adventurer if you must.

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