Food File: Cari Cua (Vietnamese Crab Curry)

Sometimes you stumble upon a dish so good that your powers of communication desert you.

You’re left blurting out inane exclamations like “oh my God” and “this is so good”, tired cliches that do nothing to convey how utterly you’ve been transported.

When I took the first bite of cari cua, the noise of the traffic and the other diners faded away and a hallelujah chorus began trumpeting from the rain clouds. I sucked and slurped and cracked and dipped and smiled like a loon. And ignored a grouchy Miss M and a tired-wanna-go-home Darling Man.

How can I have lived in Vietnam for so long and never tasted crab curry? Has the whole population of Vietnam — nearly 92 million people — been laughing at me because I’ve been missing out on the most DIVINE food in the history of the world? If I wasn’t so blissfully happy at being up to my elbows in crab and curry sauce I would have been a bit pouty.

Vietnamese crab curry

It was so good I only stopped to take this one slightly blurry photo. And then I was away. I demolished the whole crab because Miss M turned her nose up at it and Darling Man didn’t want to inflame his gout. (Yes, snigger, he has gout. And not much sympathy.)

The path to crab curry was a long and winding one that began as I was being squished into a massage table. My masseuse, the lovely Hieu from Golden Hands Massage, was talking about obscure Vietnamese dishes I may not have tried. She mentioned crab curry and I was intrigued. She gave me directions to a place in District 1 that served crab curry and when I took my soft and melty post-massage self home I began lobbying Darling Man to take me to the crab curry place in District 1.

He did not seem keen.

I continued to lobby. (Others may call this nagging but I have a political background so I call it lobbying. Or negiotating. Or opening a dialogue.)

Eventually, on a wet and dreary night when we couldn’t be bothered shopping and cooking, Darling Man mumbled something about a crab curry place nearby.

I was instantly on high alert.

He mumbled something else about a goat hotpot restaurant suddenly advertising they did crab curry. I was dressed and ready to go in five seconds flat. Seven minutes later we were choosing a crab.

Cari cua

And then the hallelujah chorus began.

Just the memory of the dish makes me sigh and smile.

So next time I saw Hieu I told her about the new goat hotpot/crab curry place I’d found in District 2. I described the orange curry, its creaminess and its chunks of eggplant, onion and potato … and she told me it was the wrong one!

That means I have MORE Vietnamese crab curry to explore. So much to look forward to!

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6 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. jan says:

    What is better than tasting your first Vietnamese Curried Crab? Discovering there are even more out there to try! I have never had curried crab, but know without a doubt I would love it. Mud Crab just might just about be my favourite seafood and curry is definitely my favourite food. A match made in heaven. 🙂 And bonus that you don’t have to share it with anyone. Woo Hoo!
    jan recently posted..Dogubayazit to Kars Day 5 of an Eastern Turkey Road Trip

    • Barbara says:

      I just cannot wait to try the other curried crab. It’s just a matter of fitting it in to our busy schedule. You cannot eat crab when carrying a baby, you know?

      • jan says:

        I did not know that Barbara. I am glad I did not know that back when I had our two babies. I am positive I ate mud crab both times. We go fishing and crabbing quite a lot. There are a lot of things to worry about now when pregnant. Things we never knew about back then. For instance certain types of cheese and salami.
        jan recently posted..Tuesday in Townsville at Riverway

        • Barbara says:

          Ah-hahahaha! Jan, I meant it’s logistically impossible to eat crab when you’re holding a baby in your arms. You need BOTH hands to get the crab into your mouth. And if you’re like me, bits of crab and shell go flying everywhere!

          I didn’t eat any shellfish, including crab, when I was pregnant. Maybe that’s why crab is so appealing right now.

  2. Maria says:

    Oh Barbara your photo gives so much personality to that little crab… don’t think I could eat him but then again… that dish sounds Delicious! *grin, laugh*

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