Banh Canh Noodles Soup with Red King Crab Legs- Banh Canh Cua

Vietnamese food

Banh canh is a Vietnamese Soup made with large, thick noodles.  There are two popular kinds:  Banh canh cua is made with crab, shrimp (sometimes) thick,chewy, slimy transparent noodles, and a thick broth with a bright orange oil layer on the top;  Banh canh gio heo is made with pig legs, less chewy opaque white noodles, and a clear broth.  Banh canh is sold in packages (dried or fresh) at Asian stores.  The home made version of  banh canh with rice flour and tapioca starch is easy.  If you want chewy texture use more tapioca. and less rice flour.  The bright orange color is from annatto seeds “the poor man saffron.”

Red king crab legs is very meaty and loaded with flavor.  It is on sale and abundant at this time of the year.

Ingredients for 4 bowls
Broth- 2 quarts chicken, pork stock (homemade or store bought)
2 quarts water
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, mashed
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tbs fish sauce and extra for taste
1 Tbs sugar or a smal chunk of rock sugar
1 meaty bones from 1 chicken or 2 lb pork bone (neck, leg, ham hock bone, etc.), washed and drained
Bring the water to a boil, add the bones, onion, garlic, rock sugar (if use),salt and black pepper.  Make sure the bones is completely covered by water.  Bring it back to a boil uncovered, the broth will look cloudy, then lower the heat down to medium, let it boil gently for a few minutes until  you see the broth start getting clear; low the heat down to medium low, cover and simmer for 1 hour.  Add sugar (if use granulated sugar) and fish sauce, taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. Skim any foaming.  Add 2 Tbs annatto oil which is remaining from topping part below. Keep it hot if serve right away or let it cool down and reheat later.  Meat from the bones can be shredded or thinly sliced to add to the soup later.
1 1/2 lb cooked red king crab legs but any kind of crab can be used raw or cooked
1 shallot, coarsely chopped

1 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tsp fish sauce and extra for serve
1/2 tsp sugar
2 green onion, thinly sliced
A few sprigs of cilantro, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 red Thai chili, thinly sliced or chili garlic sauce
1 lime, cut into wedges
4 Tbs vegetable oil
1 Tbs annatto seeds
   1.  Heating 3 Tbs oil in a small sauce pan over medium heat.  Add annatto seed, when it starts to make popping sound and the oil changes to orange color.  Remove from heat, cover let it cool down.  Strain it with a small metal mesh sieve, set aside. Return the seeds to the pan, add a little of hot broth to remove all the color oil.  Strain the broth back to the stock pot.  Discard the seeds.
   2. Use a kitchen shears to cut the crab legs and remove the crab meat.  If use raw crab, clean and cook it whole first in salted water and save the cooked water for broth later.
   3. Heat 1 Tbs oil in a large skillet, stir in shallot and garlic until fragrant.  Add crab meat, gently fold it with shallot and garlic oil, try  to keep the crab in big chunks.  When crab is getting warm, add 1 Tbs annatto oil ,1 tsp fish sauce, 1/2 tsp sugar. Stir well.  Set aside. Add 2 Tbs annatto oil remained to the broth.

Banh canh Noodles: home make or store bought (need two 15-oz  packages of fresh or 1 lb dried noodles)

*Slightly chewy style
2 cups rice flour 
2 cups tapioca
2 cup boiling water
*Soft style
3 cups rice flour
1 cup tapioca
2 &1/4 cups boiling water
In a large bowl, add flour stir in boiling water with a paddle by hand or handheld mixer. Let the mixture cool enough to handle, knead on a lightly floured surface about 10-15 minutes to form a smooth, soft ball like soft play dough texture.  Cover and let it rest 1 hour. If you have a stand mixture use the paddle at low speed while adding boiling water and when the flour incooperated, change to the dough hook and beat at medium high speed about 5 minutes.  On a slightly floured surface, roll a small piece of dough into a 1/4-in layer then cut into 1/4-in trips. A potato ricer with a large round holes  can be used to press the noodle. Sprinkle the tapioca over the noodles to prevent sticking. Cover and set aside.

Assembly Banh Canh
1.  Reheat the broth to a boil and keep it spiking hot but not rolling boil to prevent a cloudy broth.
2.  In a medium sauce pan, bring water to a boil.  Add noodles, bring it back to a gently boil, cook until noodles start floating just a few minutes.  Drain and add to the broth stock for about 5 minutes then divide into individual bowls. Uncooked noodles can be cooked right into the broth to make a thick body broth.
3.  Add crab and meat from the bone if use. Sprinkle with green onion, cilantro, ground black pepper.  Cover with hot broth, serve with hot pepper and lime wedge, and extra fish sauce at the side.

A mixture of ground shrimp and crab may be added to the topping too and it is called Cha Tom Cua with different shapes depending on the vendor:  round, triangle or square.

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