Prawn broth with fish cakes and noodles

Prawn broth with fish cakes and noodles

Bún tôm

Real Vietnamese Cooking
Michael Fountoulakis

Tracey recently discovered this dish at a little stall tucked away near the district post office. The vendor claimed she was preparing the soup in the same way as her mother, who first created this dish.


Quantity Ingredient
18 prawns, peeled and deveined, (reserve the shells for making the broth)
3 dried black fungus
600g dried rice vermicelli
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
4 spring onions, sliced
dill, chopped


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
reserved prawn shells
2 red asian shallots, roughly chopped
1 lemongrass stem, crushed, white part only

Fish cakes

Quantity Ingredient
150g snapper fillets, skin and bones removed, cut into chunks
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon chopped dill

Pork in betel leaf

Quantity Ingredient
120g minced pork
1/2 lemongrass stem, finely chopped, white part only
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce
6 betel leaves, without any tears


  1. To make the broth, heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the reserved prawn shells, shallot and lemongrass until the shells turn deep red. Add 1.25 litres water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, skimming off any froth. Turn off the heat and allow the broth to sit for a further 10 minutes before straining. Discard the prawn shells, shallot and lemongrass.
  2. To make the fish cakes, put the fish chunks in a food processor and process to the consistency of a paste. Add the fish sauce, sugar and a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Process until incorporated, then transfer to a bowl and stir the dill through. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, soak the mushrooms in warm water for 20 minutes. Drain the mushrooms and squeeze out any excess water. Discard the stems. Thinly slice the caps and set aside.
  4. Soak the vermicelli in boiling water for 4-5 minutes. Gently stir to separate the noodles, then drain and refresh under cold water. Use kitchen scissors to cut the vermicelli into easy-to-manage lengths.
  5. With lightly oiled fingers, form the fish mixture into six patties. Heat about 10 cm of oil in a wok or saucepan over medium heat. Fry the fish patties for 1 minute, or until cooked through. Remove and drain well on paper towel.
  6. To make the pork in betel leaf, combine the pork, lemongrass, fish sauce and sugar in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and black pepper and mix well. Discard any tough stems from the betel leaves and wipe the leaves with a damp cloth. Place the leaves, smooth side down, on a work surface, with the point of the leaf furthest away. Divide the pork mixture among the leaves, placing a just below the centre of each leaf. Roll up the leaves, taking care to fold in the sides. Now take two skewers and thread three betel leaf parcels onto each.
  7. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan. Cook the betel leaf rolls over medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side.
  8. Reheat the broth and poach the pawns for 2-3 minutes. Divide the noodles and mushrooms among deep bowls and top with the prawns. Add a fish cake, betel leaf roll, some spring onion and dill to each. Ladle the broth over and serve.
Real Vietnamese Cooking
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