Quang Ninh is widely known for the UNESCO world heritage site, Ha Long Bay, but few know about its famed crab noodle soup.
Thunder crab (or stone crab) is a small crab species with big and strong claws. Locals call them “thunder crabs” because they are fierce and only let go of food when they hear the thunder. Thunder crabs can be found in Hai Phong, Quang Ninh and Khanh Hoa, but they are more popular and delicious in Quang Ninh.
This crab species moves slowly, and due to its big claws, it holds tightly onto rocks and wood boards along coastal cliffs and mangroves.
With only one ingredient, cooks have different ways to flavor the soup. The crab has a small body and little flesh, so people usually use claws filled with flesh to make the dish and the body to cook the broth.
After steaming and grinding the crab bodies with water and using a sieve to strain them, some minced shallot and garlic are sauteed, tomatoes are stir-fried for five minutes and the strained thunder crab is added with water to make the broth. Some cooks add more seafood such as shrimp, mantis shrimp, dried shrimp or squid to make the dish appear full and taste more appetizing.
A small spoon is used to scoop the flesh from the steamed thunder crab claws. It can be fried with shallots and garlic, but very little oil and spices are added so as not to overwhelm the taste of the crab.
Rice noodles are placed in the bowl and fried tofu, thunder crab meat, some chopped greens onions, herbs and fried onions are all thrown in.
The hot broth is poured into the bowl, and the dish is ready to be served.