My husband came home from a work trip and told me about a Vietnamese soup he had tried while on the road and really liked: Bun Suong. I had never heard of it before so I quickly became obsessed with figuring out what it was and how to make it.
Thankfully, you can really learn anything on the internet. I was able to (very slowly) read some Vietnamese cooking sites and query some of my talented Vietnamese chef friends on how to make this elusive dish. I only found one other site in english that had a recipe, and had to make my way through a few more Vietnamese sites to confirm the origins of the dish. My mom tells me it’s a dish that originates from the northern region of Vietnam, which is why our family, which is from the central and southern regions, never really heard of it before.
In short, “Suông” indicates the long worm-shaped fresh shrimp sausages that are the characteristic part of this dish. Apparently these sausages look similar to caterpillars that feast solely on coconut buds and are also eaten as delicacy in Vietnam. Maybe one day I will have the guts to try that!
The bright orange color of the broth comes from the annatto seed, which you may have seen as “achiote” in latin american cooking. It’s a natural food colorant and has lots of cancer fighting properties. Awesome! We make an oil out of this by quickly cooking the seeds in some olive oil over low heat.
For a first try, I think the dish turned out really delicious. The shrimp sausages have this awesome delicately bouncy texture and act like little sponges that soak up all the flavor of the broth as they are cooked in it. The key to getting the texture of these sausages correct is to make sure that you carefully dry off the shrimp before marinating it. My hubby gave it the thumbs up, so I am pleased with how it turned out!
Follow the recipe below. It does take some work, but is worth it for a delicious, comforting meal at the end!
- 3 lbs pork bones
- 1 foot daikon root
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 TB rock sugar (or reg sugar)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 TB dried shrimp
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 3 TB hoisin
- 2 TB fish sauce
- 2-3 dried chilis (optional)
- 1 lb pork belly
- 1 lb lean pork tenderloin
- .5 lb shrimp
- 1 lb shrimp (peeled, deveined)
- 4 cloves garlic
- ¼ cup red onion
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- ½ tsp sugar
- 1 TB tapioca starch
- 2 TB annatto seeds
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Rice vermicelli or udon noodles
- ½ red onion
- 1 bunch scallions
- ½ cup cilantro
- 1 bunch thai basil
- 1 bunch fresh mint
- 1 lime
- 1 napa cabbage leaf per serving
- Parboil the pork bones to remove impurities - Cover bones in cold water in a large pot and bring to boil. Let boil for 5 min then dump out everything and wash out the pot.
- Add parboiled pork bones, peeled daikon root cut into chunks, peeled onion, rock sugar, salt, dried shrimp into large pot and cover with water. Bring to boil and them lower heat to medium. Let simmer for 2-3 hours.
- While broth is simmering, prepare the shrimp sausages. Thoroughly dry the shrimp (do NOT skip this step! It ensures the shrimp sausages have the nice bouncy texture). Season with salt, pepper, sugar, tapioca starch. Cover and place in fridge for 2 hours.
- Create annatto oil - Heat up ¼ cup oil in a small pot to medium. Add seeds and stir to cook. Lower heat quickly and continue stirring. Filter out the seeds and save the oil for later.
- After 1.5 hours of broth cooking, add the pork belly and pork tenderloin. cook for another 45 min.
- Remove the meat from the broth and place in a bowl of cold water to cool. Slice thinly and set aside in another container.
- Remove all bones, shrimp, onion, daikon from the broth, and pour it over a mesh strainer into another clean pot. Place back on stove and heat to medium. Add the chicken broth, hoisin, fish sauce. Once it's simmering, taste and see if you would like more salt/sugar/fish sauce/hoisin. Add 2 TB annatto oil. Keep simmering on low.
- Mince the garlic & onions for the shrimp. Very thinly slice the red onion garnish and place in a bowl of ice water. Cut the green onion in 1.5 inch strips. Slice up the napa cabbage leaves. Mince the cilantro. Quarter the limes and wash the thai basil and place on a serving plate for the table.
- Make the shrimp sausages - Place the marinated shrimp, minced garlic & onion, and 1 tsp of the annatto oil in a food processor. Process til a smooth but firm paste forms. Scoop out with a spatula and put in a large ziplock bag.
- Heat the broth up to boiling. Snip a corner of the ziplock. Squeeze out the shrimp paste directly into the boiling broth in "worms" about 3 inches long. Keep going til you've finished all the shrimp paste, and watch them float to the top when they are cooked. Fun!
- Heat some water to boiling to prepare the noodles. Drain and set aside.
- Heat a small pan with a swirl of oil. Quickly pan fry the slices of pork belly for a lil crisp. (optional)
- Put the whole shrimp in the broth and cook for about 1-2 min til just cooked. Scoop out and set aside.
- Create the bowls - Place sliced napa cabbage in a large bowl. Top with noodles. Add 2-3 slices of pork belly, pork tenderloin. 2-3 shrimp. 2-3 shrimp sausages. Add sliced red onion & green onion/scallion. Pour hot broth on top of everything til full. Top with fresh ground black pepper.
- At the table, add 2 lime quarters squeezed into the bowl, plus thai basil, mint, and dig in!