Eating Vietnamese Crab Soup in a Saigon Alley

By Mark Wiens 16 Comments
sup cua crab soup
Vietnamese crab soup

One of the greatest things about Saigon are the never ending mazes of back-lanes and alleys.

Why?

Not just because they are alleys, and alleys are nice.

But because alleys in Saigon, Vietnam, are always filled with life, local markets, and of course, some of the most fantastic things to eat.

In fact, I loved the back alleys of Saigon so much that I could probably spend days without ever emerging onto a real street or open space.

So that brings us to a lady, within a market lane next to the hotel I was staying at, who sold Vietnamese crab soup (known as súp cua) everyday.

súp cua
Soup cua or súp cua

Since I had already eaten some Vietnamese seafood, I knew the word cua meant crab, and then putting soup together with cua, it wasn’t too challenging to figure out it was some sort of crab soup she served.

For the first few days I passed her and smiled, intrigued at what she had in her pot, but I didn’t stop to try it.

I saw many people from the area – other food vendors, market vendors, store owners – all stopping by on foot or drive through (on their motorbikes) to order a bowl to eat there, or for takeaway in a flimsy plastic cup.

Ho Chi Minh City street food
Exploring the alleys of Saigon

She appeared to just patiently wait, sitting on a stool, leaning her back against a gold store, and when she would receive an order, she would swiftly scoop out some of the sticky looking soup, and garnish it with a few seasonings like cilantro, pepper, and an optional scoop of crushed chili.

Her double basket bamboo cart was so efficient, soup pot on one side, and all the seasonings plus the dishes and silverware on the other side.

Vietnamese crab soup
Vietnamese street food – crab soup

It wasn’t until a number of days of wandering passed her and being interested in trying her crab soup that I finally could not handle continuing to imagine what her crab soup tasted like, and I had to sit down for a bowl.

There were a couple of Vietnamese mini red stools scattered next to her street food basket, and so I pulled up a chair, and ordered two bowls of sup cua.

Vietnamese street food
Vietnamese crab soup

Just as swiftly as I had seen her while walking passed, she scooped out some of the soup, which I could tell was thick and pretty sticky, then dashed on some pepper, cilantro, and finally a squirt of sweet chili sauce.

She handed me my bowl – my first bowl of Vietnamese crab soup.

Price – 15,000 VND ($0.68)

quail egg
Saving the delicious quail egg for the last bite

The soup was kind of the consistency of gravy, but a bit thicker, almost to the point of pudding.

It was also very sticky, so I think, if it was made like Helen’s recipe, it was thickened with tapioca or corn starch. The thickness also added to the heartiness, and made it more filling than just a regular bowl of soup.

Within the soup base were bits of boneless crab, slices of shitake mushroom, whole quail eggs, and I think what was either thin slivers of egg (like in egg drop soup) or tofu.

While the sup cua wasn’t the most flavorful thing I ate in Vietnam, it couldn’t compare to these glorious crab noodles, but for the price ($0.68), it was pretty decent.

And along with enjoying a great afternoon snack, the vendor was very nice, and the atmosphere of sitting in the alley was spectacular.

Súp cua
Big pot of Vietnamese súp cua

Conclusion

Súp cua is Vietnamese crab soup, a popular street food snack in Saigon, Vietnam.

During my stay in Saigon I wandered through many alleys and markets, and within the Vuon Chuoi Market, one day I stopped for a bowl of crab soup.

It was sticky and thick, and flavored with bits of crab, mushrooms, and quail eggs. I thought it made a tasty and very affordable snack in Saigon.

You’ll find portable súp cua vendors selling crab soup just like this throughout Saigon, especially down alleys and tucked away into neighborhoods.

Would you like a bowl of crab soup for snack?

16 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Ryan Smith

    4 years ago

    Would I love sup cua for a snack? Of course, a big yes. I’ve been to Saigon and had this delicious dishes on a rainy afternoon. Man, that was fantastic. And the price was cheap, too.

  • Edie

    4 years ago

    Hello Mark. I found your blog searching Vietnam in Google and i really like it. Im planning a trip to this incredible country and your tips help me a lot. I also started a blog last month and would like you to advice me. Thanks a lot and i continue reading your articles

  • Phoebe Nguyen

    6 years ago

    I am a Vietnamese, but I live in Hanoi and have never ever come to Sai Gon. In Hanoi, it is very hard to find Sup Cua. in a near future,certainly, I will come to SaiGon to enjoy the Súp Cua and other dilicious dishes. Thank you very much for your post Mark!

  • Pat

    6 years ago

    It reminds me of the Thai kra-paw-pla (fish maw soup). Has the same consistency, quail egg, shitake and even condiments. Does it taste like fish maw soup?

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hey Pat, yup it reminded me of that as well. And yes it did have a similar kind of neutral flavor, and same texture.

  • Drew

    6 years ago

    Would I love some crab soup? Of course! I could go for any bowl of food on offer in Vietnam. Probably my favorite country in the world for eating, especially when you factor in value (.68 for crab soup. Jackpot!). Have you ever tried Bun Cha up in Hanoi? I have never had anything like it in the US or UK, even though it is a common Vietnamese menu item. Sticky, smokey grilled pork patties, room temp noodles, pickled veg and tons of fresh herbs with a fish sauce dipping sauce. So good. Damnit, now I’m hungry!

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hey Drew, glad to hear you love the food in Vietnam as well. Yes, I was in Hanoi about 5 years ago and had bun cha, simply amazing, one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes as well.

  • Bruno Gambini

    6 years ago

    Wow! It seems delicious, specially in a cold day, in the supper time. Crab is amazingly good, I would only avoid the quail eggs. The food there is so cheap! Would you say, Mark, that with 10 US Dollars a day you could have all main meals in Vietnam?

    • Hung

      6 years ago

      Hi Bruno,
      I’m from Vietnam, and yes, 10USD is more than enough to have all main meals, you can even have supper within that budget.

      Cheers

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Hey Bruno, thank you very much. Yes, you could eat quite well on 10 USD per day in Vietnam.

    • steven rappolee

      6 years ago

      That hotel room is way to expensive for a longer term traveler what would you recommend?

  • Laura

    6 years ago

    The soup looks really good! It’s only breakfast time in France, but I’m craving already this soup!

  • Francis

    6 years ago

    Hmm i like the súp cua măng tây version better which has asparagus! It’s not thick and reminds me of a delicious egg drop soup but better. I never had this version but seems too thick for my liking.

    • Mark Wiens

      6 years ago

      Thank you for sharing Francis, I haven’t had a chance to try súp cua măng tây yet, would love to try it.