A Chau Bún Riêu Cua

In food on 03/30/2009 at 9:31 am

Woe is us! Our favorite Vietnamese sandwich/soup deli in Chinatown is gone! While we were tetsubin (鉄瓶) hunting on Friday, we stopped by to grab a bite. We initially passed it, but we almost got to the corner of the old MOCA building before realizing, hey, wait a minute… It’s been replaced by a jade jewelry store. Augh the travesty!

Now there’s no place for me to get their wonderful tomato-y shrimp-infused broth with crab meat cakes, and my rice flour spaghetti, which I still cannot find in any Asian marts. We’ve sampled some Korean rice sticks, but it’s not the same. The other best thing about A Chau is they stocked Super Supau, the Taiwanese Pocari Sweat, in their cold case. I thought I had time to figure this secret recipe out. According to online twittering, the rent was raised beyond the owners’ means, but they were hoping to soldier on, looking for another location. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.

One time last year the other half asked the owner if the shop was doing well. He replied sullenly, “It’s been kind of slow” even though people were crammed into the shop and they were prepping a bunch of take-out orders. I wonder how many bành mí a month it takes to make ends meet. Maybe if they had raised the prices of everything by a dollar and had some sort of seating, they could’ve scraped together enough pennies. I guess not everyone wants to trek to the park down the street to eat with the pigeons and gambling oldies while listening to Chinese opera performed by dueling groups of seniors.

Thanks to Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook though, I think I can adapt something to make it taste similar. Don’t have any idea about the porous crabby chunks though. If only my foodie fairy godmother would whisper the magical ingredients in my ear. Oh, A Chau Deli, you will be deeply missed.

pork spare ribs or neck bones
1 cup dried shrimp, rinsed and pulverized in food processor
star anise, several pieces
garlic grated
canned plum tomatoes
canned lump crab meat
2 Tbsp tamarind paste
4 eggs
ground fatty pork
1/2 cup shrimp paste in soybean oil
1/4 cup fish sauce
salt and pepper

(bún) or rice vermicelli, blanched (what is that spaghetti variety?)

bean sprouts
greens (watercress, bok choy, bitter greens of your choice)
cilantro sprigs
Vietnamese balm leaves (kinh gioi)
basil, shredded before dropping in broth
limes wedges
shrimp sauce (A Chau gives an extra dollop in a lil’ cup)
chili sauce

Boil stock of pork bones, anise and dried shrimp. Simmer for at least one hour, let sit overnight before use for best flavor.

In a skillet, heat oil. Add garlic and fry until fragrant, about 15 to 30 seconds. Add the paprika and stir for another 10 seconds. Add to soup.

In the same skillet, stir and cook the tomatoes in the remaining oil over medium heat for 1 minute and add to soup.

Mix tamarind paste with 1/2 cup of warm water and add to stock.

In a medium bowl, mix the eggs, crab and ground pork with shrimp paste and mix well. Slowly add the egg and pork mixture to the soup. Do not stir, allowing the meat to cook in clusters for about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add fish sauce, salt and pepper; stir gently so that the meat clusters remain intact.

Divide the cooked rice noodles among individual bowls. Garnish as desired. Pour soup over each bowl of noodles, including shredded pork meat and some pork clusters.

Shrimp paste in soybean oil is a bottled sauce comprising shrimp, garlic, white pepper, soybean oil, and fish sauce.

Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi) has a concentrated fragrance and flavor akin to that of lemon balm. The slender serrated leaves have a lavender center. Sold in small plastic bags, they will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator.

R.I.P A Chau

  1. i’m sad it’s gone. 😦
    i’m glad i got a chance to try it (after trekking to the park).

  2. we’re crying on the inside.

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