International Recipes

Asparagus Crab Soup
(Sup Mang Tay Cua)

The French introduced asparagus to the Vietnamese, who promptly incorporated this classic vegetable into their cuisine. The Vietnamese word for asparagus is "Western bamboo," due to its resemblance to bamboo shoots. Asparagus is universally popular throughout Vietnam. This light, tasty dish will delight your family as well.


  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • 2 pounds pork bones
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (nuoc mam)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 shallots or 2 scallions (white part), chopped
  • 1/2 pound crab meat, fresh, frozen, or canned
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (15 ounce) can white asparagus, undrained
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander (Chinese parsley)
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallion greens


  1. Bring water to a boil and put the pork bones in. Remove the scum, then cover and continue to boil the bones for 1 hour. Remove the bones from the stock and discard. Add the salt and the fish sauce to the stock.
  2. Heat the oil and add the chopped garlic and shallots; add the crab meat and fry for 5 minutes over high heat. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper, stirring constantly, then add the crab meat mixture to the soup and bring to a boil. Add the cornstarch and water mixture and stir for a few minutes.
  3. Break the egg open and drop it into the actively boiling soup while stirring. Cook, still stirring, for about 2 minutes, then drop in the asparagus, along with the liquid from the can and the rest of the black pepper. Continue to cook until the asparagus is heated through. Sprinkle the coriander and scallion green over the soup before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Source: The Classic Cuisine of Vietnam - Bach Ngo and Gloria Zimmerman, Barron's, 1979

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