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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sup Mang Tay Cua (Vietnamese Asparagus and Crab Soup)

So now that I've taught you how to make Canh (Vietnamese Soup Broth), it's time I finally shared my very favorite Vietnamese soup -- sup mang tay cua (Vietnamese asparagus and crab soup).

Sup Mang Tay Cua  1

This recipe is in no way as remotely as good as my mom's, but it'll do in a jiffy. Make a big pot. I can (And have!) happily eat three big bowls of this and call it a meal.  

 Sup Mang Tay Cua (Vietnamese Asparagus and Crab Soup) 

For a 5-quart stock pot, you'll need:  
Canh (Vietnamese soup broth), preferably made with chicken but pork will work too. You can even use canned chicken stock if you must but the broth won't be as clear.
1/2 to 1 lb of fresh lump crab meat if you have it, canned or imitation crab if that's all you can afford
1 small bunch of fresh asparagus, or canned white asparagus, cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
1 can baby corn, cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks
2 or 3 eggs
1 or 2 tblsp corn starch, dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tblsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)

Optional: ground white pepper to sprinkle on top.

Normally the mang tay (Vietnamese asparagus), literally "Western bamboo," used for this soup would be white asparagus spears, most likely canned as fresh asparagus was rather rare to come by in Vietnam. But as it's asparagus season, I see no reason to resort to canned. You can use either white or fresh asparagus for this recipe.

Sup Mang Tay Cua 2
I also like to add in some baby corn. You can also add in thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms if you wish. Don't add too many ingredients or the delicacy of the crab and asparagus will be overshadowed.

Sup Mang Tay Cua 3
Wash asparagus and remove hard bottoms. Just keep snapping them until you get near the end and if it's too hard to snap, then it'll be too tough to chew. You can toss the rest, or be frugal and peel the hard outer layer and use the rest. Ideally, you want thinner stalks of asparagus for this recipe. Drain and wash baby corn. Cut corn and asparagus into 1- to 2-inch chunks. You want the pieces to be bite-sized.

Sup Mang Tay Cua 4
Add the corn and asparagus to your pot of soup. Turn the heat on to high and warm up your canh. At this point, if you'd like a slightly thicker soup, dissolve 1 or 2 tblsp of cornstarch to 1/2 cup of cold water. Add the mixture to the pot so it can thicken the soup. 
In a separate bowl, break 2 or 3 eggs, depending on how many egg drops you want in your soup. I like a lot so I used 3 eggs for this recipe. Pierce the yolks with a fork and lightly scramble but do not beat eggs. Set aside. 
Have your crab ready as well. Ideally, use fresh crab, but that's pretty pricey. I used 1 can of crab meat for this recipe. You may also use imitation crab, just make sure to roughly shred it into smaller pieces. When your soup pot starts boiling, add in the crab and start stirring the ingredients.

Sup Mang Tay Cua 5
Really stirring. Slowly pour the bowl of scrambled eggs into the pot, continuing to stir as the eggs stream in. When the eggs are all in, turn the heat down to medium to simmer.

Sup Mang Tay Cua 6
You have just made egg drop soup. See how the eggs are in long rivulets? You don't want to beat the eggs or else once added, they disintegrate. You do need to pierce the yolk, however, or you'll end up with hard-boiled egg yolks. Once, my friend said the yolks didn't need to be pierced and will become egg drops on their own. So we tried it and ended up with hard-boiled yolks. :P

Sup Mang Tay Cua 7
Taste and add salt or fish sauce if necessary. Taste the asparagus and corn to see if they have by now softened enough to your liking. I don't like my vegetables mushy and the heating up time to boiling and the making of the egg drop is usually enough simmer time for me. That's up to you. Serve with ground white pepper.

Sup Mang Tay Cua 8
And a final look at my pretty egg drops.

Sup Mang Tay Cua 9
Who else made sup mang tay cua? Chuck of Sunday Nite Dinner added a charred onion to his homemade chicken stock.  
And since this post is all about the asparagus, my other asparagus recipe:  
 I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Wokking, a world-wide food blogging event created by Wandering Chopsticks celebrating the multiple ways we can cook one ingredient. This month's secret ingredient is ASPARAGUS. Click to see the complete asparagus round-up. The host this month is Wandering Chopsticks. If you'd like to participate or to see the secret ingredient, check who's hosting next month

15 Seconds of Fame: "...deliciously recorded and photographed...highlight Vietnamese cuisine at its best...her collection of diverse recipes, mouthwatering photographs, beautiful garden highlights and informative posts about Vietnamese history gives readers a wonderful perspective into Vietnamese culture and food traditions," says Diane Duyen Cu in "Have Computer, Will Write," Nguoi-Viet 2, May 29, 2008.

Nguoi Viet 2
1 year ago today, lil' sis and I accidentally discovered potstickers, spicy wontons, and green onion pancakes at Mandarin Noodle Deli - Temple City.


  1. ooo.. i like this sort of soup! Not as heavy!

  2. This is one of my favorite soups too! Its so easy to make but it looks and tastes like it takes forever to make.

    WC, congrats on your news article, I knew all along just how great your blog is.

  3. Congratulations on the news article!
    Nice photo on the soup! It looks great and scrumptious.
    I did not know that you couldn't beat the eggs fully in making egg drop soup. But I did make egg drop soup a lot, but even if I beat the eggs there wasn't any problem. But I added them right before serving...so who knows?
    Again, great job!

  4. This is my favourite soup also! I didn't know "mang tay" meant asparagus, since we call it xup mang cua. Sometimes when fresh white asparagus are the same price as the green ones, I go for the white ones! I usually eat a pot full as a meal too... I've been wanting to make it here since crab is cheaper, but the asparagus are pitiful in Vietnam!

  5. oh tht soup looks so delicious! i love the combination of asparagus and crab. i wonder if there is a fish i could use instead of the crab since i came down with an allergy. the broth sounds fantastic too. i'm going to try is this weekend i think. yum!!!

  6. I love this soup! I have never put baby corn in it... have to give it a try. Congrats on the Nguoi-Viet News write-up.

  7. Daphne,
    Yup, that's how I can eat three bowls. ;)

    Yum Cha Girl,
    Aww, thanks!

    Thanks! I'm sure your method works too. I just like big egg drops.

    That's why the recipe really calls for the white asparagus. I don't know if I've ever seen fresh asparagus in VN come to think of it.

    Imitation crab is usually made from pollock fish so you can go with that. Or haddock, cod, or tilapia might work too.

    Thanks. I usually just do the two ingredients but hadn't eaten baby corn in a long while and I remembered my mom adding that to the soup.


  8. Hey! Very cool - and I think it's more than 15 seconds :-D

  9. Great soup for anytime, breakfast, lunch and dinner! We'll be making our asparagus dish tonight for ya.

  10. It works when you don't stir it too hard (the soup). Sometimes I get ultra large egg drops too- but that's because I stirred too little.
    I enjoyed reading your Mandarin Deli post! I ate there for many years (from it's old location to now), and lots of things have changed though. But their green onion pancake is still one of the best, as well as the beef noodle soup (lots of flavor but gelatinous when cold (sign of extraction of beef bones?).
    Great post!

  11. Nikki,
    Nah, just read it really, really fast. ;)

    Yay! Looking forward to seeing your recipe.

    I haven't found a flakier green onion pancake than Mandarin Noodle Deli's. The gelatinous texture of the soups though is also because of pig's feet. You can definitely taste it in the broth.

  12. Excellent! Give me some time and I'll join your Weekend Wokking. I don't have a wok though, and I know I don't need one, but I'd feel terrible not having a wok for Weekend Wokking!

    And congrats on the coverage in the paper!

  13. I see...

    I agree with you that the cucumber salad is good too! It's very flavorful and chilled.
    We order the green onion pancake every time we go there. Some people who come over to the US from China said it reminds them of their childhood. So probably it is very good or excellent in the world of green onion pancake! I think so too.

  14. Marvin,
    Thanks! And really, don't go out and buy a wok just for me!

    Yay for Mandarin Noodle Deli's green onion pancake. :)

  15. Loved the article! Your photos look awesome in the layout.

    This soup is one of my favorites. I like that you used green asparagus for this. I'll have to try it this way soon. Thanks for sharing this one.

  16. Christine,
    Thanks. Fresh asparagus was an easy substitute since they're in season. :)


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