Sour fish soup with pork, prawn, squid and rice noodles

Sour fish soup with pork, prawn, squid and rice noodles

Bún mắm

Real Vietnamese Cooking
Michael Fountoulakis

A dish from the small town of Soc Trang in the Mekong Delta, which is home to a large community of ethnic Khmers, who often use fermented fish (mam ca linh xay) in their cooking. Fermented fish is available in Asian supermarkets, but can be an acquired taste because of its strong aroma.


Quantity Ingredient
300g fermented fish
1 squid, about 8 cm long
7 lemongrass stems, white part only
vegetable oil, for pan-frying
2 red bird’s eye chillies, seeded and finely chopped
200g pork belly, sliced 5 mm thick
500ml coconut juice
200g firm white fish fillets
3 tablespoons palm sugar
6 large prawns, peeled and deveined, tails intact

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
600g dried rice noodles
1 handful bean sprouts
2 long eggplants, cut into 4 cm batons
100g char siu pork, sliced 5 mm thick
18 garlic chives, cut into 4 cm lengths
2 limes, cut into wedges
3 red bird’s eye chillies, cut into rings


  1. Place the fermented fish in a bowl and mash with a fork. Transfer to a saucepan, cover with 500 ml water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain through a fine sieve, reserving the liquid.
  2. Clean the squid by holding the body with one hand and the head with the other. Gently pull, taking care not to burst the ink sac; the head and tentacles will come away. Remove the clear cartilage, rinse the squid inside and out, then pat dry. Using a sharp knife, cut the head from the tentacles and discard the head. Cut the body open and rinse away any membranes from the surface. Lay the squid flat on a board with the inside facing up. Score the squid by cutting fine lines into the flesh in a crisscross pattern. Cut the body into 3 cm strips and the tentacles into 3 cm lengths.
  3. Finely chop 4 of the lemongrass stems; crush the remaining 3 lemongrass stems and set aside.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or frying pan. Fry the squid and tentacles over high heat for 3–4 minutes, until cooked and deeply golden. Remove and drain on paper towel.
  5. Heat another 1 tablespoon of oil in the wok over medium heat. Add the chopped lemongrass and chilli and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add the pork belly and cook for 2–3 minutes, until the meat is coloured. Pour in the reserved fermented fish liquid, coconut juice and 250 ml water, then add the crushed lemongrass, fish and palm sugar.
  6. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 12–15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked, skimming off any froth. Using a slotted spoon, remove the fish and pork belly from the soup. Take the pork meat off the bone, shred it and return to the soup.
  7. Meanwhile, soak the vermicelli in boiling water for 5 minutes. Gently stir to separate the noodles, then drain and refresh under cold water. Use kitchen scissors to cut the vermicelli into easy-to-manage lengths, then divide among six deep bowls. Top with the bean sprouts, eggplant, fish and char siu.
  8. Return the broth to the boil. Add the prawns and squid and poach for 1–2 minutes. Divide the pork belly and seafood among the bowls. Ladle the hot broth over, top with the garlic chives, and serve with the lime wedges and chilli on the side.
Real Vietnamese Cooking
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