Vietnamese Crab Cellophane Noodles is a traditional dish which appears in daily meals as well as special occasion meals. The dish is incredibly delicious with the natural sweetness of crab meat, soft translucent noodles, crunchy vegetables and refreshing lime fish sauce dressing.
What are cellophane noodles?
Cellophane noodles (mien in Vietnamese) are a type of transparent noodles which is made from starch. They also go by some other names such as glass noodles and bean thread noodles. In Vietnam, they can be made from cu dong rieng (sorry I don’t know the English translation!) or mung bean. This type of noodles also appears in other Asian cuisines such as Chinese and Korean though they may bear some differences. For example, Korean glass noodles are thicker and chewier than Vietnamese cellophane noodles. I believe you can find all these types of cellophane noodles at Asian grocery stores. Serious Eats has a noodle shopping guide which is informative and may help you find the right types of noodles.
In Vietnamese cuisine, we use cellophane noodles to make both noodle soup dishes and dry noodle dishes. Regardless of the dishes, cellophane noodles become soft once cooked and absorb all the flavors. Let’s just focus on dry cellophane noodle dishes today. In my extended family, a stir-fried cellophane noodles dish is a must in death anniversary meals. It is always my most favorite dish in the banquet prepared by my aunt or uncle to honor my deceased grandparents.
The add-ins of stir-fried cellophane noodles are usually some types of proteins and vegetables. Some common choices for vegetables are bean sprout, dried wood-ear mushroom, dried shiitake mushroom, and carrot. As for proteins, the most popular choices are pork, crabmeat, shrimp, and chicken giblets. We’ll talk more in-depth about Vietnamese crab cellophane noodles in the next section.
Ingredients and how to make Vietnamese crab cellophane noodles
This recipe is exactly how my mom cooks this dish. The ingredients are cellophane noodles, crab meat, pork, bean sprout, dried wood-ear mushroom, dried shiitake mushroom, and carrot. If you make this dish at home once, I guarantee you will never want to try it in restaurants. I’m always amazed at how few add-ins crab cellophane noodles dishes made by restaurants contain and the amount of crab meat is often modest.
The star of the dish is crab meat and in the U.S., I find that dungeness crab is undoubtedly the best choice for this dish. It is very much similar to Vietnamese crabs with a sweet taste and firm texture (not as firm as king crab though). However, I understand that it is not always possible to find this particular type of crab. If you are not able to buy it, other varieties such as snow crab, or canned fresh crab meat work fine too. I have tried using them all to make this dish.
Cellophane noodles require soaking in cold water for about 10-12 minutes, or just until they become soft. They can clump quite easily when we stir-fry them. You should not stir-fry them by themselves in the pan to avoid big clumps of noodles which nothing can untangle. Besides, once you add cellophane noodles, you will need to work quickly because the longer they are in the pan, the more likely they form clumps. Therefore, make sure you have all ingredients prepared and lined up before stir-frying.
In Vietnam, it goes without saying that stir-fried cellophane noodles require chicken stock. I think it makes the noodles glossy, moist and more flavorful. If you have some stock/broth on hand, that’s great. If not, don’t worry aand use plain water because we also have thin slices of pork in this recipe which create juice and compensate for the lack of stock/broth.
You need to soak dried wood-ear mushroom and shiitake mushroom in hot water for about 5-7 minutes until they are fully rehydrated. Then you just need to slice them thinly. Carrots should be peeled and julienned. As for mung bean sprouts, these guys will test your patience a little bit. We only need the crunchy white stems so take all the time you need to discard the small beans.
You can choose whether to prepare the lime fish sauce dressing or not. I personally like adding it when eating because of the brightness it adds to the dish. The dressing is easy and quick to make anyway. My final tip for making Vietnamese Crab Cellophane Noodles is to use a large pan since we have quite a lot of ingredients and we need to stir and mix them constantly.
Other Vietnamese noodle recipes you may be interested in: