Aromatic black pepper and crab soup with Vietnamese herbs

Tom Kime makes his dinner party starter: a refreshing deliciously spicy Vietnamese soup, bursting with clean flavours
By Tom Kime
Aromatic black pepper and crab soup with Vietnamese herbs
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 4-6
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Effort: medium


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 small golden shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 stems lemongrass, tough outer leaves discarded and finely sliced
  • 5 slices ginger, cut into thin matchsticks
  • 2 medium red chillies, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 4 stems coriander, roots and stems washed free of dirt and finely chopped (leaves reserved for garnish)
  • 2 litres fish stock, strained and simmering ready for use
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste, dissolved in 5 tbsp hot water
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 300 g pieces of firm white fish, cut in to 2 cm cubes
  • 300 g fresh white crab meat, picked from the shell
  • 5 spring onions, cut into 3 cm lengths then finely shredded
  • 30 leaves mint
  • 2 limes, juice only
  • 1 small handfuls coriander, leaves picked
  • 30 leaves Thai basil
  • 1/2 bunches dill


1. Heat the oil in a wok to a medium-high heat.

2. Add the garlic, shallots, sliced lemon grass and the matchsticks of ginger.

3. Cook quickly to caramelise flavours, about 3-4 minutes.

4. Add the red chilli, and the coriander stems. Keep the ingredients moving around the pan to allow the spices to give off their oils and become aromatic. Cook for about 2-3mins.

5. Cover with the hot stock and gently simmer for 10mins. Add the tamarind liquid, orange juice and fish sauce.

6. Wash and pick the fresh herbs to serve separately on the table.

7. When you are nearly ready to serve the soup add the pieces of fish and the black pepper. Gently simmer for 2 minutes. Be careful that they do not break up.

8. After 2 minutes turn off the heat, add the crabmeat and allow the fish and shellfish to cook through in the residual heat of the soup. Make sure that you do not over cook the fish other wise it will be tough.

9. To garnish the finished soup, add the sliced spring onions and the lime juice. Each guest tears some of the herbs into the soup and then mixes from the bottom.

Chefs tip: You could use chicken or use any combination of fish and shellfish in this soup.

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