Although my family and I call this soup Bún riêu, the generic term for rice vermicelli soup, bún riêu cua is often our Bún riêu of choice. Bún riêu cua is a tomato and crab juice based rice vermicelli soup, served with fish cakes, tomato, pork hock, beef balls, and crab cakes. I think I should be careful to note that the "crab cakes" that I mention are not the Western style crab cakes, but instead more loosely packed together sumptuous morsels of crab meat. Altogether the combination of the varied seafood, viands, herbs, and vegetables make this an incredibly sumptuous umami laden dish.
As usual, my poor vocabulary isn't vast enough to describe the intense collision of sea and land in this one bowl. The sheer variety of all the ingredients into one dish make the broth incredibly layered, complex, and leans towards the sweet side of taste. Bún riêu can usually be balanced out by adding another layer of flavor, in the form of mauve colored salty shrimp paste. Phở 97 places all the little containers of shrimp paste on every table to use at will. Even if the grey paste looks scary. USE IT. Its scary appearance is well worth the additional flavor and complexity it will add to your soup. I prefer to put little dollops of the shrimp paste into my soup spoon or on my noodles, but my parents sometimes add a small scoop directly into the soup.
Unfortunately I can't "review" any other dishes for you guys, because my family members all order the bún riêu cua. That's how good it is.
Overall, Bún riêu, in any shape or form, is absolutely delicious and I encourage you guys to give Phở 97 a try if you're ever in Waikiki. Honestly, my parents can also contest to this, good, hearty, addictive phở places are hard to come by; especially places that make the more complicated bún bò Huế or bún riêu dishes. Its also an additional challenge to find Vietnamese places that make the above dishes well. >< Unfortunately, I haven't yet found a place in Vancouver to wet my craving for phở, but I know it's hiding here somewhere. If you ever go or have any suggestions for me to try here in Vancouver, please comment below!
Thanks for reading!