With over 1,300 different dishes designed for commoners, royalty, and vegetarian Buddhists, Hue is regarded as the culinary capital of Vietnam. Hue Vietnam cuisine is all about creating a peaceful yet striking harmony between taste, visual appeal, texture, and function, allowing you to “see” the flavors of food before actually tasting them.
Bun Bo Hue, or Hue’s Beef Vermicelli Soup is the soul of Hue’s gastronomy as well as one of the quintessential Vietnamese dishes. With its signature hearty broth, mildly spicy taste, and piles of beef, pig’s knuckles, meatballs, and congealed pig blood, the hearty Bun Bo Hue surely satisfies us carnivores.
Bun Bo Hue
What is Bun Bo Hue?
Loved for its bold flavors, Bun Bo Hue is ubiquitous not only in and around the city, (called Bun Bo locally) but also across the country. In fact, trying Bun Bo Hue is one of the first things to do when visiting the former imperial capital. You can find the savory dish pretty much anywhere in Vietnam, from sidewalk vendors with push carts to hole in the wall eateries to fine dining restaurants, this dish can cater to everyone’s taste and wallet.
While Pho has gained worldwide recognition over the past few decades as the most iconic Vietnamese dish, Bun Bo Hue isn’t getting the attention it deserves. The scrumptious Bun Bo Hue is the ultimate Vietnamese noodle soup with its robust broth and rich flavors.
Even though the recipe of Bun Bo Hue changes over time and every cook makes it with slight variations, we can all agree on the basic structure of it.
- Bun Bo Hue features round rice vermicelli noodles, as opposed to Pho’s flat ones.
- The broth is made from pork bones and/or beef bones and beef shank, seasoned with lemongrass, shrimp paste, fish sauce, annatto seeds, ginger, pepper, and other condiments. The key to the perfect broth is to balance the lemongrass and shrimp paste while keeping it clear and sweet.
- The final dish is served with cubes of congealed pig blood, thin slices of beef, pork shank, and pork knuckles.
- Ketchup, lime wedges, bean sprouts, onions, finely shredded banana blossom, mint leaves, and Vietnamese coriander are offered alongside.
How to make an authentic bowl of Bun Bo Hue
The sophisticated and elegant Hue Vietnam cuisine is actually quite simple to make. You don’t have to travel thousands of miles to try this delight as long as you have the ingredients, in which most of them can easily be found at an East Asian market and your local butcher shop. Here is a comprehensive guide from helloVietnam tour operator to make authentic and rustic Bun Bo Hue from scratch.
(Yield: 6-8 servings, ready in 2h30m)
- 2.2 lbs. beef bones (preferably oxtail) and/or pork bones – salted and rinsed
- 2.2 lbs. pork trotters – salted and rinsed
- 2.2 lbs. beef shank – salted and rinsed
- 1.1 lbs. pork hock – salted and rinsed
- 1 peeled and sliced onion
- 4 tbsps. fish sauce
- 1 tsp. chili powder or to taste
- 1 tsp. Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste – diluted in 1 cup of cold water. Let it sit for 10 minutes then discard the dregs
- 2 stalks of lemongrass – white parts smashed and sliced lengthwise and green parts tied up
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 2.2 lbs. vermicelli noodles
- 3 tbsps. oil
- 1 tbsp. minced lemongrass
- 1 tbsp. minced shallot
- 1 tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 tbsp. chili powder or to taste
- 2 tbsps. fish sauce
- 2 tbsps. sugar
- 4 tbsp. beef broth
- ½ cup chopped spring onion.
- ½ cup chopped cilantro.
- 2 lime wedges.
- 1lbs. congealed pig blood cubes.
- Fresh greens: shredded banana blossom, shredded cabbage/lettuce, bean sprouts, mint leaves, and Vietnamese coriander.
1. Prepare the broth
- Place all the beef bones, pork bones, and pork trotters in a stockpot. Fill it with enough water to cover all the ingredients then boil it over high heat. About 5 to 10 minutes later, you’ll see the impurities aggregate in a foamy layer on the surface. Take out the bones and rinse them with clean water to wash off the scum. Dump out the water and clean the stockpot.
- Return the bones to the stockpot, add the beef shank and 5 liters of water. Add the lemongrass (only at the last hour), thinly sliced onion, 1 tbsp. salt, and 1 tbsp. sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered on medium heat for 1 hour. Skim off the scum from time to time.
- Once the pork trotters and the beef shank are fully cooked, take them out. Soak them in cold water for 5 minutes to prevent them from turning dark. Then drain them and cut the pork trotters into bite-size chunks and cut the beef into slices (2.5-inch long x 4-inch thick). In the meantime, continue to simmer the bones in the stockpot for 1 to 2 hours.
2. Make the Sate
Home-made Sate and Bun Bo Hue
- Heat the vegetable oil in a pan. Sauté minced lemongrass, minced garlic, and minced shallot until fragrant and slightly brown.
- Take the pan away from the heat; add the remaining ingredients that include chili powder, fish sauce, sugar, and beef broth in the pan. Stir and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes until the sauce thickens to a creamy consistency.
- Divide the sate into two portions. Use one for the stock and the other for serving later on.
- Add the shrimp paste liquid along with two cups of water in a saucepan. Bring it to a boil and remove the pan away from the heat. Let it sit for 15 minutes and discard the dregs. Add the extract to the simmering stockpot.
- Season the broth to your taste.
- Cook the vermicelli noodles according to the instructions. Remember to rinse it with cold water and stir to separate the noodles.
Bun Bo Hue ready to serve
- Now that you have everything ready for serving, let’s assemble Bun Bo Hue! Start with the cooked noodles in a serving bowl, top it with slices of beef and chunks of pork trotters. Add blood cubes and meatballs (if available), and then ladle the broth over. Garnish the dish as you desire. Serve with the remaining sate.
- To assemble the green platter, you can either compartmentalize by color or just jam everything possible onto the plate with a bit of care, so that all the veggies are showing their best side.
- Squeeze in a few drops of lemon juice and you’re good to go.