When we think of Vietnamese food, people usually think of Phở, a very popular Vietnamese noodle soup made from either beef (Phở Bò) or chicken (Phở Gà). But have you heard of its fiery cousin, Bún Bò Huế?
Bún Bò Huế isn’t quite as popular as Phở but I think it’s slowly getting into the spotlight as one of the tastiest Vietnamese noodle soup dishes.
Bún is noodles, Bò is beef, and Huế is a city in Central Vietnam, also the former capital of Vietnam, from which it originated. Despite its name, Bún Bò Huế is also made from pork bones. This can cause a lot of confusion on a menu, especially if you don’t eat pork.
The broth for Bún Bò Huế is prepared by slowly simmering various types of beef and pork bones (ox tail, beef shank, pork neck bones, pork feet, and pork knuckles/ham hocks) and loads of lemongrass.
The fiery spices are made up of frying together shallots, lemongrass, garlic, red pepper powder, and fresh chilies in neutral oil. Sometimes ground annatto seed or the use of annatto oil instead of neutral oil is used for a more vibrant red color.
For the stock, I also added pineapples. This is something I learned from watching Anthony Bourdains’ No Reservation (RIP Mr. Bourdain) when he interviewed The Lunch Lady in Vietnam. She added a very ripe pineapple to her stock. The addition of pineapple not only tenderizes the meat but also gives the broth a very delightful fruity and citrusy flavor. This tip really took my broth to a whole new level!
If you don’t have fresh pineapples, you can use canned pineapples. I used a small can and used both the pineapples and all its juices. It works just as well.
To assemble this bowl of heavenly goodness, thick round rice noodles are added to a bowl and then topped with slices of brisket, pieces of ham hocks, and cubes of congealed pig’s blood. The savory broth is ladled on top of the rice noodles. The bowl is finished with a garnish of green onions, cilantro, and/or thinly sliced white onions. The bowl is served alongside a vegetable platter of shredded white and purple cabbage, banana blossoms, bean sprouts, mint leaves, and other Vietnamese herbs. Sometimes a small bowl of fermented shrimp (mắm ruốc) and additional sate sauce on the side for further customization.
Tip to remember. If you are ever in the city of Hue in Central Vietnam, this noodle soup dish is called Bun Bo, not Bun Bo Hue. If you are outside of Hue and its surrounding cities, then the dish is referred to as Bun Ho Hue.