Central Vietnam Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (Bun Bo Hue)
Have you tried Central Vietnam’s spicy beef noodle soup? If you love pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) and looking for a fiery version, you will like its spicy cousin, Bun Bo Hue (Vietnamese Spicy Beef Noodle Soup).
Bun Bo Hue originates from the city of Hue in Central Vietnam. This popular noodle soup is all about spicy beefy lemongrass flavor and the thick rice noodles that absorbs it all.
As the name suggests, the noodle soup is primarily made of beef. However, you can’t have Bun Bo Hue without the pork blood (huyet heo), pork ham (cha lua/gio lua) and pork meatballs/sausage. The soup should really be called Bun Bo Heo Hue but I guess that doesn’t sound too great.
For those looking a Bun Bo Hue recipe using pork bones in the stock. check out my previous version here. This older recipe also uses the Bun Bo Hue premix for quicker cooking.
For that fiery color, I made a spicy sate sauce from annatto oil, shallots, lemongrass, garlic, chili powder, red pepper flakes and fish sauce. Other recipes add shrimp paste (mam ruoc) or swap out the fish sauce entirely for shrimp paste in the sate sauce. Do whatever suits your fancy! I kept the sate sauce separate from the stock for the kiddos but colored the stock with a bit of shallot fried with red annatto oil. The sate sauce sauce was served on the side for those who liked it spicy.
For the stock, I also added a ripe pineapple. This is something I learned from watching Anthony Bourdains’ No Reservation (may he rest in peace) when he interviewed The Lunch Lady in Vietnam. She added a very ripe pineapple to her Bun Bo Hue stock. The addition of pineapple not only tenderizes the meat but it also gives the broth a very delightful fruity and citrusy flavor. This tip really took my broth to a whole new level!
Central Vietnam Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (Bun Bo Hue)
- 4 lbs beef bones (neck bones, spare ribs and/or ox tail)
- 2 lbs boneless beef shank
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 4 liters water
- 3 stalks lemongrass (160 grams; discard rough outer leaves, trim of woody green leafy ends and stem; cut in half; lightly smash with mallet; use one rough outer leaf to tie lemongrass into a bundle)
- 2 small white/yellow onions (130 grams total; peel)
- 1 small chunk ginger (50 grams, lightly smash with mallet)
- Quarter of very ripe pineapple (200 grams)
- 1-1/2 lbs congealed uncooked pork blood
- 1 shallot (peel and lightly smash with mallet)
- 1 golf-ball size ginger (50 grams, lightly smash with mallet)
- 1 tablespoon chicken stock powder
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon MSG (optional)
- 1/3 cup annatto oil (can substitute with vegetable oil)
- 10 shallots (peel; finely chop)
- 2 lemongrass (discard rough green leaves and trim off stem; thinly slice then chop finely)
- 1 bulb garlic (finely chop)
- 2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce or 2 tablespoons shrimp paste (mam ruoc)
- 2 14-oz package dried extra large rice vermicelli (usually labeled Bun Bo Hue noodles)
- 1/2 lb bean sprouts
- 1 small white/yellow onion (peel and thinly slice)
- 3 green onions (thinly slice)
- Small bunch cilantro (roughly chop)
- 1 small banana blossom (remove rough outer leaves, slice thin and immediately place in water with juice of 1 lime/lemon to prevent darkening)
- 1 lime/lemon (cut into wedges)
Sate/Chili Oil (Best to use a food processor to chop below ingredients)
- To a large stock pot, add beef bones, shank and salt (2 teaspoons). Cover with water and heat on high. When pot reaches a rolling boil, immediately turn off heat. Drain contents of pot into a colander placed in the sink. Thoroughly rinse bones/meat under cold running water to remove all the surface impurities. Wash pot thoroughly. Transfer parboiled bones/meat to pot, fill with water (4 liters) and return to stove. Add lemongrass bundle, white/yellow onions, ginger, and pineapple. Heat on medium-high/low simmer for 2-1/2 hours.
- Wash pork blood under cold running water. Place pork blood into a small pot. Fill with water. Add shallot and ginger. Heat on very low for 1 hour. The low heat will prevent the honey comb texture. After one hour, drain and rinse pork blood with cold running water. Cut into small cubes and set aside.
- Back to the stock pot, remove all the solids. Thinly slice the shank (for easier slicing, chill shank in fridge for 30 minutes). Remove all the meat from the other bones and slice thinly. To the stock pot, season with chicken stock powder, fish sauce, sea salt, sugar and MSG (optional). Add cooked pork blood cubes to stock pot to soak up flavor.
- Prepare the sate/chili oil. In a medium-size sauce pan, heat up annatto oil. Add shallots and fry until water dries up and shallot become fragrant. Add half of the fried shallot to the stock pot. Back to the sauce pan, add lemongrass. Pan fry until fragrant. Lastly, add garlic and pan fry until fragrant. Add red pepper flakes, chili powder and fish sauce/shrimp paste. Mix until thoroughly combined and heat on medium-low for 2-3 minutes. Turn off heat and set aside.
- In a medium-size stock pot, cook the noodles for 20-25 minutes until soft (disregard package instructions of cooking for only 3-5 minutes. That's not long enough!). Drain noodles into a colander placed in the sink and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking.
- To assemble, place noodles into bowl. Add meat and pork blood cubes. Ladle in hot broth. Add 1-2 teaspoons of sate. Garnish with bean sprouts, onion, green onions, cilantro and banana blossom. Serve with a wedge of lime/lemon and enjoy!