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Friday, August 1, 2014

Bún Bò Huế (Hue Style Beef Noodle Soup)

One of my favorite Vietnamese cooking ingredients is lemon grass. It's versatility allows it to be used in so many dishes and for many purposes such as marinating meats or enhancing the flavor of a variety of sauces. But nothing brings out the essence of lemongrass better than bún bò Huế. I love this uniquely fresh, soft citrus scent and fragrance of lemongrass in the bún bò Huế's broth. And it's nice to have a constant supply because we actually grow lemongrass in our vegetable garden! 

Bún bò Huế is my older daughter's favorite noodle soup. Often time, she would request for a pot and she would eat this for a few days in a row. I gotta make sure the broth is spicy as requested otherwise "if it's not spicy, it's not bún bò Huế", she emphasized. I like to introduce my daughters to various types of food to make their life and mine a lot easier; this gives them an opportunity to try other foods without being afraid. So their food are generally garnished with herbs and vegetables and occasionally a little spice.

Bún bò Huế is one of the dishes that many of my Facebook readers have been requesting the recipe for.  It took me this long because when I cook, I normally don't measure the ingredients. In order to post this recipe, I have to make sure I remember and jot down every detail.

Bún bò Huế usually includes thin slices of beef shank, pork leg and cubes of congealed pig blood.  The broth of Bún Bò Huế is usually prepared by cooking beef bones for a long period of time. So to speed up the process a bit  I use only oxtail, pork leg and beef shank to make the broth instead.
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RECIPE: Bún Bò Huế
Printable Recipe
Make about 9 quarts of broth 


1 Oxtail, about 3 lbs, ask the butcher to cut into chunks of about 1 inch
1 Beef Shank (bò bắp), about 3 lbs
1-2 Pork Legs, ask the butcher to cut into round chunks of about 1 inch
6 Lemongrass Stalks
3 tablespoons Salt
1/2 tablespoon Monosodium Glutamate (msg)
1 Rock Sugar, about the size of a tablespoon (regular sugar would work too)

For Spicy Chili Sauce

4 tablespoons finely chopped Garlic
1 tablespoon Chili Pepper Flakes
2 tablespoons Paprika
1 tablespoon Cayenne 
1 tablespoon Shrimp Paste (Mắm Ruốc)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
3 tablespoon finely chopped Lemongrass (use white part)
4 stalks Lemongrass

2 bags of Bún Bò Huế Noodle
Bean Sprout
A bunch of Mint
Banana Blossom, optional
Spring Onion, finely chopped, for garnish
Sweet Onion, thinly sliced, for garnish
Cilantro, finely chopped

Preparing Lemongrass

Cut lemongrass into 2-3 long segments and wash to remove dirt. Use a meat tenderizer to smash the lemongrass to release the fragrance.  Set aside.
Preparing the Meat

Rub some salt on the oxtail, beef shank and pig feet.  Wash and rinse.
As for the pork leg, beside rubbing with salt, I also use a knife to scrape the pork's skin thoroughly.  In a small pot bring water, a dash of salt, and half of an onion to a boil. Add pork legs and bring to a boil again.  This process is to eliminate the odor on the pork's skin.
Cook for about a couple minutes. Remove from heat. Wash and rinse. Set aside.
Simmering the Meat

In the meantime, in a large stockpot, bring water, lemongrass, oxtail, and beef shank to a boil and add pork leg when it's done with blanching.
Lower heat and let it simmer. Make sure to skim the surface to remove fat and other residue. Occasionally stir from the bottom of the pot. 
In about an hour, remove the pork leg and oxtail from the broth to prevent them from being overcooked.

Let it cool down and cover it up to prevent it from turning dark. Set aside.

Continue simmering the beef shank for another hour or until soft.
Sauteing Seasoning

In the meantime, bring a large pan to a medium heat.  Add oil. Once the oil is hot, add garlic, chopped lemongrass, and lemongrass stalks.  Saute until fragrant.

Set lemongrass stalks on one side of the pan.  Add paprika, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, and shrimp paste on the other side with the remaining sauteing ingredients. Mix it well and set it aside. Do not saute these peppers too long as it will become burnt and bitter.

If you can't take the heat, add less cayenne and chili pepper flakes or leave out chili pepper flakes. Paprika is the least spicy and is often used to enhance the color. This gives the broth its rich, beautiful reddish color.
Preparing Vegetables and Herbs

Lettuce - wash and cut into half an inch thick. 
Mints - pluck the leaves, and rinse.
Bean Sprout - wash, set aside
Banana Blossoms - In a large bowl, mix water with lime juices (about 3 limes).  Remove and discard the outside layer of the banana blossom leaves that are wilted.  Slice banana blossom thinly.  Soak sliced banana blossoms in the lime water mixture for at least 5 minutes.  The lime juice will prevent the banana blossoms from turning brown.  Rinse with with cold water.  Set aside.

I also like to serve bún bò Huế with a dish with shredded purple cabbage, assorted herbs, and bean sprout.

In a bowl, mix green onion, onion, and cilantro.  Set aside.

Cutting the Beef Shank

Once the beef shank is soft, remove it from the broth.  Let it cool down before slicing.  Cut beef shank into slices. I actually prefer to slice beef shank about 1/4 inch thick as the meat will not dry as quickly as the thin slices that you usually see at the restaurants. You can also taste the juiciness and flavor of the meat when you bite into it.
Making the Noodle

Click here for fresh homemade noodle recipe.

If using dried noodle, soak noodle in water while waiting for a pot of water to boil. Place noodle and a teaspoon of salt in the boiling water and bring it back to boil.

Reduce the heat to medium. Make sure to stir the noodle time to time so it won't stick to the bottom of the pot. Give it a taste to see if the noodle is soft enough. It should be ready in about 10 -15 minutes. Rinse it with cold water and drain.
Cooking the Broth

Remove the lemongrass from the broth and discard.  Fill the broth pot with more water to make 9 quarts.  Add sauteed seasoning and lemongrass stalks and bring it back to a boil.

Place the meat back into the broth pot.  Add salt, sugar, msg, if used, and the sauteed ingredients.

Continue simmering for another half an hour.  
Presentation of Bún Bò Huế

In a serving bowl, place noodle; top with beef, oxtail, pig feet; ladle the broth over; garnish with assorted herbs and onion.

Serve immediately with a dish of vegetables, lemon wedges, and fermented shrimp paste (mắm ruốc).

I like to dip the meat in my "specialty" dipping sauce while eating the noodle soup. To make the dipping sauce, in a sauce plate, add a bit of shrimp paste, a teaspoon of broth and chili sauce then squeeze a little bit of lemon juice. Mix it up. Voila!


  1. Thank you for posting this recipe. Its hard to find an authentic Vietnamese recipes on the internet or even books. I was so happy when I stumble upon your blog! I rarely post comment but i thought i had to this time. I enjoy waiting for what you will cook next :)
    also Loan aka Cindy

  2. Hi Cindy. I am glad you found my blog and thanks for taking your time to leave me a comment. Stay tuned for more food :-)

  3. Hello Loan,

    I absolutely love your post. The recipes are very easy to follow. One question though, is it possible that you could create a link to print these recipes? Thank you so much

  4. Huyen: I figured it out and got it work. Now you can print the Bun Bo Hue recipe :-). It will take me sometimes to create a printable link for each of my recipes.

  5. Thank you so much for creating the printable link, just for me. :) I feel so special. I went to the market today and got all the ingredients. Bun Bo Hue, here we come!!!

  6. Ms Loan, my family adores me thanks to your recipes!

  7. Thanks much for posting this. i'm not sure i can make it, or even find the ingredients, but it's sure fun to look at. i really appreciate your posting the pictures of actually making the dish. It's a lot of work for you, but great for us readers.

  8. Hi Chi Loan. I made this exactly as you posted but it was very neat. Are we supposed to put in more mam Rico or muon mam? Thank you.

  9. I don't use fish sauce in the broth at all. Mắm ruốc is already in the sautéed seasoning so no need to add more. Add more salt if it's still bland. I might need to make another pot again following my own recipe to the T to see if it comes out right. Sometimes I might have jotted down the wrong amount of seasoning while cooking it.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! Your blog is awesome!

  11. Hi Chi Loan! I love your site! Wondering if I can leave out the MSG as I normally don't like to cook with it. thank you!!!

    1. Use sugar instead of msg but it won't taste the same. I hardly use msg in my food but certain broth taste better with it. Also we only use just a tiny amount of msg so it won't cause any side effects.

  12. Hi Ms. Loan, the bun bo turns out very yummy! Thank you so much for sharing. Regarding paprika, is there any particular brand of paprika you use. I use the one from Costco. Thank you!

  13. Wonderful post! I had the best bun bo hue last night and it's all I've been able to think of today. I'm very excited to make this and add to my repertoire. Thank you!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing your story and recipe. I made this for my family recently and it was absolutely delicious! I appreciate the pictures you provided; it helped a great deal. My partner is requesting for me to make it again for his birthday tomorrow.

  15. Thank you so much for sharing your delicious recipe and story. Your pictures helped me a great deal when preparing this for the first time. The final product was so addicting; BBH is now my favorite noodle soup! My significant other is requesting it again for his birthday tomorrow. So I will make another big pot, only this time, we will share with friends.