If you love bun bo Hue, you are going to absolutely love this shortcut recipe. While bun bo Hue, a VIETNAMESE spicy noodle soup, generally takes a long time to get that flavor and JUST RIGHT, I'm going to show you my shortcut version so that you can make it in under an hour for a week day meal.
While pho has claimed a prominent seat as the classic Vietnamese noodle soup, I'm going to be sharing with you a second delicious noodle soup that you may have heard of: bun bo Hue. If you haven't tried this dish, let me just tell you - it's the opposite of pho. Bun bo Hue is packed with deep layers of flavor. As a central Vietnamese beef noodle soup, this spicy, yet slightly sweet soup has a robust broth and a hidden gem on most Vietnamese restaurants in western culture.
I'm going to share with you a little bit about the origins of this delicious dish, what it tastes like, and how you can make it right at home yourself (the cheater version). If you love pho and also love spice, bun bo Hue is a dish that you should give a try. Let's get started!
All About Bun Bo Hue
Bun bo Hue is spelled in Vietnamese with accents as bún bò huế. It is a spicy noodle soup with the traditional method of preparing includes pork, beef bones, with added flavors of lemon grass, annatto and shrimp paste accompanied by sliced brisket, crab balls, and blood cake and then topped with a quick tangy squeeze of limb along with fresh herbs and vegetables. Is it a complex dish to make? Absolutely. Can it be shortcutted? Absolutely.
This complex and flavorful dish hails from Hue, which is the former capital of Vietnam, which is why it has the "Hue" at the end of its name. Bun bo Hue is actually simply known as "bun bo" within the city itself and close surrounding cities. Outside of the city in further proximities, "hue" is added to the end to denote its origins.
The dish is often associated with a dish that is fit to be served to the formal royal court. While this lemongrass-perfumed noodle dish is not as well known as it's counterpart, the dish is popular among the Vietnamese due to its ability to bring a harmony of spicy, salty, and umami flavors together in one soup.
Where does Bun Bo Hue come from?
Bun bo hue originated in Hue, a former capital of Vietnam. Outside the city of Hue and some areas of central Vietnam, it is called bun bo Hue to denote where it originally hailed from.
The city of Hue has a big reputation for having spicy and heat in its dishes, which is not as common as other Vietnamese dishes. Other dishes that Hue is known for includes banh nam and com hen.
Flavorful HIstory of Bun Bo Hue
In about 1802, the Nguyen Dynasty seized control of the country and ruled from Hue, which was a central city to the country. This royal court loved layers of flavors. This ushered in new dishes like bun bo Hue, which then put it on the map as a complex, yet delicious dish that met this condition. It was a sophisticated soup that was able to level up the Vietnamese repertoire of dishes to offer up to the royal court. This spicy Vietnamese dish is actually known as bun bo, but then got the last part of it's name, Hue, because Hue was the imperial capital of Vietnam from 1802 through 1945.
How do you pronounce Bun Bo Hue?
Bun bo Hue is pronounced boon bo h'way. The last word Hue is pronounced with a silent h.
What does Bun bo Hue mean in English?
Bun bo Hue literally means the city of Hue's beef noodles.
The translation for each word is as follows:
- Bun means noodles
- Bo means beef
- Hue refers to the city that this dish originated from in central Vietnam
How is Bun Bo Hue Different than Pho?
There are a lot of similar and identifiable ingredients between bun bo Hue and pho. The difference is that bun bo Hue is more flavorful and packs a punch with its heat. Also, bun bo hue uses vermicelli noodles whereas pho uses rice sticks. While both are soups with noodles that have herbs packed on top, bun bo Hue is seasoned with stronger spices than that of pho and is a heavier dish overall than that of it's cousin pho due to its meatier broth and thicker noodles.
The popularity and adoption of bun bo Hue may be hindered due to the use of shrimp paste, which some westerners are put off by due to its strong scent, and the use of congealed pork blood. Nevertheless, it is a hidden menu item in Vietnamese restaurants all over that is much to love to satisfy taste of sour, salty, sweet, and spicy.
What does Bun bo Hue taste like?
Bun bo hue is a rich and spicy noodle soup with deep layers of flavor. It is a multi-faceted melding of pork broth, pork balls, beef brisket and lemongrass, which is the predominant flavor of the broth. Kaffir leaves are also used to bundle all of the flavors together. The noodle soup is greatly admired for its balance of spicy, salty, and umami flavors.
The bundling and melding of spicy, salty, sour, and sweet with a delicate herbaceousness of the lemongrass with the topping of fresh herbs provides a unique flavor to savor. The thin slices of beef brisket leveled up with oxtails (in some variations) along with the fresh herbs that its topped with make this dish an absolute delight.
What's inside Authentic Bun Bo Hue Vietnamese Spicy Soup?
The flavorful broth is prepared by simmering pork shanks/knuckles, beef shanks, lemon grass, fermented shrimp paste, and sugar. Spicy chili oils and annatto seeds are added later in the cooking process. The soup broth is then ladled over round vermicelli noodles that is then topped with beef brisket, pork meatballs, and pork shanks that have been simmerling. It is also served traditionally with congealed pigs blood on top. Lastly, it's topped with lime wedges, chopped cilantro and green onion, thinly sliced banana blossom, red cabbage, perilla, Vietnamese coriander (known as rau ram), and bean sprouts.
Let's talk about some of the ingredients in this soup that you may want to find at your local Asian grocer. You won't need EVERYTHING on this list for my version of bun bo Hue, but I wanted to at least share with you what to look for in each of these ingredients. The authentic version of making bun bo Hue takes A LOT of ingredients, which sometimes can add up on your grocery receipt.
Bun Bo Hue Broth Ingredients for Asian Grocery List
Beef/ pork hocks and shanks, Beef brisket
For the meats, I find that it is quite tricky to find pork hocks and beef shank at my local grocery store. It is more widely available at an Asian grocer. If you can’t find it, you can substitute this with beef brisket. It has the same beefy flavour and has a similar texture when sliced up thinly – just make sure you remove any excess fat from it since beef shank is lean.
Congealed and Cubed Pork Blood (also known as Blood Cake)
An authentic component of bun bo Hue is the layer of cubed of congealed pork blood. Again, you can get this at your local Asian grocer more readily. You coagulate it by putting it in a container, then boiling it with salt to solidify. The cube will hold its shape when bitten into, providing a dense and chewy taste. For my version, I opted out of including this as I find that it doesn't add much flavor even though I know it is the AUTHENTIC way to make this recipe. They should be added at the very end so they don’t become rubbery.
You'll easily find stalks of lemongrass this in the vegetable aisle.
Kaffir leaves are also known as lime leaves, and you'll be able to find these in small bags in the vegetable aisle. Kaffir lime leaves provide a boost in freshness and again added another layer of flavour. It levels up the lemongrass.
Annatto seeds are used to mostly make the oil red in color.
Bun Bo Hue Seasoning Packet
This is the cheater version, but you can use a seasoning packet to flavor your broth or use it in conjunction to bring the flavor out. I will be using this in my recipe I share below!
Bun Bo Hue Meat Toppings for Asian Grocery List
Vietnamese Pork Sausage/Meatloaf
I used a Vietnamese pork sausage, which you can find at an Asian grocery store. It comes packaged inside a banana leaf or aluminium foil pre-cooked. There are many types of sausages so I went with the Cha Lua, which is the most common one.
The beef brisket can be used to flavor the broth, but once the soup is done simmering, it is sliced and topped over the noodles as a delicious protein to this soup.
Vermicelli noodles are different that rice sticks because they are round like spaghetti noodles, but smaller and white.
Bun Bo Hue Herb Toppings for Asian Grocery List
This is an absolute delicious addition to the dish. Preparing banana flowers requires you to peel it, remove the fronds, and then slice them into very thin, narrow strips. Tip: Prepare a bowl of lemon water when removing the petals as it will keep the petal from browning and remove the bitter taste. Banana blossoms are seasonal, and often pricy. This is definitely an optional topping.
Purple or Red Cabbage
If you can't or won't spend money on banana blossoms, the next best substitute is red or purple cabbage. They'll provide the right texture for the dish, albeit not taste.
Bean sprouts provide a crunch to this dish. Learn how to make your own bean sprouts at home for extra freshness.
If the broth does not pack enough punch for you, biting into Thai chiles will definitely do the trick. These are also known as birds-eye chiles.
Deep Fried Onions and/or Shallots
I prefer the fried shallots. These flavorful slices of fried vegetables provides another layer of texture that takes this dish out of this world.
Thai Basil (or mint)
Thai basil has purple stems and the leaves are narrower and pointier than Italian basil. Thai basil has a flair toward anise rather than pesto.
This is an herb that has notes of anise and licorice almost like a blend between mint and basil.
Vietnamese Coriander - Rau Ram (Persicaria odorata)
Known by many monikers like rau ram, hot mint, and periscaria ordorata, Vietnamese coriander has a peppery, spicy, and citrus taste. When choosing your bunch, look for herbs with younger leaves because the older leaves are tough and lose flavor.
Sawtooth Herb - Ngo Gai (Culantro)
It is reminiscent of fresh coriander, but is much sturdier than regular coriander leaves and provides a crunch to bun bo Hue.
Mild Fish Sauce
I prefer the squid brand for all of my recipes.
This is used to provide the umami flavor to your dish. While it may have a very strong (and some would say stinky) odor, it's a great ingredient to bring out the flavors.
Ingredients You Can Find at your Local Grocer
You'll need lime, cilantro, green onion, and sweet white onion.
About this Shortcut to Simple Bun Bo Hue Recipe
As a mom of two who worked outside of the home, I needed a way to make this DELICIOUS dish less expensively as well as make it less complex so I can savor this dish on a regular week day.
Any good soup is a labor of love that takes a lot of time and effort, but it is worth waiting for because they bring a bowl of comfort, warm the heart, and a level of satisfaction because of the work effort involved.
However, with that said, momma doesn't have time for that. But I craved a way to make a delicious soup quick and easy. The good news is I created this bun bo Hue recipe for days when you don't have a whole day to make the broth. It won't be as full-bodied or rich from the pork hocks and beef shanks, but you can still get a delicious, flavorful bun bo Hue dish quicker than the complex authentic version.
In this recipe, I left out some bones, shrimp paste, and garnishes. For example, I didn't add in the blood cakes, banana blossoms, perilla. However, the dish was still incredibly flavorful and absolutely delicious.
This recipe can be doubled and tripled, which means that you can make a big batch and freeze it for another day when you have less time. All you would need to do is heat up the broth, prepare the noodles, and prepare the toppings and you would be good to go.
How to Make Bun Bo Hue On Any Weeknight
Ingredients for Shortcut Bun Bo Hue
- 2 pounds of pork shanks and/or beef shanks or oxtails with beef marrow bones
- 4 pounds of beef round eye, sliced or beef brisket
- 3 lemongrass stalks
- 3 tablespoons of cooking oil
- 1 package of vermicelli noodles, prepared
Bun Bo Hue Beef Marinade
- 3 tablespoons of bun bo Hue chile seasoning
- 1 3-oz package of bun bo Hue instant broth seasoning
- 3 lemongrass stalks, minced
- 3 medium shallots, minced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of MSG (optional)
- 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon fish sauce
Bun Bo Hue Ingredient Toppings
- 1 white onion, sliced
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 1 roll of steamed pork meatloaf, sliced
- 1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
- package of Thai chiles
- 1/2 cup of shredded purple cabbage
- 1 cup of mung bean sprouts
- Thai Basil
- 1 lime, wedged
Directions for Fast Bun Bo Hue
- Put a pot with cold water onto the stove. Add the pork and/or beef shanks (or oxtail and beef marrow bones) while the water is still cold in order to cleanse the meat prior to adding into the final broth. Set aside. The cold water will allow the water to slowly heat up the stove, which allows the blood, fats, and impurities to be removed. Discard the water once the impurities are boiled out. Clean and rinse the meat to remove any scum residue. Set the pork and beef shanks (or oxtail and beef marrow bones) aside.
- Slice the beef or brisket into long narrow pieces.
- Prepare a pot of water half way full with about 2 gallons of water. Grab three stalks of lemongrass, pound the ends with a meat pounder until they lay somewhat flat in order to release the aromatics. Add it into the pot.
- Prepare the marinade. Take 3 ends of lemon stalks and slice them thinly so that you can grind them in a food processor. In the same processor, add in the shallots and the garlic cloves.
- Process them until all of ingredients are ground.
- Set aside 3 tablespoons of the mixture.
- In a large bowl, add the sliced beef. Next, pour the remaining of the mixture. Use your hands to knead the mixture into the beef.
- Next, add in the bun bo Hue chile seasoning, the package of instant broth seasoning, salt, MSG (optional), sugar, and fish sauce. Continue kneading the mixture until mixed through. At this point, you can marinade the mixture overnight or continue cooking.
- Using a skillet heated at medium-high heat, add in the cooking oil. Next, add in the beef mixture and continue stirring. Cook until the beef is only slightly pink.
- Transfer the beef into the boiling pot of water along with the now boiled pork and beef shanks (or oxtail and beef marrow bones).
- Allow it to come to a boil.
- Simmer for 45 minutes, until beef is tender.
- Prepare the vermicelli noodles according to package. Tip: I like to use a little cooking oil when boiling the noodles, this allows the noodles not to stick together later on. Once it is done, I tend to "wrap" the noodles in cold water and lay them in a coriander so it is easier to add into a bowl later.
- Rinse and cleaning the vegetable toppings. Prepare the garnishes and set aside.
- Once the simmering is complete, ladle the broth and beef slices over the top of the vermicelli noodles. Top with onion, green onion, sliced pork meatloaf, cilantro, cabbage, bean sprouts, and Thai basil.
- Serve and enjoy hot!
You should have a gorgeous dish full of toppings and delicious broth.
Serving and Garnishing Bun Bo Hue Bowl
To prepare the garnishes for a large group, arrange the basil, perilla, cabbage, lemon and lime wedges, and onion slices on a platter and place on the table. Using a soup bowl, divide the vermicelli noodles. Ladle in the flavored stock broth, ensuring each bowl gets an even division of beef or brisket slices. Serve immediately.
Preserving Bun Bo Hue
The broth itself can be preserved for future use if stored in an airtight container and frozen for up to 6 months.
This bun bo Hue recipe is a deliciously spicy, fragrant noodle soup that allows you to experience Vietnam without even being there! This multifaceted and robust brew of beefy, spicy stock provides a sweet, sour, and salty dish that provides a hearty meal for anyone that wants to try something different than pho. While new two bun bo Hue recipes are the same, the one commonality between them is the spicy broth and the need for it to be topped with lots of fresh herbs to bring together umami flavors that light up your taste buds. This complex lemongrass-perfumed dish is not to be passed up, once you try it, you're going to be wanting more.
More Easy Vietnamese Noodle Recipes You’ll Love
- Vietnamese Bun Bi
- Banh Canh - Vietnamese Thick Noodle Soup (Homemade)
- Vietnamese Banh Uot – Steamed Rice Sheet Recipe
- Authentic Vietnamese Pho Broth
- Homestyle Authentic Vietnamese Short Ribs with Pork Riblets and Pineapple
If you love this bun bo Hue Vietnamese spicy noodle soup as much as our family does, please write a five star review and help me share on Facebook and Pinterest!
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Bun Bo Hue Beef Marinade
Bun Bo Hue Garnishments & Accompaniments
Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 730Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 206mgSodium: 955mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 2gSugar: 4gProtein: 63g
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.