Following my trip to Danang where I had one of the best bowls of bun bo Hue at Ba Dieu, I’m going to share with you my recipe for this spicy lemongrass beef noodle soup, which I learned from my Aunt Carol.

Bun bo Hue is one of my favorite Vietnamese noodle soups. Growing up, I loved it more than pho (but only if my mama made it less spicy for my sensitive tastebuds). The broth consists of boiled beef and pork bones with hints of lemongrass, fish sauce, shrimp paste, and peppers. It’s a rich and complex bowl of soup (which is why on a weekly basis, I prefer the lighter, easily digestible pho) but bun bo Hue was considered one of my favorite childhood treats.

Bun bo Hue is named for the Hue region of Vietnam from which it came. Hue is located in the central part of the country, and it is where royalty lived way back when Vietnam had kings. Every region has its own distinct cuisine, and in Hue, food is often spicy and incredibly flavorful, like a punch to the palate. This noodle soup is no different—it’s robust, deep, and amazing.

Like most Vietnamese noodle soups, the broth takes some time to cook. If you’re totally impatient or just don’t want to deal with pork hocks and shrimp paste, you can create a very good bowl of bun bo Hue using this Quoc Viet Foods soup base for bun bo Hue. There’s even a vegetarian Hue-style noodle soup base from Quoc Viet.

But if you want to try your hand at cooking one of my absolute favorite noodle soups, here’s the recipe, as learned from Aunt Carol and tweaked by me.

Recipe: Vietnamese Spicy Lemongrass Beef Noodle Soup | Bun Bo Hue

Notes: Most of these ingredients can be found at an East Asian market and local butcher.

Ingredients

    Broth:

  1. 2 lbs beef bones (e.g. oxtail), salted & rinsed
  2. 2 lbs pork bones (e.g. Neck), salted & rinsed
  3. 2 lbs beef shank, salted & rinsed
  4. 1 lb pork hock, salted & rinsed
  5. 1 onion, thinly sliced & divided
  6. 4 tbsp fish sauce, divided
  7. 1 tsp ground cayenne or to taste
  8. 1 tsp shrimp paste, diluted in water
  9. 2 stalks lemongrass, white parts bruised & sliced lengthwise, green parts tied in bouquet garni
  10. 1 tsp rock sugar (granulated sugar is okay, palm sugar even better)
  11. Accompaniment:

  12. 1.5 (16 ozs) pkgs medium-width rice vermicelli, cooked al dente
  13. Garnishings:

  14. scallion, thinly sliced
  15. cilantro, finely chopped
  16. More accompaniments (optional):

  17. purple cabbage, shredded
  18. banana blossom
  19. 2 limes, wedged
  20. more shrimp paste for the brave

Instructions

  1. Prepare bones & meats: In a stockpot, bring to boil lightly salted water and par-boil bones and meats for 2m.; drain. Trim meats, reserving beef tendon for soup. Cut beef into slices 2.5” long & 1/4” thick. In a large bowl, mix together sliced beef, 1/2 the onion, and 1 tbsp fish sauce; season with pepper.
  2. Cook soup: In a clean stockpot over medium-high heat, heat oil and sauté remaining 1/2 onion until fragrant. Add cayenne and beef mixture, stirring frequently. Stir in shrimp paste, lemongrass, and reserved tendon; lower heat to medium and sauté until beef is browned. Return bones and pork to pot and cover with water, approx 6 qts; bring to boil. Add remaining 3 tbsp fish sauce, sugar, and salt to taste. Lower heat and simmer until beef shank and pork hock are tender, approx 3h. Remove meats and simmer bones for 1h more.
  3. Ladle soup over noodles, beef, and pork. Garnish with scallion and cilantro. Serve with cabbage, banana blossoms, lime wedges, and shrimp paste.

Active time: 45m
Total time: 4h 45m
Yields: 6 to 8 servings

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