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A bold and flavorful soup, this Bun Bo Hue recipe is for one of Vietnam’s most famous soups, rivaling Pho. It’s a rich and soulful soup loaded with tender slices of beef and pork and fragrant herbs. With each exceptionally delicious bite, you’ll find yourself craving this Hue-style noodle soup even more.
What is Bun Bo Hue?
Bun Bo Hue soup is often referred to as the soul of Hue cuisine. This spicy Vietnamese noodle soup holds a prominent place among Vietnam’s iconic soups.
The soup originates from Hue, in Central Vietnam and it is known for its bold and spicy flavors.
While in Vietnam, Anthony Bourdain famously described Bún Bò Huế as “the greatest soup in the world.”
The broth for this Hue noodle soup is made with a combination of beef and pork.
The soup’s rich flavors come from lemongrass, paprika, red pepper flakes, and shrimp paste.
Its iconic red color comes from the addition of annatto seed.
Bun Bo hue is served with rice noodles, thinly sliced brisket, cubes of gelatinous congealed pig’s blood and herbs, and lime wedges.
A side of shredded banana blossom leaves, mung bean sprouts, and chili sauce complete the meal
The flavors of Bún Bò Huế are appreciated not only for the taste alone but also for its aromas.
What is The Difference Between Bun Bo and Bun Bo Hue?
There is no difference between Bun Bo and Bun Bo Hue. It’s the same soup and the name used depends on where you are in the country.
Bun Bo Hue translates to “noodles from Hue,” the city of its origins. Outside Hue, it’s referred to as Bun Bò Hue to signify the Hue-style noodle soup.
Within the region of Hue, the noodle soup is simply referred to as Bun Bo.
Bun Bo Hue History
Hue, in Central Vietnam, is considered to have some of the best food in the country.
The city served as the capital of Vietnam during the Nguyen Dynasty from 1802 to 1945.
During this time, Royal or Imperial Hue cuisine was elevated to an art form.
Bun Bo Hue soup is one of the signature dishes and is described as the soul of Hue cuisine.
This authentic Bun Bo Hue recipe brings the flavors of imperial cuisine to your kitchen.
With a little time and a few ingredients, you’ll discover why this was once described as the “greatest soup in the world.”
Discovering Bun Bo Hue in Vietnam
While exploring the local food specialties in central Vietnam, we visited Hue in search of this famous spicy Vietnamese noodle soup.
Our goal was to have the hot broth and noodle soup for dinner on the evening we arrived. Unable to find it, we quickly learned that Bun Bo Hue is traditionally eaten in the morning.
We later had the chance to savor the flavors of Bún Bò Huế soup in its city of origin.
The taste of Bun Bo Hue is rich and complex. It’s a hearty soup with a unique combination of flavors and textures.
The soup broth from pork bones with aromatic spices is savory and spices. And, when combined with the rice noodles and additional ingredients it is deeply satisfying.
Be aware, the soup is traditionally served with congealed pork blood cubes for added flavor and depth.
Sate Sauce or Spicy Condiment
- Annatto seeds
- Fresh chilies
- Ginger root
- Chili powder
Garnishes and Other Ingredients For Bun Bo Hue
- Hue-style rice noodles
- Banana flower
- Congealed pig’s blood
- Fresh mint
- Sprouted beans, optional
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you love Vietnamese food, see our other popular easy-to-make Vietnamese recipes.
Bun Bo Hue Recipe Tips
When making this Hue spicy noodle soup at home, here are some tips to make the cooking process easier.
- Speed up with an Instant Pot – The soup broth flavor in this recipe comes from simmering the meats with lemon grass. For the pork bones, meat, and beef bones to soften, it might require 2 to 3 hours. Cut the time in half using an instant pot or a pressure cooker. The result is the same.
- Use Hue-Style noodles – This Bun bo Hue recipe calls for thicker Hue-style noodles than the typical vermicelli noodles found in Vietnamese cuisine.
- Bun Bo Hue Soup Base (optional) – Using Bun Bo Hue soup base is an option and can be a time-saver. To make an authentic Bun Bo Hue, we provide the necessary steps and ingredients in this recipe.
Bún Bò Huế Recipe Substitutions
The best place to find the ingredients for this noodle soup recipe is at an Asian markets or ethnic grocery stores. Some mainstream grocery stores with a robust Asian section may also have some of the ingredients. However, if you have difficulty finding some of the ingredients, you may;
- Use purple cabbage instead of banana blossom – Banana blossoms also known as banana flower, grows at the end of a banana cluster. It can be hard to find banana blossoms if you are unable to find any, use purple or red cabbage instead.
- Vietnamese Hue-style pork sausage – Finding Hue-style pork sausage is difficult outside of Vietnam. While it adds flavor to the Bun Bo Hue broth, we can make the recipe without it. In this simple recipe, we do not use Vietnamese sausage and the bold and delicious flavors remain the same.
- Congealed Pork blood – Finding and cooking pork blood cubes can be challenging for some people. In this recipe, we use pork blood as it is traditionally used in Vietnam. Feel free to skip the congealed pork blood when you make this Bun Bo Hue recipe at home.
Bun Bo Hue Step by Step Instructions
Slow Cook the Meats
After rinsing and thoroughly cleaning the meats, add to water and allow to simmer for about 3 hours, until tender. Discard the water and any bones that may fall out. Chop into pieces and set aside.
Prepare the Sate Spicy Condiment
Cut up the onions, lemongrass, and chili to make the sate sauce. Add to a skillet along with oil and annatto seeds. If you prefer a spicy soup adjust the amount of chili.
Cook Noodles and Assemble Soup
Cook the Hue-style noodles following the package instructions. With all the ingredients already prepared, place the warm noodles in a bowl. Add cut-up slices of brisket, pork leg, and oxtail along with pork blood. Add condiments and garnishes and top with hot noodle soup.
Bun Bo Hue Recipe: How To Make Authentic Hue Spicy Noodle Soup
For the broth
For the sate sauce or spicy condiment
Garnishes and other ingredients
- 400 g Hue-style rice noodles
- 1 Banana flower or small red cabbage
- 400 g Congealed pig’s blood frozen
- 1 handful mint leaves fresh
- 10 chili peppers
- Sprouted beans optional
For the broth
- Clean and rinse the oxtail, pork leg, and brisket under plenty of running water. Place in a large broth pot and cover with water over high heat. You will see a dense foam beginning to form on the surface; remove as much foam as possible.
- After about 10- minutes, turn off the stove and place the meat in a colander; discard the cooking liquid; and rinse again.
- Using a blunt object hit the lemongrass stalks or cut them a little to extract the flavors. Peel the ginger root and cut it into large pieces.
- Place the meat in a large pot with about three liters of water, the chicken cubes, fermented shrimp sauce, lemongrass, ginger, and half a teaspoon of salt.
- Cook for approximately three hours on medium heat. Remove the meat from the pot when it is soft and tender. Cut it into pieces.
- Keep the hot broth and discard any bones that fall off.
For the sate sauce or spicy condiment
- Peel and thinly slice onion. Slice the lemongrass stalks into circular pieces. Slice the fresh chilies, if you like spice, leave the seeds; if not, remove them. Peel and crush the garlic.
- Pour vegetable oil into a small sauce pan with the annatto seeds. Cook for about five minutes until the oil turns deep orange.
- Allow the oil to cool down for a few minutes and then strain it through a metal strainer to remove the annatto seeds. Keep oil and set some aside. Discard the seeds.
- In the same small sauce pan, fry onions, chili peppers, lemongrass stalks, and minced garlic.
- Add strained oil to the pot. Add peeled and grated ginger, a teaspoon of chili powder, and salt to taste. Feel free to adjust the seasoning to taste. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Place about 2 to 4 tablespoons of sate sauce in a glass bowl and set aside for serving.
- Add the rest of the sate sauce to the large pot with soup broth where you cooked the meat.
- Cook sate sauce with soup broth for about 20 minutes until the hot broth has a robust orange color.
- Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
Garnishes and other ingredients
- Wash the banana flower very well; rub your hands with cooking oil to protect them from the flower sap. Remove the purple flower petals one by one. Between the petals, you will find the pistils; separate them so you can use them to serve the soup. Inside each small flower is a harder petal. Remove it as well. When you have used up the purple petals, slice the heart of the banana flower, it is the edible part (but this should be done only when serving because they tend to darken).
- In another pot of water, cook Hun Bo Hue noodles according to the package instructions.
- Cut the pork blood into cubes and place into pot with water. Cook for 10-15 minutes on low heat. If you cook it over high heat, it can disintegrate.
Assemble the noodle soup
- Divide the Bun Bo Hue noodles and place them in the bottom of the bowls.
- Add thinly sliced pieces of pork and beef to each bow. Add pork blood pieces.
- Using a ladle, fill each bowl with hot Bun Bo Hue broth
- Garnish with pieces of banana blossom, chili peppers, fresh herbs, lime wedges and bean sprouts.
- Serve immediately and enjoy.
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Claire is co-founder of Authentic Food Quest and a lover of simple and exquisite cuisine. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, she has been traveling the world as a digital nomad, creating content about local food experiences.
Her advice from visiting 45 countries and more than 240 food cities has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post. She has also co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
An ex-mechanical engineer, Claire is responsible for SEO, keeping the website running, and the fun food & travel videos on YouTube.
When Claire is not eating, she can be found running or cycling. Find out more about Authentic Food Quest