Bun Bo Hue: A Spicy Dish From Vietnam’s Central Heart

Central Vietnam boasts a rich culinary tapestry, and woven into its very fabric is Bun Bo Hue – a spicy beef noodle soup that’s a symphony for your taste buds. As the name suggests, Bun Bo Hue hails from the captivating city of Hue, Vietnam’s former imperial capital. This dish is more than just a meal; it’s a legacy of the royal kitchens, where chefs combined bold flavors to create a dish fit for royalty.

Breakfast, Lunch, or Anytime Feast: Bun Bo Hue, a Hue Specialty

Bun Bo Hue boasts a unique flavor profile that’s a delightful dance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. Unlike its northern counterpart, Pho, Bun Bo Hue uses thicker, round rice vermicelli noodles that perfectly soak up the rich, flavorful broth. This broth is the heart and soul of the dish, simmered for hours with beef and pork bones, lemongrass, onion, shallot, and ginger. The secret weapon? Shrimp paste (“mam ruoc”) and fiery chili oil, infusing the broth with a vibrant red hue, a lemongrassy aroma, and a deep, savory complexity.

Bun Bo Hue
Bun Bo Hue

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Unlike many noodle soups served as lunch or dinner, Bun Bo Hue is a common breakfast option in Hue. Street vendors proudly display steaming bowls of this vibrant soup, a testament to its local popularity. Don’t worry if breakfast isn’t your thing – Bun Bo Hue is available all day at many street stalls, ready to tantalize your taste buds whenever you crave it.

So, what exactly goes into this flavorful bowl? Typically, Bun Bo Hue comes with thinly sliced, medium-cooked beef. The key is to add the fresh beef directly to your bowl and then pour the piping hot broth over it, letting the heat gently cook the meat to perfection. Alongside the beef, you might find shank, pig’s trotters, or other cuts of pork. A unique addition is often cubes of congealed pig or beef blood, adding a dark brown color and a slightly chewy texture.

But the magic doesn’t stop there. Freshly sliced spring onions and onions add a delightful crunch and a vibrant pop of color. To truly personalize your bowl, you’ll be presented with a platter of fresh herbs and vegetables. Sliced banana blossom, lettuce, mint, basil, and mung bean sprouts offer a refreshing contrast to the richness of the broth. A squeeze of lime adds a touch of tartness, while fish sauce and fiery chilies allow you to adjust the flavor profile to your liking. Remember, the ingredients might vary slightly depending on the season and the region, but the overall experience remains unforgettable.

So, how does Bun Bo Hue compare to its famous cousin, Pho? While both are Vietnamese noodle soups, Bun Bo Hue offers a spicier and more complex flavor profile, thanks to the shrimp paste and chili oil. Its bolder taste and thicker noodles stand in delightful contrast to the delicate sweetness and thin noodles of Pho.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Make Bun Bo Hue

Hue, Vietnam boasts a reputation for the meticulous beauty of its cuisine, evident in every dish. While a bowl of Bun Bo Hue might appear deceptively simple with its rice vermicelli, beef, and pork, it’s the symphony of flavors – spicy, sour, salty, and sweet – that truly leaves a lasting impression. This recipe unlocks the secrets behind Bun Bo Hue, allowing you to recreate this culinary masterpiece in your own kitchen.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Make Bun Bo Hue
A Step-by-Step Guide to Make Bun Bo Hue


For the Broth

  • 1 kg (2.2 lb) beef/pork bones
  • 600 gr (1.5 lb) beef shank
  • 1 kg (2.2 lb) pork trotters (pig’s front feet)
  • Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste (Mam ruoc)
  • 6 stalks lemongrass, bruised and minced
  • Ginger, bruised and minced
  • Garlic, chopped
  • Chili, chopped (optional)
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • MSG (optional)

For the Saté

  • 100 gr chili flakes
  • 1 garlic bulb, minced
  • 1 pineapple, minced
  • 5 stalks lemongrass, bruised
  • 5 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt

Other Ingredients

  • 1 kg Hue rice vermicelli noodles
  • Vietnamese shrimp patties (Cha Hue) (optional)
  • Boiled blood cubes (Huyet) (optional)


  • Spring onion, chopped
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Onion, thinly sliced
  • Fresh greens (shredded banana blossom, shredded lettuce/cabbage, bean sprouts, etc.)


1. Prepare the Broth: Begin by rinsing the bones, pork trotters, and blood cubes (if using) in saltwater and white vinegar to remove any impurities. Boil them over high heat for 5-10 minutes, allowing impurities to rise to the surface. Discard the water and rinse the ingredients again.

2. Simmer the Broth with Bones and Trotters: Transfer the rinsed bones, trotters, and 3 stalks each of lemongrass and ginger to a large pot. Cover with 5 liters of water and simmer for 2 hours. This slow simmering process is key to extracting maximum flavor.

Bun Bo Hue – a spicy beef noodle soup
Bun Bo Hue – a spicy beef noodle soup

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3. Marinate and Cook the Beef Shank: While the broth simmers, rinse the beef shank thoroughly. Prepare a marinade with sugar, salt, MSG (optional), diluted Vietnamese fermented shrimp paste, chopped purple onion, minced garlic, and chopped lemongrass. Marinate the beef shank for at least 30 minutes to infuse it with flavor.

After marinating, add the beef shank to a separate pot and simmer similarly to the bones and trotters. Once the pigskin on the trotters becomes translucent and the beef shank is cooked through, remove them both from the heat. Briefly soak them in cold water to stop the cooking process. Slice the beef shank and trotters thinly for serving.

4. Combine the Broths and Season: Combine the broth from the bones and trotters with the broth from the cooked beef shank in a large pot. Bring to a boil and season with fish sauce, salt, sugar, MSG (optional), and the remaining diluted fermented shrimp paste. Adjust the seasonings to your taste preference.

5. Add Fillings and Saté: Add Vietnamese shrimp patties (Cha Hue) and boiled blood cubes (Huyet) (if using) to the simmering broth.

6. Prepare the Saté: Heat oil in a pan and sauté minced garlic and lemongrass until fragrant. Add the minced pineapple and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with sugar and salt. Finally, stir in chili flakes and chopped chili (optional) and cook for 15 minutes until the mixture becomes a smooth paste. Divide the saté in half, adding one half to the broth and reserving the other half for serving.

7. Serve and Enjoy: To assemble the Bun Bo Hue, place a portion of rice vermicelli noodles in a serving bowl. Top with sliced beef shank, pork trotters, blood cubes (if using), and shrimp patties. Ladle the hot broth over the ingredients. Garnish with chopped spring onion, cilantro, bean sprouts, and thinly sliced onion. Serve with the remaining saté for those who prefer a spicier kick, and a platter of fresh greens to add a refreshing touch.

For true food enthusiasts, Bun Bo Hue is a must-try. Whether you choose to savor a steaming bowl on a bustling Hue street corner or take a cooking class to learn the secrets of the broth, one thing is for sure: Bun Bo Hue will leave a lasting impression on your taste buds. An enthusiastic local guide will share their passion for food and lead you on a delicious journey through the city’s vibrant food scene. Bun Bo Hue is just the beginning – Hue has a treasure trove of flavors waiting to be discovered.

Embark on a culinary adventure to uncover the enticing flavors of Vietnamese cuisine and immerse yourself in the world’s diverse culinary landscapes. Visit our website https://bluevelvetrestaurant.com/ regularly for updates and inspiration.

Author: Blue Velvet