Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup (Bún Bò Huế)

  • Preparation: 30 mins
  • Cooking: 30 mins
  • Skill level: Easy
  • Servings: 6

Description Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup (Bún Bò Huế)

Named after Huế the former capitol of Vietnamese Cuisine the country’s “dynasty” years; when the country was still ruled by kings and emperors. Although the translated name for Bún Bò Huế is Spicy Beef Noodle Soup, it is not to be confused with Vietnamese Pho the other “beef noodle soup”. Phở is from the northern region and the flavors are much more settled, Bún Bò Huế on the other hand, is hot and spicy with essence of lemongrass and shrimp paste. Noodles for phở are flat, while noodles for Bún Bò Huế are fat and round (there are many types of noodles with unique names, but in English there is only the term “noodle” which all must be grouped under…sad). As with many Vietnamese noodle dishes, Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup (Bún Bò Huế) is also served with a generous helping of herbs, bean sprouts, shredded banana flower, shredded cabbage, and shredded lettuce. BTW, the recipe might seem like a lot of work but it's really not, chả huế and chả tôm could be bought premade if you know a well stocked Vietnamese grocery store or deli.


  • Stock
  • 2 pounds oxtail, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces (ask your butcher to do this)
  • 2 pounds beef shank bones, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces (ask your butcher to do this)
  • 2 pounds pork neck bones
  • 2 pounds beef marrowbones, cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces (ask your butcher to do this)
  • 1 pound beef brisket
  • 8 lemongrass stalks
  • Soup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon annatto seeds, ground
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 cup sliced shallots (2 extra-large shallots)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup finely chopped lemongrass
  • 2 teaspoons shrimp paste
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 (14-ounce) package dried round rice noodles, cooked according to package directions, or 3 pounds fresh rice noodles
  • Garnishes
  • Thai basil sprigs
  • Perilla leaves
  • Thinly sliced green or red cabbage
  • Lemon wedges
  • Lime wedges
  • Thinly sliced yellow onion

Method Vietnamese Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup (Bún Bò Huế)


Make the stock: to ensure the pot is large enough to blanch the bones without boiling over, put the bones in the pot and add water to cover by 1 inch. Then remove the bones and set aside.


Bring the water to a boil. When it is at a rolling boil, add the oxtails, beef shank, and pork bones. Return the water to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Drain the bones into a colander and rinse under cold running water. Rinse the pot and return the rinsed oxtails, neck bones, and shanks to the pot. Add the marrowbones and brisket.


Cut off the pale, fleshy part (the bottom 4 inches) of each lemongrass stalk and discard the leafy tops. Crush the lemongrass with the side of a cleaver or the bottom of a heavy pan and add it to the pot. Add 8 quarts fresh water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the liquid is at a simmer and skim off any scum that rises to the surface.


After 45 minutes, ready an ice-water bath, then check the brisket for doneness by using the chopstick test: transfer the brisket to a plate and poke it with a chopstick; the juices should run clear. If they do not, return the brisket to the pot and continue cooking, checking again in 10 minutes. When the brisket is done, remove it from the pot (reserving the cooking liquid) and immediately submerge it in the ice-water bath, which will stop the cooking and give the meat a firmer texture. When the brisket is completely cool, remove from the water, pat dry, and refrigerate.


Continue to simmer the stock for another 2 hours, skimming as needed to remove any scum that forms on the surface. Remove from the heat and remove and discard the large solids. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan. Skim most of the fat from the surface of the stock (leave some, as it gives the stock a better flavor and mouthfeel). Return the stock to a simmer over medium heat.


In a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, grind the red pepper flakes and annatto seeds into a coarse powder. In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the ground red pepper flakes and annatto seeds and cook, stirring, for 10 seconds. Add the shallots, garlic, lemongrass, and shrimp paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more, until the mixture is aromatic and the shallots are just beginning to soften.


Add the contents of the frying pan to the simmering stock along with the salt and sugar and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and sugar.


To ready the garnishes, arrange the basil, perilla, cabbage, lemon and lime wedges, and onion slices on a platter and place on the table. Thinly slice the brisket against the grain. Divide the cooked noodles among warmed soup bowls, then divide the brisket slices evenly among the bowls, placing them on top of the noodles. Ladle the hot stock over the noodles and beef and serve immediately, accompanied with the platter of garnishes.

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