Recipe: Bun Bo Hue

Oxtail and pig’s trotter noodle soup with fragrant lemongrass, beef, banana blossom and hot mint. 

Originates from Hue, The Central Highlands – where my grandmother comes from. Some would favourite this noodle soup over Pho.

This is what my grandmother used to make in Saigon, in the front entrance of our house. It was a time after the war in the late seventies. The communists took away everything anyone had. My uncle had been captured when he tried to escape by boat and was sent to a prison/ concentration camp. My grandparents had to earn enough money to make the visits to bring him food (they only served a spoonful of rice with salt in the camps). The journey was so far and difficult. 

My grandmother cooked and sold bowls of Bun Bo Hue for breakfast. My uncle promised himself that if he would ever leave the camp, he would re pay my grandparents for visiting him every month. After 2 years imprisonment in a tiny cell with 200 others, he was released. Arriving at the house,  no one recognised him. He says it was his gift to be able to perform as a musician and artist what kept him alive in the camp. He then let my grandmother sleep and prepared Bun Bo Hue every morning at 3am in time for breakfast for years to come and she would only serve it to the people who stopped by and ate their breakfast.

You can read more about my uncles’ travels and escape here:
The Monsoon, Bun Bo Hue, Elephant Man & My Uncle Thu
Stories from Uncle Thu, His Escape From Vietnam
Blood Cakes & Banana Blossom

This is my mum’s recipe, which is just as good, will post my grandmother’s another time. (This is without blood-cakes and pigs trotter meat in bowls).

Large Soup Pot
Gridell Pan

Ingredients – Serves 6 – 8

3 litres water
1kg rib beef
500g beef shin/ shank
2 ox tails chucks
2 pigs trotters
1 mooli
1 large onion – charr in a griddle pan with no oil
6 stalks lemongrass – charred in a griddle pan with no oil
40g rock sugar
1 tbs salt
1 tbs shrimp paste
1 tbs pork seasoning
2 tbs fish sauce
½ bulb garlic, finely diced
20g lemongrass finely diced, brown off with garlic
½  tsp chilli powder
½ tbs of anatto powder

Traditional Garnishes – optional, get what you can
banana blossom
hot mint
lime wedges
birdseye chilli
coriander – coarsely chopped
spring onions – thinly sliced
thai basil
morning glory
cockscombe mint
perilla mint

‘bun hue’ – thick vermicelli
Place in a container, pour on boiling water, place lid on for 20 mins or according to packet instructions. Drain.

To get a clear broth, place all the meat in boiling water with a generous amount of salt. Once the water boils and scum comes to the surface remove from heat and drain. Throw away all the water and wash the meat. Rest.

Meanwhile, clean the pot and bring 3 litres of fresh clean water to the boil.
Add the meat, bones, mooli and 1 tbs salt.
Add the charred onion and the lemongrass stalks to the pot with the rock sugar.
With the lid on, bring the broth to the boil then simmer for 1.5 – 2 hours, removing any scum that surfaces.
Remove the meat from the broth after 1.5 hours. Rest. Slice thinly when at room temperature.

Add 1 tbs shrimp paste to the broth with 1 tbs pork seasoning and 2 tbs fish sauce.

In another pan, add diced garlic with 20g lemongrass finely chopped and brown off with ½  tsp chilli powder. Then pour onto the broth with ½ tbs of anatto powder and simmer

Bring to the boil when ready to serve

Place cooked noodles into a bowl with sliced meat, a generous sprinkle of coriander and spring onions. Garnish with hot mint. Pour on the boiling broth. Always squeeze lime into the soup bowl. The other garnishes should be plated separately and added at the table according to preference.

NOTE: Always use a good quality fish sauce ie. Three Crabs Brand