Many people around the world love this Vietnamese authentic Bun Bo Hue. This spicy beef noodle soup and its plating are somewhat sophisticated, but it's all worth your time. You'll love the unique flavor of the broth and the excellent add-on ingredients that help make this soup one-of-a-kind.
If you're looking for a way to make the best Bún Bò Huế, you're in the right place. With this comprehensive and easy-to-follow recipe, you'll be able to make this famous Vietnamese soup recipe successfully.
Since you're here, I bet you love a bowl of homemade soup. Why not try other authentic Vietnamese soup recipes that you may also like? This light and easy-to-make chicken pho is faster to make than its cousin beef pho recipe. If you want something as sophisticated as this recipe, you can try this Vietnamese consome soup (bun rieu cua) or this fermented fish soup (bun mam).
Authentic bun bo Hue
What sets my recipe apart from the rest is how much effort was spent to make the broth. The broth is the spirit of this soup, and you should never EVER take any shortcut or trick while making it.
It also means no pleasing bun bo hue can come from a so-called instant pot or crockpot. Let me clarify, I have nothing against these modern cooking appliances, but there are some recipes (especially the authentic ones) that should not cook using one of these. Ever wonder why your favorite Vietnamese restaurant makes this soup so good? Because they do not use a shortcut and cook the broth on the stovetop.
To make such a hearty, delicious, and rich bun bo Hue, the broth needs to be cooked on the stove for hours using pork bones, a desired cut of beef with a seasoning shrimp paste mixture. You can also use beef bones to enhance the beef aroma of the soup if made in large quantities.
What should you expect this spicy beef noodle soup taste like? Bun bo Hue has a strong meaty umami flavor:
- Sweet: the broth inherited a natural sweetness from pork bones and beef (here, I used brisket), and there was no sugar added to the broth.
- Spicy: authentically, this soup has to be spicy. So if you can't handle the heat, this soup might not be a good option for you. I have many non-spicy soup options if you're interested in.
- Salty: the seasoning mixture that makes the broth as it is includes a large amount of fish sauce, chicken powder, and last but not least, the most important one: fermented shrimp paste. That explains why the broth will taste a bit salty, but it's ok since you will serve it with many add-ons, which will help tone down the saltiness.
What goes in the broth?
Here's what you need (don't use a substitution) to make a perfect homemade authentic bun bo Hue broth:
- Pork bones: in this recipe, the pork bones are discarded afterward. If you plan on serving them, you can use pork shanks or knuckles. And these should be cut into individual serving sizes.
- Brisket: I used a whole piece of brisket (around 2lb). Another cut of beef that can also be used is flank.
- Spice: fresh slices of ginger, lemongrass stalks, garlic cloves, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and white onion.
- Oil mixture: pure sesame oil, annatto seeds, minced shallot, and minced garlic.
- Seasoning mixture: red pepper flakes, minced lemongrass, shrimp paste, pure sesame oil, chicken bouillon, Kosher salt, and fish sauce.
Soup components and add-ons
Here are ingredients that make a perfect complexity & unique characteristics for a homemade bun bo Hue:
- Noodle: use premium Hue-style noodles, which are thicker than regular vermicelli noodles.
- Beef tenderloin: quickly blanch slices of beef tenderloin in boiling water, then put them in the soup bowl to serve. There is no need to cook tenderloin in a broth pot.
- Vegetables served with the soup: thin slices of white onion, chopped green onion.
- Vegetables served on the side: shredded water spinach, shredded banana flower, beansprouts, herb (kinh giới), lime wedges, and shredded red cabbage (optional).
- Sauce on the side: shrimp paste, fish sauce with chopped Thai chilies.
- Others (not included in the recipe): pork blood, riêu -draft (see: how to make rieu), chả lụa.
Clean pork bones and brisket
The soup starts with a clear broth, and the key here is to par-cook the pork bones and brisket in hot boiling water before adding them to the main broth.
Cook pork bones over high heat for 10 minutes to get rid of impurities.
Drain and wash pork bones with cold water.
Repeat the same steps with brisket.
Simmer the broth
Toast spice mixture over medium heat until everything is fully fragranced. Then tie cinnamon sticks and lemongrass using kitchen twine. Put the rest into a sachet.
Bring 7qt of water to a boil, then add pork bones and brisket. Bring the whole pot back to boiling point, then lower the heat enough to simmer everything.
Then add spice sachet, lemongrass stalks, and cinnamon sticks to the pot.
Simmer the pot over medium-high heat, occasionally skim away the impurities that floated on the surface.
Make oil and seasoning mixture
Authentic bun bo Hue has a reddish hue color derived naturally from annatto seeds. So it is a must that you have this ingredient on hand. Per my taste, I also used a little bit of smoked paprika - about 1tsp (not included in the recipe) to obtain such reddish solid color for the soup.
After 45 minutes of simmering, add whole white onion to the pot and continue cooking the broth over medium-high heat for another 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, add sesame seeds and annatto seeds to a stainless steel cooking pan to make the oil mixture for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Strain, discard annatto seeds and return sesame oil to the pan.
Add minced garlic and shallot to sesame oil and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Set aside for later use.
Use the same pan and sauté seasoning ingredients in sesame oil for 3-4 minutes. Set aside for later use.
Remove the brisket and let it cool down for later use. Remove and discard other ingredients. Add more hot water to the pot (about 8 cups). Then add the oil mixture, followed by the seasoning mixture.
Continue simmering the broth for 20 minutes. Then put the broth on low heat setting while waiting for serving.
Serving & storing suggestions
- Serve hot: this soup is best served with hot broth, warm noodles, and room-temp veggies.
- Store at room temperature: the soup broth can be kept for one day at room temperature. All other ingredients (meat and veggies should be kept under refrigeration).
- Store in chiller: the soup broth can be kept under refrigeration for up to 3 days.
- Store in the freezer: the broth can be kept in airtight containers for up to 2 months.
Authentic Bun Bo Hue - Spicy Beef Noodle Soup
For the broth
- 2 lb pork bones
- 2 lb brisket
- 7 qt water
- 1 large white onion
- 1 piece ginger about 2x2 inches, cut into thin slices
- 2 stalks lemongrass cut into 3 inches, smashed
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5 each whole cloves
- ¼ c pure sesame oil
- 1 tbsp annatto seeds
- 5 medium shallot minced
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium white onion thinly sliced
- 5 stalks green onion chopped
- 1 lb beef tenderloin thinly sliced
- 1 bag premium Hue noodles
- water spinach shredded
- banana flower shredded
- fresh oregano leaves
- lime wedges
- red cabbage shredded, optional
Sauce on the side
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 slices Thai chilies
- 1 tbsp shrimp paste
Make the broth
- In a medium cooking pot, fill with water and bring to boil. Add pork bones to the pot and cook over high heat for 10 minutes to get rid of impurities.2 lb pork bones
- Drain and wash pork bones with cold water. Set aside for later use.
- Use the same pot and quickly blanch brisket, then drain and wash like pork bones. Let them cool down, set aside for later use.2 lb brisket
- In a cooking pan over medium heat, toast the spices over medium heat until everything is fully fragranced. Then tie cinnamon sticks and lemongrass using kitchen twine. Put the rest into a sachet.1 piece ginger, 2 stalks lemongrass, 5 cloves garlic, 1 cinnamon stick, 5 each whole cloves
- In a large cooking pot, bring 7qt of water to a boil, then add pork bones and brisket. Bring the whole pot back to boiling point, then lower the heat enough to simmer everything.7 qt water
- Then add spice sachet, lemongrass stalks, and cinnamon sticks to the pot.
- Simmer the pot over medium-high heat for 45 minutes, and occasionally skim away the impurities that floated on the surface. Do not stir the pot to keep the broth as clear as possible.
- After 45 minutes of simmering, add whole white onion to the pot and continue cooking the broth over medium-high heat for another 45 minutes.1 large white onion
Make oil and seasoning mixture
- Meanwhile, add sesame seeds and annatto seeds to a stainless steel cooking pan to make the oil mixture for 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Strain, discard annatto seeds, and return infused sesame oil to the pan.¼ c pure sesame oil, 1 tbsp annatto seeds
- Add minced garlic and shallot to sesame oil and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Set aside for later use.5 medium shallot, 5 cloves garlic
- Use the same pan and sauté seasoning ingredients in sesame oil for 3-4 minutes. Set aside for later use.5 medium shallot, 5 cloves garlic, 2 tbsp pure sesame oil, 2 tsp red pepper flakes, 3 tbsp lemongrass, 2 tbsp shrimp paste
Season bun bo Hue broth
- Remove the brisket and let it cool down for later use. Remove and discard other ingredients. Add more hot water to the pot (about 8 cups). Then add the oil mixture, followed by the seasoning mixture.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the rest of the seasoning mix ingredients with half a cup of hot broth. Stir to dissolve all ingredients completely, then pour the mixture back into the broth.2 tbsp chicken bouillon, 1 tbsp Kosher salt, 2 tbsp fish sauce
- Continue simmering the broth for 20 minutes. Then put the broth on low heat setting while waiting for serving.
Assemble bun bo Hue
- Cut brisket into thin slices and quickly blanch tenderloin slices in hot water, wrap in plastic wrap to keep them warm.1 lb beef tenderloin
- Cook noodles following instructions on the package. Keep the noodles warm.1 bag premium Hue noodles
- In a large soup bowl, fill half the bowl with noodles, then add slices of brisket and tenderloin. Garnish with white onion and green onion. Ladle the broth in the bowl enough to submerge the noodles completely.1 medium white onion, 5 stalks green onion
- Serve with vegetables and dipping sauce on the side. Enjoy!water spinach, banana flower, beansprout, fresh oregano leaves, lime wedges, red cabbage, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 3 slices Thai chilies, 1 tbsp shrimp paste
- Clear broth: to make a perfectly clear broth, both pork bones and brisket need to be at room temperatures (after blanched) before adding to a hot, boiling pot of water.
- Broth appearance: the broth is supposed to be clear and has a layer of reddish fat on top made from sesame oil, annatto seeds, and other spices.
- Pork blood cake: many authentic Bun Bo Hue recipes called for these special ingredients, but I omitted them due to food safety. If you can find a reliable source for this pork blood cake, you're welcome to eat it with the soup. Otherwise, I recommend steering clear of this ingredient.
- Adjust seasoning: everybody can adjust seasoning accordingly by using dipping sauce served on the side.
- Other meat ingredients: you can use pork shanks and knuckles for cooking the broth and serving them with the noodles. Many restaurants decide to use them as optional add-ons. Moreover, besides brisket and tenderloin, flank is another perfect cut of beef that can be used for this recipe.