Hue spicy beef & pork noodle soup

Hue spicy beef & pork noodle soup

Bún bò huể

Street Food Asia
Alan Benson

I predict this is going to be ‘the next pho’. It’s a beef-based soupy noodle dish from the central Vietnamese city of Hue, the old Imperial centre, and has sour, spicy, sweet and salty notes with a predominant flavour of lemongrass. The rice noodles used are quite different to the ones used in pho; here they’re thick and round and, when cooked, have a slightly resistant, al dente texture. Bún bò Hue usually features sliced, cooked beef brisket and chunks of oxtail, with cubes of pig’s blood jelly starring sometimes too. There’s pork hock as well, giving both flavour and plenty of lip-smacking body to the stock (the recipe here will make more of this than you need, but any excess can be stored for 3 days in the refrigerator or frozen for up to 3 months). In Saigon, when you order Bún bò Hue you always get a side basket crammed with bean sprouts, shredded banana blossom, water spinach, cabbage, sliced onions, and herbs like perilla, mint and saw-tooth coriander. You add these to the hot soup, to taste. There’s also a shrimp paste and chilli dipping sauce served on the side. If you make this recipe, don’t be tempted to leave it out.


Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons shrimp paste
1 x 2kg pork leg on the bone, skin on, cut into 2 equal-sized pieces
1 x 2kg gravy beef joint, cut into 2 equal-sized pieces
500ml fish sauce
250ml vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, bruised
3 white onions, sliced into rings
1 cinnamon stick, lightly pounded
4 whole cloves
2 tablespoons cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons rock salt
1 x 2kg oxtail, cut into 3 cm pieces
2 lemongrass stems, white part only, bruised
1 bunch spring onions, white stems lightly bashed, green parts finely sliced
1 small bunch vietnamese mint
2 tablespoons sugar
500g thick rice vermicelli noodles, cooked according to packet instructions
1 quantity Shrimp paste & chilli sauce

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
2 lemons, quartered
1 small bunch vietnamese mint, torn
500g bean sprouts
bird’s eye chilli, sliced
fish sauce


  1. Add the shrimp paste to a bowl with 500 ml hot water. Stir to dissolve the shrimp paste and leave to steep for 1 hour, then strain and reserve the liquid, discarding the sediment.
  2. Meanwhile, place the pork and beef in a large mixing bowl. Add 250 ml of the fish sauce and leave to marinate for 1 hour.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a saucepan over a low–medium heat. Add the garlic and two-thirds of the onion and stir-fry until soft and translucent. Wrap the softened onions and garlic in a 30 cm square of muslin along with the cinnamon, cloves and black pepper, and tie with kitchen string to secure. Set aside.
  4. Add the remaining fish sauce, rock salt, oxtail and 12 litres water to a very large saucepan or stockpot. Bring to the boil and skim off the impurities, then simmer for 30 minutes, skimming constantly.
  5. Add the gravy beef, pork leg, lemongrass, the white part of the spring onions, the Vietnamese mint and the muslin bag to the saucepan and return to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1½ hours, skimming regularly.
  6. Carefully remove the meat from the stock and set aside, then add the reserved shrimp paste liquid and the sugar to the pan and continue to simmer gently for a another hour, or until reduced by half. Strain the soup through a fine sieve layered with muslin and leave to cool.
  7. To serve, pour 400 ml of stock per person into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Slice the gravy beef and pork leg into 3-mm thick slices.
  8. Divide the vermicelli noodles between individual bowls and add three beef slices, three pork slices, one oxtail piece and 2 teaspoons of the shrimp paste and chilli sauce to each. Pour over the boiling stock and top with the sliced spring onion greens and remaining onion slices.
  9. Serve with lemon wedges, Vietnamese mint, bean sprouts and chilli slices on the side, and fish sauce and extra shrimp paste and chilli sauce for dipping.
South-East Asian
Street Food
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