From Hue but great in Saigon too
19 Lo C, Chung Cu Tran Quoc Thao, District 3
T: (09) 3628 2404
When people visit Vietnam all they seem to talk about is pho: pho this, pho that, pho T-shirts. Little do they know that there are other, dare I say better, soups in Vietnam. One of the soups vying for your VND is bun bo hue, a culinary dish that originated in Hue… obviously. A perfect example of a food that is much better on the street than in the chain restaurants around town, bun bo hue is another staple of Viet cuisine. So, how can you find this culinary masterpiece? It’s time to hit the streets!
Bun bo hue starts with the broth, which differs from pho in that besides beef, it can include, or consist only, of pork bones as a base. Lemongrass is added to the stock, which is then poured onto the noodles. The noodles are different too; instead of the flat noodles found in pho, bun bo hue uses noodles that are round and more like spaghetti. Even for seasoned chopstick veterans, the broth noodle combination can make for some slippery situations and I’ve seen locals struggling to take big bites. (My recommendation is to not wear white when tucking into a dish!) The broth and noodles are served with marinated beef, pig’s feet, or Chinese sausage, and traditionally bun bo hue is a spicier dish than pho.
Slightly more rare than the more popular pho, bun bo hue is still easy to find. The easiest way to tell the difference between this and other soup carts, beside the red bun bo hue sign displayed on the cart, is that there is typically less meat on display in the cart’s window, as bun bo hue has fewer meat variations than pho. Carts are still large though, as they have to carry a large pot that boils the stock as well as a pot to boil water for the noodles. As with other street food, wait time is not an issue; you will usually get your bowl right after you sit down at one of the plastic chairs the vendor will provide.
Word on the street is that if you can’t make it to Hue then the next best place to get bun bo hue is in Saigon. My personal street vendor, however, disagrees and thinks that hers is better than anything you’d get in central Vietnam. I for one have to agree because, as you can see, she is pretty much a master of her craft!
By Angela Schonberg
Last updated on 27th December, 2015.