It’s been four years since I posted my recipe for Bun Bo Hue, and I lost count on how many times I have made it again after that day. Bun Bo Hue is my favorite Vietnamese soup, my guilty pleasure. I love everything about it; the broth, the meat, the vegetables, and most of all the spiciness!
One day as I was reviewing my blog and looking through old recipes, I came across the one for Bun Bo Hue. As I was reading through it I realized I don’t do some of these steps anymore or I do this step differently now. I definitely need to update this post! Instead of re-writing the whole recipe I will just make a new post on it. Hope these tips will help all the Bun Bo Hue lover out there in the kitchen! A lot of these tips can be applied to other recipes as well. Happy cooking!
1. Beef Bones vs. Pork Bones
Before I only use beef bones when making Bun Bo Hue. I guess because it is a beef soup we all assume we can only use beef bones. But to be honest pork bones produce a better broth, and you can definitely get by making a pot without using zero beef bones. I have been doing this for the last couple years and nobody can tell the different. People actually think my broth have gotten better over the years. The downside of pork bones is you’ll need to use more of it and it cooks a lot faster than beef bones. For that reason, if you leave pork bones in the pot for too long it will fall a part and your broth will not be as clear. You can mix and match pork neck bones and pork hocks to make the broth. Just remember you’ll want to remove it from the broth before they fall apart.
2. Fermented Shrimp Paste (Mam Ruoc)
Ok this was the most time consuming step for this recipe. You have to constantly add water to mam ruoc, mix it up and then only use the liquid at the top. I thought this was the only way to use mam ruoc and produce a clear broth. So glad I got rid of this step. Now I just sauteed the mam ruoc together with the minced garlic and lemongrass.
3. Rare Beef
4. Annatto Seeds
Cooking annato seeds in oil produce an orange color to give the broth that unique orange/red color. Annato seeds is a pain to cook up because it pops and the oil splashes on stove top, shirts, counter, skin, and etc. Sometimes it will stain your counter. I never really liked this step. Instead of using annatto seed, I just cook paprika in oil. I like using paprika from the American groceries store because it produce more of red color than the orange color. Cook the paprika in oil on low heat will produce a beautiful color for your Bun Bo Hue Broth without splashes.
5. Chili Powder
For spiciness I relied a lot of fresh chili or dried whole chili. It took a lot to make the broth spicy and I felt like I was wasting a lot of chili. I suggest search for a really spicy chili powder, I recommend using Thai or Indian chili powder. Add the chili powder the same time as you are cooking the paprika in oil.
Before I used pre-minced lemongrass in a container in the frozen section. It was convenient to use but it definitley lacked a lot of lemongrass flavor and aroma. Now I take the extra step and minced and grind my lemongrass in a food processor. I suggest doing a lot at once and then storing it in the freezer for later use.
7. Salt vs. Fish Sauce
This took me a couple years to realize but salt is better for cooking broth. It takes a lot of fish sauce to flavor a pot of broth, and with the cost of fish sauce lately that’s just a total waste. When you use too much fish sauce in your broth not only does it alter the color but it will alter the taste of your broth. Fish sauce is pungent and will mask the natural flavor that the bones and vegetables give off for your soup. Now I will only taste my broth with salt until the right amount of saltiness is produce, this way you can still taste the natural sweetness from your ingredients. You only want to add fish sauce once you are done cooking or at the very end if needed. Remember to add the salt gradually and always taste your broth. You may not taste the salt right away and your first instinct is to add more salt; do not add additional salt right away. Once you add salt to the broth give it time to marry with your broth and then re-taste. You can fix bland food but once you make something salty it’s a lot harder to fix.
pork neck bones/pork hock/beef bones (4-5 lbs would be plenty but the more bones the better the broth)
2 beef shank
sliced rare beef (opitonal)
Vietnamese ham (optional cha lua/cha hue)
lemongrass (8-10 stalks the more the better)
2-3 knob of ginger
2 yellow onion
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon of of fresh Thai chili
1 tablespoon of minced lemongrass
chili powder (there are many different kind some more spicy than others)
shrimp paste(mam ruoc)
whole pineapple (peeled)
1. Par boil the all the bones and then rinse thoroughly with cool water. If you are using pork hock I would recommend par boiling at least twice and use a little bit of vinegar to get rid of smell.
3. Place clean bones in an 8-10 qt. pot and fill with water.
4. Let pot simmer on low-medium heat. Remove any scum.
5. Char ginger roots and onion (by broiling). Remove charred skin and add to pot.
6. Add lemongrass stalk to pot.
7. Now you’ll want to season your broth with 1/4 cup of salt, 3 tablespoon of mushroom seasoning, rock sugar the size of a knob of ginger, and 1 tablespoon of black pepper. Let everything marry for about 1 hours.
8. Make sure you are checking on the bones/pork hocks. Pork bones cook fast and you’ll want to remove it before it falls apart. I don’t like my pork hock too tender I actually like it chewy. It’s up to you when you feel it’s ready to your liking.
9. Par boil the beef shank and rinse with cool water. Add to the pot. You can add more salt if needed but remember you still have the shrimp paste (mam ruoc).
10. Add the pineapple. Squeeze some of the juice out and then put the whole thing in the pot.
11. Remove the shank when ready.
12. Heat up two tablespoon of vegetable oil on low heat. Add about 4 tablespoon of paprika and chili powder to your liking. Constantly stir so it doesn’t burn. Add to the pot.
13. Heat two tablespoon of vegetable oil on low heat. Add the minced garlic, minced lemongrass, and shallot. Cook until fragrance and then add the fresh chili, and 4 tablespoon of shrimp paste. Cook everything with the oil for a few minutes and then add to the pot.
14. Do last minute seasoning. At this point add fish sauce if needed or you can just add fish sauce to your bowl. Turn heat down to the lowest setting and let it sit until you are ready to eat.
15. Cook noodles, sliced shank, prepare ham, sliced rare beef, and prepare garnish.