Bún Bò Huế is a spicy Vietnamese noodle soup that is absolutely addictive and one of the best noodle soups in the world. Unlike the ubiquitous, well-loved and well-known pho, bun bo hue is strangely not as popular. But those in the know, know: Bun bo hue is where it’s at.

Any good cook will tell you that homemade soups are a labour of love. They take time and a little bit of effort, but like any thing that is worth waiting for, they are absolutely heartwarming. Soups, especially noodle soups, are my go to bowl of comfort. I love the flavors and combination of textures (solid and liquid, squishy and firm), the slurping, the messiness, the fun, the satisfaction. And if you had to ask me what my all time favorite noodle soup was, I would probably say: bun bo hue.

bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com

When we started going out, Mike told me that bun bo hue was one of his favorite soups growing up. He took us out for a couple of bowls of BBH (as Mike and I lovingly call it) and I was addicted. I’ve been wanting to make BBH ever since.

BBH isn’t quite as popular as pho and I’m not quite sure why. It might be because it’s from Central Vietnam or it might just be because it hasn’t yet made its way into the spotlight. But, if you look for it, you can find BBH specialists. There’s even a place down in San Diego that has a BYOP (bring your own pot) so you can bring home enough BBH for your whole family and then some.

Note: this recipe was first posted in 2014 and has been updated since to our most recent version, if you’re looking for the old version, leave us a note in the comments.

bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com

But wait, what is bun bo hue?

If you’ve never had bun bo hue, think of all the things you love about pho and then increase them by 10. Bun bo hue is pho’s hotter, younger, spicier cousin. They share the same general bones: piping hot flavorful stock, slippery noodles, slices of tender beef, and fresh herbs to punch it up. But, while pho is made with just beef, BBH is made with beef and pork, as well as herbaceous lemongrass and a crazy addictive saté that turns the whole soup a gorgeous golden red.

Bun bo hue Soup

The soup is a fiery orange-red thanks to a spicy red hot chili oil made from two kinds of chilis, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, and fish sauce. The rice noodles, thicker and a different shape than the flat ones in pho, are cylindrical and round, slippery and firm. The brisket is tender and the garnishes add the freshness you expect when eating a bowl of Vietnamese food. It’s spicy, savory, sour and sweet all at once – both balanced and in your face.

bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com

Is bun bo hue #worthit?

The first time I made this was for Mike’s birthday one year and even though it was a lot of work for my inexperienced self back then, the warm cozy comfort of that first sip blew me away. It was totally worth it, and we’ve been making it ever since.

Noodle soup is a gift to yourself and to the ones you love. After all, love is like soup: warm and cozy, nourishing and filling. Love is the crook of your best friend’s arm as you fall asleep at dawn, bursting into laughter together over nothing at all, long lingering walks talking about everything and nothing. Love is noodle soup, the big things, the little things, and everything in between.

Are you convinced? Make this because you love yourself or make it for someone you love. Let’s do this!

bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com

First things first, where is bun bo hue from?

Bun bo hue is a noodle soup from the city of Hue, Vietnam. The name literally means beef noodle soup from Hue. It’s beloved in Vietnam and since its conception has gone from a soup made with solely beef to a beef-based soup with other good things like pork hock and ham added in.

Bun bo hue ingredients

Bun bo hue is made up of three main components: the soup, the satế, and the stuff.

The soup

The stock or soup of bun bo hue is really easy to make, you just need time (or an Instant Pot).

  • Oxtail – Oxtails will give you the perfect combination of meat for beefiness, collagen from the bones for body, and fat for flavor.
  • Brisket – Slow cooking the brisket in the soup will give the soup extra beef flavor and ensure your brisket is fall apart tender.
  • Lemongrass – Lemongrass is one of the main flavors of BBH. Wash, trim, and slightly bruise the stalks by using your hands to break them, kind of like how you would snap a pencil in half. This will help release their aromatic oils into the soup.
  • Shallots – Shallots add a caramel sweetness without adding sugar.

oxtail bun bo hue soup | www.iamafoodblog.com

The satế

The satế, or the chili oil, is the highlight of BBH. It’s garlicky, spicy, and full of lemongrass flavor. If you like Chinese chili crisp, you’ll LOVE satế. It tastes amazing in soup, obviously, but it also tastes great on everything else: meats, eggs, vegetables, toast, you name it, this satế will make it better.

  • Shallot – Shallots are so much better than onions, in my opinion. They’re delicate and sweet with just a hint of sharpness.
  • Lemongrass – Lemongrass makes up the bulk of the satế and adds a fresh herbaceous. Make sure you trim and remove the outer stalks and mince before placing in your food processor. Lemongrass is tough and has to potential to burn out the motor.
  • Garlic – Lots of garlic for that flavor we all know and love.
  • Fresh Thai chilis – This satế uses a mix of fresh chilis and dried so you get the best of both world. If you like spice, you can add extra Thai chilis.
  • Chili flakes – The dried chili flakes add a hint of smokiness and also the ruby-red color. We like to use dried Sichuan chili flakes.
  • Sugar – A bit of sugar balances out and highlights the spice.
  • Fish sauce – A huge hit of umami added the at the end for saltiness and flavor.
  • Shrimp paste – mắm ruốc huế, a bright pink shrimp paste that’s a specialty of Hue adds a HUGE hit of umami and depth of flavor. If you can find it, it will take your BBH to another level. Mike’s parents have fond memories of when the shrimp boats used to come in once a year. They would ferment their own shrimp paste; they still dream about the flavor.

hue shrimp paste | www.iamafoodblog.com

The stuff

aka the fillings aka the toppings aka the good stuff

  • Vermicelli – The rice noodles in BBH are bun, a thick round vermicelli that’s hearty and hefty. The noodles resemble spaghetti but are made of rice flour, like pho noodles. You can find these at your local Asian grocery store.
  • Brisket – After slow cooking the broth, the brisket is cut into tender, thick slices.
  • Beef balls – Bò viên are the Vietnamese beef meatballs that you’ve probably had in pho. They’re firm and chewy and full of beef flavor. You can find them in the refrigerated section of a well stocked Asian grocery store. We like to cut them in half.
  • Vietnamese meatloaf/ham – There are lots of different varieties of Vietnamese meatloaves out there – they’re kind of like mortadella – but the one we like is chả chiên, the deep fried one. It’s porky and smooth, flavored with black pepper and fish sauce.
  • Banana blossoms – Banana blossoms add crunch and a tangy complexity to bun bo hue. This is one of those specialty toppings that is probably going to be hard to find. It’s absolutely authentic and most good Bun Bo Hue restaurants have banana blossoms. They’re not the easiest to prepare, but if you have a decent Vietnamese grocery store around, you can find them there, pre-prepped, in a vacuum sealed bag in the produce department. If you can’t find them, what a lot of restaurants do is serve up thinly sliced cabbage instead.
  • Herbs – Is it even Vietnamese food if there aren’t any herbs?! We always include what’s fresh at the store, in this particular case, we went with mint, sawtooth coriander (ngò gai), cilantro, Thai basil, thinly sliced red onions, and lime wedges.

toppings for bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com

This is not even getting into pork hock, blood cubes, and other fixins that are traditional but probably not accessible to the home cook.

How to make bun bo hue

We like to divide the cooking/prep over two days for a more chill vibes pleasant cooking experience. Once you’ve made the stuff the day before, the next day you can go from hungry to a steaming hot bowl of noodles in no time flat. You’ll have basically created your own little BBH restaurant!

Day 1

  1. Make the soup. Blanch the oxtails, then place in a pot with lemongrass and shallots. Let simmer for 3.5 hours then add the brisket and let simmer for another 2.
  2. Once the soup is done, use a slotted spoon to scoop out the aromatics. Remove the oxtails and brisket and store in an airtight container.
  3. Regarding the oxtail: you can have this as a chef’s treat or you can shred the meat off the bone and have it with your BBH the next day.
  4. Store the soup in a container and pop everything in the fridge.
  5. Make the satế. Use a food processor to blend up the lemongrass, shallots, garlic, and chilis, then heat up the oil and gently cook. Mix in chili flakes, sugar, fish sauce, and fish paste. Let cool then store in an air tight container in the fridge.

sate for bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com

Day 2

Once you have the stock and the satế ready, you’re basically good to assemble!

  1. Prep the herbs: wash and dry the herbs and slice the onion and lime.
  2. Remove the soup from the fridge. Take the brisket out and slice neatly. Slicing the brisket after it chills in the fridge gives you a cleaner cut. Slice the meatloaf/ham and cut the beef balls in half.
  3. Prep your bowls. You’ll need bowls that can generously fit 3 cups of liquid. Fill them up with extra hot tap water and set aside so the bowls can warm up, then drain just before the noodles are done cooking.
  4. Heat up the soup in a pot. When it’s hot, add the brisket, beef balls, and ham and leave it at a bare simmer over low heat. In another pot, bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the vermicelli. When it’s done, rinse, drain well, and divide evenly into the bowls.
  5. Top the noodles with the meats, a scoop of the satế (start with 1 tablespoon, then add extra to taste), then ladle on the hot broth. Garnish with ALL the herbs and enjoy immediately.

bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com

What if I want to make everything in one day?

You absolutely can! Just skip out on the storing the soup in the fridge step and plan your day accordingly: the soup takes 5.5 hours to make.

Stovetop vs Crockpot vs Instant Pot

  • Can you make this with a crockpot? Yes! Blanch the oxtail bones before placing everything in the crockpot (including the brisket) on low for 6 hours.
  • What about the instant pot? Also yes! Again, blanch the oxtail bones, then just put everything in the Instant Pot (including the brisket) on high pressure for 40 minutes, then quick release.

I hope you give this a try and end up loving it. It’s one of our favorite noodle soups. We love BBH so much that we’ll take special side trips to try out well known BBH restaurants. Once our friend even brought us take away BBH from another city! As much as we love BBH out, we love it in more. We can slurp as loud as we like, add ALL the extra satế, and do the toppings just the way we want. Happy noodle souping!

bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com

xoxo steph (and Mike, since this is his very authentic recipe!

bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com

Bun Bo Hue

Bun bo hue is a spicy Vietnamese noodle soup that is absolutely addictive and one of the best noodle soups in the world.
Serves 4
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 5 hrs 30 mins
Total Time 6 hrs

Ingredients

Bun Bo Hue Soup

  • 1 lb brisket
  • 1 lb oxtail
  • 3 stalks lemongrass bruised
  • 2 shallots halved

Satế

  • 3 stalks lemongrass minced
  • 1 shallot roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 4 Thai chilies
  • 1/2 cup neutral oil such as grapeseed or canola
  • 1/4 cup Chinese chili flakes or sub 2-4 Thai chilies
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp shrimp paste mắm ruốc, optional

Assembly

  • 8 beef meatballs halved, bò viên
  • 8 slices Vietnamese ham sliced, chả chiên
  • 14 oz thick vermicelli look for the words Bun Bo Hue
  • 1/4 red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 cup banana blossoms cleaned, trimmed, and sliced
  • 4 stems sawtooth coriander ngò gai
  • 4 sprigs cilantro
  • 4 sprigs Thai basil
  • 4 wedges lime

Instructions

  • Bring a small pot of water to the boil and blanch the oxtails for 5 minutes. Bring a second, larger pot with 8 cups of water to a boil.
    blanching oxtails | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Rinse and transfer the oxtails to the second pot along with the lemongrass and shallots. Simmer on low for 3.5 hours. Add the brisket and continue to simmer for another 2 hours for 5.5 hours total. Use a slotted spoon to remove the lemongrass and shallots. Take the oxtail and brisket out and store in a container. Transfer the soup to another container and put everything in the fridge.
    oxtail bun bo hue soup | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • While the soup is simmering, mince the lemongrass for the satế and transfer it to a food processor along with the shallot, garlic, and Thai chilies. Pulse into a fine paste.
    sate for bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Add the satế paste and fry, stirring, just until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the chili flakes, sugar, fish sauce, and shrimp paste (if using). Let cool then place in a jar or airtight container. The satế will keep in the fridge for up to several weeks.
    sate for bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com

To Assemble

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles according to the package directions, usually 10-15 minutes for properly thick vermicelli. Meanwhile, heat up your bowls by filling with hot tap water. In a second saucepan, combine the soup with enough water to make 8 cups then bring to a low simmer. Slice the brisket and place into the soup to reheat, along with the halved meatballs, and sliced ham. When the noodles are done, drain in a colander, and rinse well with cold water and allow 2-3 minutes to dry.
    noodles for bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Drain your bowls, then divide the noodles evenly between the bowls and top the noodles with the brisket, beef balls, and ham. Scoop on 1-2 tablespoons of the satế depending on your taste for saltiness and spiciness - you can always add more later.
    building a bowl of bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com
  • Ladle on the piping hot broth. Enjoy immediately topped with banana blossoms, sliced onions, sawtooth coriander, cilantro, Thai basil, and lime.
    bun bo hue | www.iamafoodblog.com

Notes

Estimated Nutrition based on approx 1/4 lb of meat total per person

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Bun Bo Hue
Amount Per Serving
Calories 1262 Calories from Fat 353
% Daily Value*
Fat 39.2g60%
Saturated Fat 10.8g68%
Cholesterol 235mg78%
Sodium 1116mg49%
Potassium 980mg28%
Carbohydrates 85.5g29%
Fiber 4.2g18%
Sugar 12.7g14%
Protein 127.9g256%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

More vietnamese food

49 Comments

  1. cynthia says:

    I could not possibly love this post more, Steph. The photos are so vibrant and vivid, your description of bun bo hue is incredible (and made me drool), and your words about Mike just make my heart so full. And that PS!!!! I MELT. You two make me so happy. Thank you so much for making my day brighter :) I need to try BBH sometime soon!

  2. This is one of my comfort foods, especially when it’s pouring and I really want to try Hoai Hue in San Diego. Sounds like a fun place!

  3. LAN says:

    I’m glad you enjoy Bun Bo Hue. It is a favourite breakfast for us to enjoy in every morning. ^^

  4. Linh says:

    In the middle of eating Bun Bo Hue for dinner and wonders what on the blog today…lol

    The photos are absolutely amazing!

  5. YOUR SOUPS ARE KILLING ME! I want them, I want them all!

  6. That glassy rim of orange oil on your soup is so temping. I simply love your photography and I am stunned by how it just better and better with every post.I feel the same way about soups; it is so lovely it has connect you two in such a meaningful way. Thank you sharing such a special moment.

  7. Heather says:

    Oh man, noodle soup is definitely the way to my heart. This would be my dream birthday dinner! I’ll have to look for this in Calgary – we have tons of Vietnamese places so I’m thinking it must be out there somewhere. Also I’m glad I’m not the only one who loves going to grocery stores and looking at food!

  8. omg did you watch Anthony Bourdain’s Part’s Unknown??! Love this noodle!

  9. Eleonor Rose says:

    This looks so delicious :)

  10. Allyn says:

    I was wondering what to make for Christmas day, and this might be perfect. So glorious and delicious.
    Also, I love what you have to say about your husband. When my husband and I were engaged, we had so many married people give us such weird and depressing advice (enjoy it now! once you’re married, the fun part is over), and it really bothered us. Now, having been married for years, I can happily say that getting married to him has made my life a million times better, even during times that life is hard. I think more people need to focus on how great it can really be when you marry your best friend.
    Happy birthday Mike!

  11. Jennie says:

    Oh my gosh, I haven’t had this since I was in Vietnam and now I have the most enormous cravings! Your photographs look amazing. I’m definably going to be trying this recipe – thank you, thank you, thank you! Jennie

  12. Erika says:

    Oh my godness.. this looks incredible!! Love love noodle soup.

  13. Erika says:

    Goodness I mean not godness.. this looks so good I can’t type. LOL

  14. This looks so awesome. Thanks for suggesting Hoai Hue in San Diego. I’m only 12 minutes from it, so I will definitely have to try it out to see what it should really taste like before I attempt.

  15. I love Asian soups. I haven’t tried this one. But I would love to. We have a new Vietamese little restaurant in our little town too. I am going to see if it’s on there.
    But it’s nice to have my OWN recipe.

  16. Alana says:

    So, I’ve never heard of bun bo hue but now I’m obsessed but more importantly, I’m obsessed with you and Mike!! Goodness are you two cute, please wish Mike a Happy Birthday!! BBH is now on my list of things I need to try out soon!!

  17. I’m going to try this – sounds delicious!

  18. Michelle says:

    I’m not a fan of cooking for hours but this recipe would be worth it!!! Can’t say enough amazing things about your blog btw. It’s by far my favorite food blog ever.

  19. Shelly says:

    Yum! I’ve always loved BBH but in Manhattan we can’t get amazing ones like I can find in Cali! This soup is definitely a labor of love but sounds and looks completely worth it! Mike is a lucky man :)

  20. Tatiana says:

    I made this fragrant noodle soup, and it was absolutely delicious. Because of you, I get to experience a preview of Vietnam before I travel there one day, hopefully :o)

  21. grey says:

    bizarre question, but – what grocery store was it?? my husband and i travelling to tokyo in february and i have literally been researching grocery stores as i fully intend to bring back a haul of food!!

  22. Lauren says:

    We recently got back from Vietnam and loved BBH! I’m so glad I found your recipe, since I was wanting to recreate. I am also looking for a good basic Vietnamese cookbook, if you had to pick one, what would you suggest? (I have your cookbook and love it!) Thanks!

  23. NANCY SCHWANKHAUS says:

    IT SOUNDS GOOD BUT YOU CAN ALSO SIMPLIFIY THE RECIPEE BY BUYING A PACKAGE OF READY MADE BUN BO HUE PICES AT THE ORIENTAL GROCERIES. THS FOR THE RECIPE.

  24. Matt says:

    Hoai Hue is my spot by the way, I was so excited when I found good BBH in San Diego. Oh and I always get bun bo without the blood cubes (ick). Thanks for the recipe, might have to try this sometime!

  25. Calvin says:

    Looks really taste. I have a pot on the stove as I’m typing this. I posted a link to this on my blog. Spreading the word about great food!

  26. Charlie Noble says:

    Try Mien Trung over by Kearny High School. They use more lemon grass than Hoai Hue. It’s a little hole-in-the-wall place but they too will sell you a pot to go (sans noodles unless you ask). And like you I never heard of BBH until I met my wife, first-generation VN. Add me to the “just LOVE it” cadre.

  27. Jan says:

    wow, I have to try it out! Thanks!!!

  28. Russ says:

    Where’s the blood cake? Proper Bun Bo Hue has blood cake. My favorite place in Seattle that served it is closed, I’m so sad.

  29. Tamara says:

    This looks absolutely delicious! Hope to try this soon. Mike sounds amazing btw! I hope one day someone takes me to surprise visits to grocery stores!

  30. Eric Koenig says:

    Wow. Just WOW. I could never attempt to cook that due to all the ingredients and equipment needed but I love BBH for sure. In Grand Rapids MI there is a lovely Vietnamese restaurant on Division St. called Mekong which has a Vietnamese menu and a (Vietnamese-influenced) Chinese menu. Whenever I go there they know what I’m going to order — BBH!

  31. Sue says:

    Oh wow! This recipe looks so doable! Definitely going to have to try it out.

  32. Sue says:

    I can’t wait to try this recipe out. Do you have a recipe for bun rieu?

    1. Stephanie says:

      we’re working on it! :)

      1. Sue says:

        oh. i can’t wait! your blog is so addictive. The graphics, images and layout are on point!!!

        1. Winnie says:

          wait** it’s my fav***

  33. James says:

    Good recipe but I found it needed way more fish sauce (salt) then what was in the recipe. Also, I would have skipped the brisket part and if needed added thinly sliced beef (bought at Asian markets for stir fry) instead. The oxtail meat was super tender but the brisket not at all. We added shrimp too and mint as an extra garnish.

  34. mtrinhtrieuan says:

    5 stars
    deliceous!!

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