Bún bò Huế (Hue Style Beef Noodle Soup)

RECIPE: Bún Bò Huế

Make about 9 quarts of broth 



1 Oxtail, about 3 lbs, ask the butcher to cut into chunks of about 1 inch

1 Beef Shank (bò bắp), about 3 lbs

1-2 Pork Legs, ask the butcher to cut into round chunks of about 1 inch

6 Lemongrass Stalks

3 tablespoons Salt

1/2 tablespoon Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

1 Rock Sugar, about the size of a tablespoon (regular sugar would work too)

For Spicy Chili Sauce

4 tablespoons finely chopped Garlic

1 tablespoon Chili Pepper Flakes

2 tablespoons Paprika

1 tablespoon Cayenne 

1 tablespoon Shrimp Paste (Mắm Ruốc)

1/4 cup Olive Oil

3 tablespoon finely chopped Lemongrass (use white part)

4 Lemongrass Stalks


2 bags of Bún Bò Huế Noodle


Bean Sprout

A bunch of Mint

Banana Blossom, optional

Spring Onion, finely chopped, for garnish

Sweet Onion, thinly sliced, for garnish

Cilantro, finely chopped



Preparing Lemongrass

Cut lemongrass into 2-3 long segments and wash to remove dirt. Use a meat tenderizer to smash the lemongrass to release the fragrance.  Set aside.


Preparing the Meat

Rub some salt on the oxtail, beef shank and pig feet.  Wash and rinse.

As for the pork leg, beside rubbing with salt, I also use a knife to scrape the pork's skin thoroughly.  In a small pot bring water, a dash of salt, and half of an onion to a boil. Add pork legs and bring to a boil again.  This process is to eliminate the odor on the pork's skin.

Cook for about a couple minutes. Remove from heat. Wash and rinse. Set aside.


Simmering the Meat

In the meantime, in a large stockpot, bring water, lemongrass, oxtail, and beef shank to a boil and add pork leg when it's done with blanching.

Lower heat and let it simmer. Make sure to skim the surface to remove fat and other residue. Occasionally stir from the bottom of the pot. 

In about an hour, remove the pork leg and oxtail from the broth to prevent them from being overcooked.

Let it cool down and cover it up to prevent it from turning dark. Set aside.

Continue simmering the beef shank for another hour or until soft.


Sauteing Seasoning

In the meantime, bring a large pan to a medium heat.  Add oil. Once the oil is hot, add garlic, chopped lemongrass, and lemongrass stalks.  Saute until fragrant.

Set lemongrass stalks on one side of the pan.  Add paprika, cayenne, chili pepper flakes, and shrimp paste on the other side with the remaining sauteing ingredients. (I find it easier to mix these ingredients together without the lemongrass stalks mix in). Mix it well and set it aside.  Do not saute these peppers too long as it will become burnt and bitter.

If you can't take the heat, add less cayenne and chili pepper flakes or leave out both cayenne and chili pepper flakes. Paprika is the least spicy and is often used to enhance the color. This gives the broth its rich, beautiful reddish color.


Preparing Vegetables and Herbs

Lettuce - wash and cut into half an inch thick. 

Mints - pluck the leaves, and rinse.

Bean Sprout - wash, set aside

Banana Blossoms - In a large bowl, mix water with lime juices (about 3 limes).  Remove and discard the outside layer of the banana blossom leaves that are wilted.  Slice banana blossom thinly.  Soak sliced banana blossoms in the lime water mixture for at least 5 minutes.  The lime juice will prevent the banana blossoms from turning brown.

Rinse with with cold water.  Set aside.

In a bowl, mix green onion, onion, and cilantro.  Set aside.


Cutting the Beef Shank

Once the beef shank is soft, remove it from the broth.  Let it cool down before slicing.  Cut beef shank into slices. I actually prefer to slice beef shank about 1/4 inch thick as the meat will not dry as quickly as the thin slices that you usually see at the restaurants. You can also taste the juiciness and flavor of the meat when you bite into it.


Making the Noodle

Click here for fresh homemade noodle recipe.

If using dried noodle, soak noodle in water while waiting for a pot of water to boil. Place noodle and a teaspoon of salt in the boiling water and bring it back to boil.

Reduce the heat to medium. Make sure to stir the noodle time to time so it won't stick to the bottom of the pot. Give it a taste to see if the noodle is soft enough. It should be ready in about 10 -15 minutes. Rinse it with cold water and drain.


Cooking the Broth

Remove the lemongrass from the broth and discard.  Fill the broth pot with more water to make 9 quarts.  Add sauteed lemongrass stalks and bring it back to a boil.

Place the meat back into the broth pot.  Add salt, sugar, MSG and the sauteed ingredients.  

Continue simmering for another half an hour.  


Presentation of Bún Bò Huế

In a serving bowl, place noodle; top with beef, oxtail, pig feet; ladle the broth over; garnish with assorted herbs and onion.

Serve immediately with a dish of vegetables, lemon wedges, and fermented shrimp paste (mắm ruốc).

I like to dip the meat in my "specialty" dipping sauce while eating the noodle soup. To make the dipping sauce, in a sauce plate, add a bit of shrimp paste, a teaspoon of broth and chili sauce then squeeze a little bit of lemon juice. Mix it up. Voila!