Beef Sessions #1: Bun Bo Hue – Vietnamese Spicy Beef & Pork Lemongrass Soup

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Most of you are familiar with Pho as a delicious, meaty, brothy Vietnamese dish that you can find at pretty much every Vietnamese restaurant in America, and on every street corner in Vietnam. But have you heard of Bun Bo Hue? It’s another big bowl Vietnamese soup, but this time add a kick of chili peppers, trade lemongrass in for anise, and add in some pork alongside the beef for a very different steaming bowl of goodness! To help break it down:

  • Bun – rice noodles
  • Bo – beef
  • Hue – The city of Hue

So I guess the dish’s name leaves out some of the feature ingredients…but I guess Bun Bo Heo Xa Gung Hanh Hue was way too long! The most traditional versions of this dish are also served with pork  hocks & blood jello, but I’m opting to leave them out of my version b/c I don’t really like either of those additions.

This soup hails from the central region of Vietnam, in the city of Hue, which is known for its spicier food, so watch out for the SPICE!!!  The recipe is my mom’s with some tweaks by me to bring a little bit bolder of a flavor. The soup dressings listed below are all fresh veggies that provide a really nice crunchy fresh texture to contrast with all the bold flavors in the broth.

This dish takes a bit of work, but it is SO worth it when you’ve got that fresh steaming bowl in front of you and ready to jump in your belly!

Servings: 8-10

Ingredients:

Broth:

  • 2 lbs beef (I used Beef Shank and Rump Roast. Brisket would work great too)
  • 1 lb pork butt roast
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 inch piece of ginger
  • 6-8 stalks of lemongrass
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 10-20 dried hot chilis
  • 3 TB dried chopped onion
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 3 tb paprika
  • 1 tb cayenne

Soup Dressings:

  • Banana flower (optional) or cabbage
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 bunches green onions.
  • bean sprouts
  • Bunch cilantro
  • Fresh basil
  • lime wedges
  • rice noodles (There are ones specifically labeled for Bun Bo Hue)

Steps:

1.  Get your 2 biggest pots, fill them with 3/4 of the way with water, and heat up to boiling.

2.  While waiting for the water to boil, char the onion & ginger and add to the bigger pot.

3.  Take each lemongrass stalk and smash the root end of each stalk. This helps release the flavors! Cut each stalk into 3rds and add to the bigger pot as well.

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4.  Once the smaller pot is boiling, take each whole piece of meat and place it in the smaller pot to quickly blanch the meat and help remove some of the gunk. Cook each piece about 1-2 minutes and remove it and place it into the larger pot, which should be boiling by now. Repeat with the rest of the beef & pork. Dump out the smaller pot, as you are done with it now.

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5.  Add 1 TB of salt & 3 TB of sugar to the broth pot. Heat up til boiling and then turn the heat down to medium low and let simmer for 45 min.

6.  While the broth is cooking, thinly slice the banana flower or cabbage and red onion. Chop the green onion.

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The whole flower

Slice it in half first

All those lil buds become bananas!

Drinking wine helps the process!

7. Place the sliced banana flower into a bowl of water with a lemon squeezed in. This will keep the flower from browning. Place the red & green onion in a container for storage.

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Pretty!!!

8.  After 45 min, remove the pork from the broth and set it in a bowl of cold water to cool off.

9.  Continue cooking the beef for another 30-45 min until it is tender and then remove from the pot.

10.  At this point, you can strain the soup. I do this by placing a cheese cloth (or paper towel) over a colandar on top of another pot and CAREFULY pouring the broth through. This will strain out any gunk floating around. Quickly rinse out the broth pot and pour the strained broth back in. Heat everything up again to medium high. Add the chicken broth. Cook about 15 min.

11. While the broth is cooking, mince the garlic.

12.  Taste the broth and add more fish sauce, salt and/or sugar to taste and keep on medium low.

13.  In a small saucepan, heat up 2 TB of olive oil. Add the minced garlic and dried chopped onion and fry til just turning golden. Add the dried hot chilis, paprika, and cayenne. Turn off the heat and stir all together to form a spicy chunky paste.

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14.  Scoop about 1/2 the the paste and put it directly into the broth and let it all mingle together. If you want to try this soup w/out the spiciness add a little less of the spicy paste. Let the broth stay warm on low. At this point, you can choose to refrigerate the broth overnight and eat it the next day. I find this makes the flavors MUCH more intense, but the soup will still be yummy right now.

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15.  Take all the meat and thinly slice it. The shank meat has lots of tendon, so make sure you slice across the grain.

16.  In a sauce pan, heat up a little bit of olive oil and add some slices of meat, some of the spicy paste, and splash of the broth and quickly stirfry the meat. This infuses the meat with some of that spiciness. Repeat until all the meat has been stir fried.

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17.  Cook the bun bo hue noodles according to the package. They are done when you can pinch the noodle and it breaks. Rinse thoroughly with cold water.

18.  When you are ready to serve, heat the broth to medium high/boiling. Place the banana flower, bean sprouts, cilantro, lime wedges and basil on a plate on the table.

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19. Prepare a large bowl with about 1 cup rice noodles and 6-8 slices of beef and/or pork. If the noodles and meat are cold, heat up for 1 min in the microwave. Add a splash of fish sauce, some thinly sliced red onions and a sprinkle of chopped green onions. If someone wants more spicy at this point, add a little bit of the spicy paste direclty into the bowl. Ladle the hot broth over the bowl until it is filled up. Add a dash of black pepper and serve.

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20.  Your guests should liberally add the sliced banana flower & other herbs/dressings to the bowl and mix all together and devour!

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*Note – Over the next few weeks, expect to see a lot of delicious BEEF recipes here at Cookie Loves Eating, sponsored by the Texas Beef Council! There will be 4 sessions total, so get ready to get BEEFY with me!!

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