Hue was the ancient capital of the Nguyen Dynasty who ruled the region from the beginning of the 19th Century until the middle of the 20th. ‘’Ruled’’ is perhaps an exaggeration because the French occupied Indochina during this time. If you book a Vietnam tour, Hue in Central Vietnam is certainly a place to visit. There is much of the old city to see and enjoy. While there it is likely you will discover that the cuisine is a little spicier than many other parts of Vietnam. Bún bò Huế is one of the city’s famous dishes. It is a spicy soup using pork and beef together with noodles primarily.
Its ingredients include congealed pigs’ blood which is prepared by boiling blood in salt. It may not be to everyone’s taste but it is no different to the black pudding so popular in the UK. Once the cooking is complete and it cools, the blood congeals. At a later stage when it is added to the soup, it is cut into small pieces.
Other ingredients in Bún bò Huế include banana flowers, lemon water and of course the meats and noodles and it is regularly eaten with a hot chilli paste. You can add oxtail and spiced sausage to the pork and beef incidentally.
The base of the soup is chicken broth, lemongrass, onions, salt as well as sugar, shrimp paste and fish sauce which is central to so much Vietnamese cooking, especially in Central and South Regions. A variety of herbs are also used; mint, basil, lime, garlic and jalapeno are standard.
Bún bò Huế is fairly easy to make once you have the ingredients. The meats are cleaned and added to the stockpot and boiled. Once cooked, those meats and the variety of spices and herbs are blended together and simmered for up to 3 hours. It is usually easiest to boil the meats on the bone because the meat can then be removed from the bone once it is soft.
The meat is then cut into smaller pieces. The pork blood is added and it is still up to 45 more minutes of cooking for everything with the banana flowers a late addition that adds a certain bitterness to the dish.
This soup is not made quickly. It is not something that you can prepare in a few minutes, even if you have pre-cooked meats. When a mother makes it for her family, she will flavour it to their tastes. So many dishes in Vietnam are served with condiments available to suit the palate. When you taste this soup, you may want to make it hotter by adding a chilli or perhaps cool it down. Choose from the array of condiments you will have put on to the table when you are served.
As you move on during your Vietnam tour, you are certain to remember Bún bò Huế and compare it to other soups you are offered elsewhere in the Country.