Bun Bo Hue

Bun Bo Hue (Spicy Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)

Bun Bo Hue is a spicy Vietnamese Beef Noodle soup that is not quite as popular as Pho but should not be overlooked! This noodle soup is beefy, spicy & has a robust broth. If you love Pho and you love a bit of spice then definitely give Bun Bo Hue a try.

Bun Bo Hue is a hidden gem noodle dish that everyone must try whenever they visit a Vietnamese restaurant. To me, this is the ultimate Vietnamese noodle soup. Every restaurant has their own spin to it, no two restaurants tasted exactly the same but one thing they all have in common is the robust spicy broth. Think Pho on Crack. Seriously.

Traditionally, Bun Bo Hue is served with coagulated pig blood cubes. I chose to omit this because I personally find it doesn’t add much flavour. However, if you are a traditionalist then yes, go nuts and add it! 🙂 A friend gave me a tip that they should be added at the very end so they don’t become rubbery – something to think about if you’re feeling adventurous if you’ve never tried it. 🙂

For my recipe, I also added star anise and kaffir lime leaves. Again, not in traditional Bun Bo Hue recipes but this really gives the soup a wonderful layer of flavor.

I added kaffir lime leaves for that boost in freshness and again added another layer of flavour. To me, it’s essentially lemongrass on steroids. If you are a traditionalist, you can choose to omit the star anise and kaffir lime leaves but add more lemongrass to compensate for the missing flavours.

Simplifying Bun Bo Hue

This recipe is a labour of love. It takes many hours and a lot of ingredients to make a full-bodied beef broth. The good news is, you can still enjoy this if you don’t have the time to make the broth – just use a good quality ready-made beef broth and cook it with the bun bo hue spices in the ingredient list below. It won’t be as full-bodied or rich from the pork hock’s gelatin but you can still get a quick and delicious brothy noodle with the bun bo hue aromatics in a pinch! 🙂


For this bun bo hue recipe, the list of ingredients may be intimidating and hefty, but trust me – it’s actually not that bad. 🙂 Most ingredients will be found at an Asian grocery store.

Broth Ingredients

For the meats, I find that it is quite tricky to find beef shank at my local grocery store and it can only be found at an Asian grocery store. If you can’t find it, you can substitute this with beef brisket. It has the same beefy flavour and has a similar texture when sliced up thinly – just make sure you remove any excess fat from it since beef shank is quite lean.

I used pork hocks because I can use it both for the broth and eat it with the noodles afterwards since it doesn’t dry out from the long cooking time.

I used beef bones in this broth for a more robust flavour.

I used yellow rock sugar for this recipe because it is less sweet and gives the soup a silky texture. If you can’t find rock sugar, you can substitute it with brown sugar.

Kaffir lime leaves and star anise is not traditionally in Bun Bo Hue but they give the broth an additional layer of flavour. If you’re a traditionalist, omit it – else I highly recommend adding it in!

Spicy Sate Chilli Sauce Ingredients

Tweak the amount of chili flakes to increase or reduce the spiciness. I found 2 tablespoons gave it a mild/medium spiciness.

For this recipe, I used fish sauce and shrimp paste. That stuff is potent and stinky. 😛 Don’t be turned off by it. It is absolutely delicious in the broth and gives it a huge umami boost. If you don’t want to stink up the house, I would add it in the broth directly instead of toasting it with the sate oil at the end.

Annatto seeds are used to mostly make the oil red in color.

Noodles & Meats

For the meats, you can use the pork hocks and beef shanks for some extra bits to eat with the soup after it has flavored the broth. Yes! Double duty!

I used a Vietnamese pork sausage, which you can find at an Asian grocery store. It comes packaged as a hunk in the refrigerator and is already pre-cooked. There are many types of sausages so I went with the Cha Lua, which is the most common one. Depending on where you get the sausage, it may come wrapped in a banana leaf. Discard the leaf and thinly slice it before adding it to the noodle bowl at the end.

For the noodles, go for the round rice noodles (not the flat ones used in Pho or Pad Thai). They look like spaghetti but white. They come in many thicknesses but Bun Bo Hue usually uses the thicker ones, however, switch it up to find your favorite! Try to find noodles that only contain rice and water as the ingredients.

Additional Toppings & Garnishes

This is the fun part! Experiment with your garnishes! A few ideas and things I commonly use are:

  • Thai Basil (or mint)
  • Green Onions (finely chopped)
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Lime Wedges
  • Bird’s Eye Chilli
  • Thinly Sliced Onions
  • Deep Fried Onions or Shallots
  • Thinly sliced Banana Blossoms
  • Cilantro
  • Thinly Sliced Red Cabbage


After that doozy of an ingredient list, I myself would be intimidated to make this but I swear it’s not complicated! 🙂 It just takes a bit of time, and if you haven’t started running yet – let’s get started. To keep me on track I like to break it down into 3 parts.

Part 1 : Making the Broth


To make a clear, clean broth it is crucial to clean out the meats we are working with before making the actual broth. Running with water doesn’t really do much when it’s raw so to clean out the blood and guck we will need to boil all the meats in COLD water for about 20 minutes. I use cold water so that the water slowly heats up which releases the blood and fats slowly. If you add the meat into hot water, the blood will instantly seize up and you won’t get as much as the gross bits out. Once you have finished boiling out the impurities, discard the water and clean out the pot and put the meat back in.


Got frustrations? Now’s your chance to beat them out! 😉 To release the lemongrass oils from the lemongrass, whack it a few times with a blunt object. (Use only the bottom parts of the lemongrass and not the dry tips.) We want to easily fish out the spices after broth is done so keep things as whole as possible.

Put all the broth spices in the pot, add in the water in and cook it for about 1.5 hours. Remove the beef shank and set it aside covered for later. Continue to cook the broth for another 1.5 hours for a total of 3 hours.

Note: Making this soup is a labour of love so feel free to double the amount to make more to freeze. If you choose to freeze the broth, don’t put the Sate sauce in it until you are ready to eat it. The Sate sauce takes 5 minutes to make, and doesn’t really freeze well.

Part 2 : Making the Spicy Sate Chilli Sauce

To make the sate chilli sauce, start off by heating up the oil in a pan and then adding the annatto seeds in. Once the oil is red, discard the annatto seeds and add the rest of the spices and chilli in and cook it in the red oil. When it is done, add it to the broth.

Danger! Let the oil cool before adding it to the broth so you don’t splatter it everywhere.

Important Note: The color of the oil comes mainly from the annatto seeds. Be careful of getting this oil on your clothes (especially light colored clothing), it can stain your clothing a pee pee yellow color.


Part 3 : Prepping the Noodles and Meats & Building your Bun Bo Hue bowl

Make the noodles according to the instructions on the package. I always preach to never boil your noodles if you can avoid it but with thicker round rice noodles, there’s no way around it. To prevent the noodles from being soggy and over cooked I usually, cook it with a low rolling boil and subtract 1 minute from the instruction time and do a taste test to see if it is i the right texture. (You want it springy with a bit of bounce). If its still hard in the middle, I keep it in for another minute and test again. Rinse the noodles under cold water to remove the extra starch and to cool down the noodles to stop the cooking process.

Slice up the meats – the beef shank, Vietnamese sausage and pork hocks and place it in a bowl with the noodles and add in the broth and you’re done!

Add in the additional toppings and garnishes right before eating! 🙂



I’m serious! This stuff is Pho on crack! 😉 You’ll never go back once you’re hooked on this.


Bun Bo Hue is a Vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup packed with flavour. If you love Pho, and you love a bit of spice the definitely give Bun Bo Hue a try.


  • 1 1/2 lbs beef bones

  • 1 1/2 lbs pork hocks cut into smaller pieces (ask your butcher to cut it for you)

  • 1 lb beef shank (or beef brisket)

  • 12 cups water

  • 1 onion

  • 4 stalks lemongrass

  • 1–2 whole star anise (optional, but highly recommended)

  • 1 yellow lump rock sugar (3cmx2cm, or 2 tablespoons brown sugar)

  • 4 slices ginger

  • 3–4 cloves garlic (whole)

  • 5 kaffir lime leaves (optional, but highly recommended. Double the lemongrass stalks if you skip this)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons shrimp paste (tweak up for a more flavourful broth)

  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce (tweak up, for a more flavourful broth)

  • salt to taste (start with 1/4 tablespoon of salt and add up if you want it more salty)

  • 7 tablespoons oil (flavourless oils like canola, vegetable, peanut)

  • 1 tablespoon annatto seeds

  • 2 tablespoons chili flakes (add more to make it more spicy, less to make it less spicy)

  • 1 tablespoon lemongrass (finely minced)

  • 2 cloves garlic (finely minced)

  • 3 shallots (finely minced)

  • 1 package thick round rice vermicelli noodles (thick like spaghetti)

  • 1 package Vietnamese pork sausage (Cha Lua)

  • Cooked beef shank from the broth (sliced)

  • Cooked pork hocks from the both

  • Thai Basil (or mint)

  • Green Onions (finely chopped)

  • Bean Sprouts

  • Lime Wedges

  • Birdseye Chilli

  • Thinly Sliced Onions

  • Deep Fried Onions or Shallots

  • Thinly sliced Banana Blossoms

  • Cilantro

  • Thinly Sliced Red Cabbage

  1. In a large pot, add cold water into it and add all the meats.

  2. Set the stove to medium, to medium high heat and boil for 15-20 minutes until you see all the gross bits and frothy blood on the surface of the water.

  3. Discard the water and clean out the pot.

  4. Using your fingers, gently clean the meat off with water and remove any scum residue.

  5. Add the meat back into the clean pot

  6. Remove any dried outer leaves from the lemongrass and cut off the dried tips at the top. We want to keep the bottom 2/3 of the stalk. With a blunt object, smash the lemongrass stalks to release the oils. Keep the lemongrass intact and add to the pot

  7. Peel the onion and cut it in half, peel the garlic and keep it intact so you can easily fish it out later when the broth is done. Put them in the pot.

  8. Add in the ginger slices, sugar, lime leaves, star anise into the pot

  9. Add in 12 cups of water and set the heat to medium low and keep it at a low rolling boil.

  10. Mix the shrimp paste with 1/4 cup of water and add it into the pot.

  11. Add in the fish sauce (add in half the amount of fish sauce first and then do a taste test to make sure it is not overly salty. If it needs more salt, add in the rest of the fish sauce.

  12. Set a timer for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

  13. You can make the sate chili sauce while you are waiting for the broth to cook and add it into the broth as soon as the sauce has cooled. (Sate Chili Sauce steps below)

  14. Once 1 hour and 30 minutes passes, remove the beef shank and set it aside covered for use later

  15. If your broth reduced a lot, add 2-3 cups of water back to the broth

  16. Set the timer for 1 hour and 30 minutes again and cook the broth for a total of 3 hours. It doesn’t hurt to cook this more than 3 hours though! 🙂

  17. When the broth is done, discard the lime leaves, ginger, garlic, lemongrass, star anise and onion

  18. Do a taste test of the broth, to make sure it has enough salt. Add additional fish sauce to the broth for more flavour.

  19. Remove the pork hock and beef bones and set it aside covered for use later

  20. In a sauce pan, set the stove to medium heat and add in the annatto seeds and stir it for 3-5 minutes until the oil turns a bright red color. Discard the annatto seeds

  21. Add in the chili flakes, lemongrass, garlic and shallots and toast it in the oil for 10 minutes

  22. Turn off the heat and let the oil cool

  23. Once the oil has cooled, add it to the broth

  24. Make the noodles according to the package. To ensure you have springy bouncy noodles and not over cooked mushy noodles, subtract 1 minute from the directions and try the noodles. If the noodles are still hard in the center, add 1 more minute to the cooking time and taste test again

  25. Run the noodles under cold water once it is done cooking to remove the extra starches and to stop the cooking process.

  26. [Optional] I like to mix 2 teaspoons of oil into the noodles while I am running cold water through it to prevent them from sticking together later on

  27. Thinly slice the beef shank, Vietnamese sausage (discard the banana leaf if it’s wrapped in it) and chop the pork shank and add it all to the bowl

  28. Add in the noodles and the broth

  29. Add in garnishes and toppings and enjoy hot! 🙂

  • Be careful with light coloured clothing around the oil after you infuse the annatto seeds into it and it turns red. It may dye your clothing.

  • This recipe doubles, triples, quadruples well. You can make a big batch and freeze it for another day. Just make sure not to add the Sate Chilli Mix into the broth, that doesn’t freeze well. Make the Sate Chilli Mix, fresh the day you want to have it. It only takes a few minutes.

  • Serving Size: 1 Serving

  • Calories: 1801 kcal

  • Sugar: 20 g

  • Sodium: 2689 mg

  • Fat: 116 g

  • Carbohydrates: 136 g

  • Protein: 72 g

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Bun Bo Hue (Spicy Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup)