| Menus |

Bun Bo Hue Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

There's so much more to explore and understand about Vietnamese cuisine than banh mi and pho. The regional differences in the north, central and southern regions of Vietnam mean that there are foods at which each region excels.

The north is known for being a bit cleaner and saltier. Dishes like bun cha Hanoi, or rice vermicelli with a a side dish of grilled pork and patties in fish sauce, originated in the capital of the north. The south is known for making everything a bit sweeter, like their take on ca kho to, or caramelized catfish in clay pot. And the central region, also known as Hue, is most famous for bun bo Hue, or Hue region beef noodle soup.

Bun bo Hue is a deep-flavored, spicy noodle soup with larger vermicelli noodles, almost like udon. It's made with beef shank, pork hocks, lemongrass and a myriad of other spices which are a total mystery to me. It's a difficult dish to perfect, and I remember what a big deal it was growing up when someone made it well. As a result, whenever I hear of new place that makes decent bun bo Hue, I always make a point of trying it out.

In the far right corner of the Hong Kong City Mall IV, a new restaurant called simply Bun Bo Hue (11209 Bellaire Blvd) quietly opened with little fanfare about two months ago, and when you go there, they'll tell you before you sit down that they only serve two things: bun bo Hue and rice with chicken.

I've gone twice in the last two weeks, trying their $5 small bowl and their $7.50 large bowl, just to see the difference. The soup was consistently good on both occasions and there's little difference between the two sizes other than the fact that the bowl is larger and you get more noodles and meat.

Whether large or small, each bowl comes with a generous helping of sliced beef shank, a Vietnamese bologna-type processed meat called gio, one pork hock, and a side dish of fresh lime, cabbage, banana flower and mint, which you can add to taste. It typically comes with some congealed pork blood cubes as well, but I've never been able to enjoy this, so I asked them to hold it.

The soup is richly flavored with a touch of spice. If it's poorly made, the broth can taste gamey, but here the flavors are correct without that heavy gamey taste. Some places will make it too spicy at the onset, but here, you can add spice to taste. On the first occasion, when I visited at around 2 p.m., I found the broth a bit on the salty side, but with a squeeze of lime and the addition of cabbage and mint, the saltiness was adequately tempered.

On my second visit at around 11:30 a.m., the broth was perfectly seasoned, and this makes sense. Small places like this - barely more than a hole in the wall - make a big pot at the beginning of the day and continue to serve from it until it's gone. Toward the end of the day, the broth will be saltier as the water evaporates away.

The flavors here are solid. With a dearth of good places for really good bun bo Hue in Houston (the best I've had is homemade at someone's house), it's a good place to give authentic Hue region-style food a try. Cash only.

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.