In Huế Town, Việt Nam’s former capital, two bun bo restaurants that stand next to each other on Lý Thường Kiệt Street (No. 17 and 19) are favored by tourists.
Not surprisingly, residents are spoilt for choice.
They can take their pick from a wide range of eateries, from posh ones to cheap ones to street stalls and even boats during the flooding season.
Most bun bo sellers are open for business in the morning only, as if the soup were a breakfast staple.
The intersection of Trương Định and Phạm Hồng Thái streets is a bún bò hotspot with many famous family-run restaurants named after their owners – Bà (Ms.) Sen, Bà Thúy, Bà Lợi, and so on.
Then, there are crowded restaurants on the southern banks of the Hương (Perfume) River like Phượng (Nguyễn Khuyến Street), Thủy, Bà Tuyết, Bà Mỹ (Nguyễn Công Trứ Street) and Cẩm (Trần Cao Vân Street).
In Vỹ Dạ Ward, along Nguyễn Sinh Cung Street, there are two popular street vendors – Bà Lan and bà Đỗ, who can be easily found thanks to giant trees that host them.
If you love gnawing meat from beef bones, visit bún bò sellers in the area where Nguyễn Lương Bằng and Tố Hữu streets intersect.
And if you prefer lean meat and tendon, sellers along Lê Duẩn Street is the place to go.
On the river’s northern bank, bún bò sellers on Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Nguyễn Thiện Thuật, Nguyễn Trãi, Lê Thánh Tôn and Phan Đăng Lưu streets are also well known.
In the old Gia Hội neighborhood, Mệ Kéo – a stall on Bạch Đằng Street near Gia Hội Bridge – has retained its popularity for many years.
Its specialty is bún thịt ba chỉ, in which bún bò is served with pork side meat.
A bowl of this tasty soup is priced at VND15,000 which is the same as it was years ago.
Although Huế people rarely have bún bò in the afternoon, in recent years, some sellers have switched to remaining open late, even at night, to serve tourists and locals who want to have a nighttime meal before going to bed.
These late sellers can be found along Hà Nội Street and some of the famous restaurants are Mỹ Tâm, bà Gái, and bà Hoa.
In short, there is high bún bò diversity in Huế, catering to different tastes.
The tip is to choose those establishments which are crowded with local people, and when placing your order, do not forget to tell them how spicy and fatty you like for your bún bò.
Mệ Kéo, a bún bò stall that has retained its popularity for many years in Huế
My friend, a Việt kiều who hails from Huế, once treated me to her home-made bún bò which totally surprised me.
Unlike all the bún bò I’d had until then, the spicy beef rice vermicelli soup served to me that day did not have chả cua (crab paste), chả (Vietnamese pork sausage), or pork blood pudding, but pork trotters and beef shank as its only toppings.
It was eaten with a few leaves of rau răm (Vietnamese coriander), a few slices of onions, some shredded banana flowers, fish sauce, lime and chili sauce.
There was no water spinach, leafy vegetables or bean sprouts that are common accompaniments of the dish.
“This is how the original bún bò Huế was.”
My friend told me.
Roi, who has sold bún bò for 40 years in Huế, also spoke to me about the dish’s originality.
“The old and current versions of bún bò are different in terms of ingredients, spices and accompanying vegetables.”
She said the dish now has many toppings, but originally it only had one cut of pork trotter, or pork side, and slices of beef shank.
Its full name is bún bò – giò heo (pork trotters), but now people call it just bún bò, Roi said.
Unlike its cousins in other places, bún bò in Huế is truly spicy and less sweet.
The spiciness comes from not only the extract of lemongrass and chili added to the broth to make it red, but also chili sauce and chili pieces in fish sauce.
Not to mention the chili powder that sellers habitually add to the bowl of bún bò before serving customers.
Source: Tuổi Trẻ News / Thanh Niên News