Bún Bò Huế – 7 of 365

Bun Bo Hue

Saigon’s District 1 is fast becoming a westernized downtown with skyscrapers, luxury stores and restaurants selling everything from hamburgers to sushi.   While sidewalk chalkboards advertise $7 prix fixe meals at French cafes, truly local street food options become more and more scarce as entire blocks are razed to make room for the next latest and greatest highrise.   You can imagine my excitement that an open fronted street food shop still exists right in the shadows of the curvey 68 storey Bitexco Tower and the nearly completed 39 storey Times Square Saigon tower.

Bún Bò Huế 44 (44 Ngo Duc Ke) seems an authentic enough side street spot for a stop on our Great All Vietnam Food Tour.  Crowds of office workers ensure a high turnover of food and the proper indication this joint has a good enough reputation.  After all we can never be too careful on this journey sampling Vietnam one bite at a time.   Sweet fragrance wafting from the reddish broth bubbling in a giant pot out on the sidewalk competes with suspect Vietnam street odors while the same wheeled metal cart found all over Vietnam houses fish and meat choices just a tad bit too exotic for my tastes.   The bún bò Huế, or beef noodles Hue style, seemed a safe enough choice and a heaping bowl of it arrived within minutes at our Pepsi motif table.

A Tad Too Authentic

Hue cuisine is known for its spiciness, and I had high hopes of a runny nose and sweaty brow as the bowl of noodles and broth arrived before me.   I can’t say this was a mind altering experience but it wasn’t bad either.  Just average.  The soup was something I’d eat again but not something I would necessarily seek out when over 355 more experiences await us.   The same thick ropy noodles found in the Lunch Lady’s selection yesterday form the basis of this dish, but all comparisons stop here.   My bún bò Huế had a taste I couldn’t quite place…almost vinegary yet a little bit tamarindy.   I had read Hue cuisine is fiery but this broth needed sliced Thai chili peppers to kick it up a few notches for the proper level of tongue burning and perspiration.   Some fresh limes piled in a side dish add a little more sour to a liquid giving off just a tiny bit of sweet.

A hunk of pork meat floated in the middle and this wasn’t just any piece of pig.   This baby still had the skin, bones, tendons and fat.   It’s as if the butcher just lopped off a chunk and the cook dropped it right into the cauldron.   In fact the skin seemed to have cooked down to a gelatinous coating grotesquely adhering to the meat.  I understand animal parts add tasty flavor during the cooking process, but in the end my sensibilities are just a bit too western to enjoy hacked up barnyard animal pieces not normally found in the meat case of the Publix back home.

Bun Bo Hue 44 in District 1

I am sure the shop owners are as puzzled as can be why I’d leave behind such a prize piece of skin, bone and fat after handing over about a $1.50 for the pleasure.  Oh well.  How do you say c’est la vie in Vietnamese?  I am sure I’d be just as puzzled when they turn down a chili dog and onion rings and tell everyone back in Saigon how bizarre our cuisine is.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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