In the hierarchy of Vietnamese noodle soups, there’s no question that pho—one of the defining dishes of international Orange County—still reigns. But spend time in the teeming noodle houses of Little Saigon, and you’ll begin to eye the steaming, scarlet bowls of bun bo Hue. It hails from the city of Hue in central Vietnam, and is affectionately rustic: chubby tangles of rice noodles, a deli’s worth of beef and pork, a scattering of cilantro, and a restorative broth scented with lemongrass and colored with splashes of chile oil.
Ngu Binh’s bun bo Hue is Little Saigon’s standard-bearer. It’s remarkably meaty: beef as thin as ribbons, a spongy pork loaf, and delicate cubes of pork blood. Ivory rice noodles and shredded banana blossoms float through the broth. Like pho (and indeed many Vietnamese dishes), the soup always arrives with accompaniments. The broth has some spice, but it’s subtle and addictive.
Vua Bun Bo’s rendition benefits from a fatty ham hock: gooey layers of skin and fat concealing hunks of tender meat to swish through the broth. It also offers a side of what the menu calls “bone marrow,” a giant beef bone scattered with just enough slow-cooked meat to make the trouble worth it.
At Bo De Tinh Tam Chay, there’s even a vegetarian version of bun bo Hue. The broth might be filled with spongy cubes of tofu and assorted mock meats, but the soup’s invigorating effect is all the same.
The menu at Vua Bun Bo is small, but the restaurant’s build-your-own spring rolls are wonderful: a downright beautiful display of lettuce, herbs, vegetables, rice noodles, and sheets of roasted pork that you pack and wrap
in sticky rice-paper wrappers.
14092 Magnolia St.,
Vua Bun Bo
9211 Bolsa Ave.,
Bo De Tinh Tam Chay
15352 Beach Blvd.,