Vietnamese Hue Noodle Soup

February 27, 2011

Somewhat recently, I discovered Vietnamese Pho and its cousin Hue.  There are a number of restaurants in town that dedicate almost their entire menu to these hot and spicy soups.  At first, they seemed so exotic and indulgent with the fresh bean sprouts and peppers topping the hot rich broth perfumed with fresh basil or cilantro. When I first made the soup myself though, I realized how incredibly simple and healthy they are.  A few simple fresh ingredients come together with some basic Asian cooking staples: rice noodles, fish sauce, and sambal oeleck.  The result is a hot and spicy nourishing soup.

To speed up cooking time, consider cooking the broth and meat in a pressure cooker.  In just ten minutes, the meat is cooked to an almost divine tenderness.  You save time and energy, and the dish is possibly more delicious than the traditional method of slow simmering.

This recipe for Vietnamese Hue Noodle Soup is incredibly versatile.  Feel free to substitute chicken or even tofu for the beef (and decrease the cooking time).  The garnish is also very adaptable.  We have an uncommon fondness for cabbage, so that is our go-to condiment, but that can be replaced with bean sprouts as well.  Trade the fresh hot peppers for dried chilies if you prefer.  If you do not have lime on hand, give the soup a splash of rice vinegar at the end to add the bright acidic finish.  This soup is very good, one of our favorites. Try it and let me know what you think!

Vietnamese Hue Noodle Soup

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Serves 6

the Broth

3 lemongrass stalks (bottom 3 inches only)
1 lb chuck roast or boneless short ribs, cut into small chunks
2 quarts chicken broth (preferably home-made)

Remove the tough outer leaves of the lemongrass.  Thinly slice the tender inner leaves.  Bring the broth to a boil.  Add the lemongrass and beef.  Partially cover and simmer until meat is very tender, 30-45 minutes.

Alternatively, use a pressure cooker and cook for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and allow pressure to reduce on its own.

Using a slotted spoon, remove beef and set aside.  Cool broth and skim off fat.  Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any particulates.

Note: This step can be made up to one day in advance.  Cover and refrigerate both the broth and the beef.

the Soup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cups onions, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tablespoons sambal oelek
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nuoc nam or nam pla)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a large pot.  Add the onions and garlic.  Cook for 2 minutes until soft, but not browned.  Add sambal oeleck and paprika, cook for 1 minute.  Add broth, beef, fish sauce, and sugar.  Bring to a simmer.  Season with salt to taste.

the Garnish

1 8.8-ounce package dried thin rice noodles (vermicelli-style)
6 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 cups thinly shredded cabbage
1/2 cup cilantro or basil leaves
2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges

Heat 1½ quarts of water to boiling.  Place rice noodles in a large bowl or pot.  Pour boiling water over the noodles.  Allow noodles to sit in hot water for 1-2 minutes until just softened.  Drain and set aside.

Place rice noodles in each individual bowl, ladle soup over the noodles.  Serve with a plate of garnish for each person to add to their liking.

Here is a printer-friendly version of the recipe: Vietnamese Hue Noodle Soup

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3 Responses to “Vietnamese Hue Noodle Soup”

  1. Naomi Says:

    Karen, this soup was excellent! We just made it last night after I collected some of the ingredients and we loved it!!! I have to say the peppers were hot :)) but I added a couple veggies and we will definitely make it again!

    • Karen Says:


      I’m so glad to hear you liked the soup. Yes, the peppers can be quite spicy, they actually vary quite a bit from pepper to pepper. We had some screaming hot ones last time too.

  2. […] Vietnamese Hue Noodle Soup […]

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