Noodles at Bun Bo Hue So 1 – LA
Most people are all about pho at Vietnamese restaurants, but personally, I love bun bo Hue, a spicy, lemongrass flavored rice noodle soup originally from Hue (a capital city in central Vietnam) with sliced beef shank, pigs’ feet, and if you’re lucky, blood cubes. (Coagulated blood is a beautiful thing.) So when I discovered there were two restaurants in Los Angeles named after the dish, I knew I couldn’t leave without eating it at least once. On Day 6, the second to last day in LA, it was all about getting some bun bo Hue.
According to the interwebs, there are two restaurants in Westminster specializing in bun bo Hue, MyLinh’s Bun Bo Hue Restaurant and Bun Bo Hue So 1. Whatever you do, don’t go to MyLinh’s. Why? It’s no longer there. How do I know this? Well, much to David’s annoyance, that’s the first restaurant we drove to, and it’s now a pho restaurant. Fortunately, plan B wasn’t too far away, and within minutes, we arrived at Bun Bo Hue So 1.
Ordering was a no-brainer. I ordered the bun bo dac-biet ($5.35; pictured at the very top) which came with rau ram (Vietnamese coriander), mung bean sprouts, sliced banana flower, and lime on the side. I gave the lime a good squeeze, added a little bit of everything (the banana flower although tasteless had an interesting fibrous texture), and dove right in. It was amazing, in particular, the rich soup redolent of lemongrass. And, yes, it had blood cubes and a good amount of pigs’ feet. Jackpot! Unfortunately, the sliced beef was too tough for my liking, but why bother with beef shank when blood and feet await? If you’re worried the offal might be too overpowering, the beauty of this dish is that the fragrant lemongrass helps counter any funkiness. I can’t say it helped the smell in the restaurant though. Ventilation is somewhat problematic at Bun Bo Hue So 1, and the air was heavy with the smell of fermented shrimp, fish sauce, offal, and long-simmered broth. I didn’t mind, of course, but David found it a tad overbearing.
Not overbearing to the point where he couldn’t enjoy his food, however. David ordered the bun tom nuong ($6.25), cold rice noodles with fresh cucumbers, mung bean sprouts, shredded lettuce, grilled shrimp, mint, and nuoc cham (fish sauce dressing) on the side, and he seemed to enjoy it. The shrimp were springy, the vegetables were crisp, the mint added freshness, and the nuoc cham wasn’t too heavy on the fish sauce or sugar. It was a nice, light dish, quite the opposite of mine, but only slightly less tasty.
We didn’t have much luck on our first attempt, but good things come to those who wait. In this case, in the form of blood cubes or grilled shrimp, whatever your pleasure.
Bun Bo Hue So 1
15450 Brookhurst St (b/n Cunningham & McFadden Ave; map)
Westminster, CA 92683