So in my version of Bun Bo Hue, I prepared the broth with beef bones, beef shank and pork belly. The tradition Bun Bo Hue also has pork hocks and coagulated blood cubes, but since they are not my cups of tea, I omitted them. Also, instead of the Cha Hue (Hue style pork ham), I made Cha tom (shrimp paste cake) and it's just equally delicious. I will be honest, it won't be an easy process (that's also one of the reason why I haven't cooked this for while), but the ending result is always satisfying and well worth it. All I can say is that I have made my husband a happy man with tonight dinner.
For the broth:
1. 3-4 lbs of beef bones
2. 1 beef shank about 2-3 lbs
3. 1 pork belly about 1.5-2 lbs
4. 6-7 stalks of lemongrass, bruised slightly to release the aroma
5. 1 large onion
6. For the sate sauce: 4tbsp of minced lemongrass, 5 tbsp of mince shallot and garlic, 3 tsp of paprika (ot mau), 3 tbsp of red crushed pepper, 3 tsp of fish sauce, 2 tsp sugar
7. Salt, fish sauce, rock sugar, 2 tbsp of shrimp paste (mam ruoc) mixed with 1 cup of water and set aside.
For the Cha tom (shirmp cake):
1. 1 lb of shrimp
2. 2 tbsp of minced shallot and garlic
3. 2 eggs (reserve 1 egg yolk on the side)
4. 2 tsp of fish sauce, 1 tsp mushroom seasoning, 2.5 tsp sugar, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, black pepper, 2 tbsp of corn starch.
For the noodle:
1. 1 bag of large vermicelli noodle (thick rice noodle), cooked accordingly to the package instruction.
2. Bean sprouts, shredded cabbage, lettuce, Vietnamese mints (rau ram) and mint leaves, shredded banana blossom (optional), lime wedges
3. Chopped green onion, cilantro, thinly sliced white onions.
In a large stock pot, bring the water to boil and add the cleaned beef bones, beef shank and pork belly into the pot. Boil on high heat for about 15 minutes for all the dirty foams to float up on the surface. Turn off the heat and drain it in a colander. Rinse the bones and meat under cold water and remove all the dirty gunk that stick to bones or meat.
In another large pot, bring about 5 quarts of water to boil and slowly add in the cleaned bones and meats. Season with salt, rock sugar and fish sauce and simmer for about 1 hours then add in the whole white onion and lemongrass stalks. At this point, remove the pork belly and set aside until cool to touch then slice it thinly. Continue to simmer the broth for another 2 hours until the beef shank is tender, remove and do the same as for the pork belly. Add the shrimp paste that was mixed with water into the broth and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Make the sate sauce by adding 5 tbsp of cooking oil into a small sauce pan on medium heat, then add minced shallot, garlic and lemongrass into the heated oil. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes to release the fragrant then season with fish sauce and sugar. When the mixture turns caramelized a little, add paprika in stir for 30 seconds and divide the mixture into 2 portions. Add 1 portion into the broth pot, keep the other portion of the sate mixture on the stove and quickly add in the red crushed pepper. Continue to stir for about 10 second and remove from heat, set aside to use later as condiment for the noodle.
To make the shrimp paste, peel and devein the shrimps. Add shrimps and minced shallot, garlic mixture into a food processor and process until the shrimps turn into a smooth, fine paste. Season the shrimp paste with fish sauce, sugar, black pepper then add in eggs, corn starch and mix well. Transfer the paste into a ceramic baking mold and steam for about 30 minutes. Before the shrimp cake is done, brush the surface with the reserved egg yolk and cover lightly for about 5 minutes until it cooked through. Let it cool and slice into 1 inch thick cake.
To prepare the noodle, add the noodle in a bowl, layer with sliced pork belly, beef shanks and 1 piece of shrimp cake. Ladle the hot soup over the noodle, sprinkle with chopped green onions, cilantro and sliced white onion. Before serving, squeeze the lime juice and add the reserved sate sauce into the bowl depend on how much you tongue can take the heat. Serve with fresh vegetables and mint leaves.