H-Mart in Burlington and a good homebrew supply shop in Waltham have me making a weekly trip down route three from my home state of NH. Lowell’s Pho 88 gets a lot of love on this board, so I stopped in for a bowl of Bun Bo Hue last weekend. My only previous experience with this dish was at Pho Golden Bowl in Manchester NH, where it seems to be nothing more than a bowl of pho with enough chilis in it to give it some heat and tint the broth red. At Pho 88, the broth is spicy and tremendously complex, with a BIG star anise presence. It tasted like a brothy version of Malaysian dishes like rendang, or curry mee. I loved it. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the pork blood and pig trotter in my soup, which had me suspecting the dumbed-down-for-the-white-guy treatment. I inquired, the waitress asked the kitchen staff, and they claimed that they’d run out of the proper pork parts.
Upon returning home, I immediately hit the internet in search of bun bo hue recipes. To my surprise, none of them described a dish with the flavor profile I’d experienced. The primary flavor component in traditional bun bo hue is, apparently, lemongrass. The whole thing is supposed to be much simpler than the broth at Pho 88. Standard pho broth does have some star anise in it, but I sampled my wife’s bowl of pho dac biet, and the spice proportions were very different from what I was slurping. Any Vietnamese soup experts around here with easy answers?
I'm thinking about returning to Pho 88 tomorrow for mi vit tiem, but I liked so much whatever it is that they served me last week, I may not be able to resist a repeat bowl. This time, hopefully full of offal bits.
1270 Westford St, Lowell, MA 01851
3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803