Vietnamese-Style Bun Bo

This Vietnamese-style bun bo is a traditional soup made with beef bone broth, vermicelli noodles, and seared sirloin steak that has been marinated in lemongrass, ginger, and fish sauce. Similar to yet distinct from pho, it’s a classic for a reason.

A white bowl of Vietnamese bun bo with bowls of lime, peanuts, chili, basil, and vermicelli noodles on the side.

It’s nice to have all these separate bowls of bits and pieces to set out with your bun bo so everyone can add more or less of something to their bowls of broth if they want. You can also serve some carrot and daikon pickle on the side here along with the other accompaniments.–Tessa Kiros

Vietnamese-style Bun Bo

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 40 M
  • 3 H, 40 M
  • Serves 5
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Ingredients

  • For the beef broth
  • For the marinade
  • For the beef
  • To serve

Directions

Make the beef broth

In a large stockpot over high heat, add the beef bones and just enough water to cover.

Bring to a boil and cook until the impurities come to the surface. Drain, rinse the bones and the stockpot, and return the bones to the stockpot.

Set the stockpot over high heat and add the ginger, star anise, onion, and 3 quarts water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, partly covered, for 3 hours.

Strain through a colander, then strain through a sieve lined with muslin or cheesecloth. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and fish sauce, if desired. You will need about 2 1/2 cups broth.

Tester tip: This makes more broth than you’ll need, which is a very good thing. Stash any remaining broth in the freezer until the next bun bo craving hits.
Make the marinade

In a medium bowl, combine all the marinade ingredients.

Make the beef

Add the steak pieces to the marinade and turn to coat. Let rest at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.

Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain in a colander and rinse with warm water.

In a wok or skillet over medium-high heat, warm 1 teaspoon oil and add the bean sprouts. Stir-fry until slightly wilted, about 90 seconds, then add the soy sauce. Let it bubble up, then transfer to a bowl.

Wipe out the wok with paper towels. Set it over high heat and add 1 teaspoon oil. When hot, add the beef and let it rest against the wok to get a good sear, about 30 seconds. Stir-fry quickly until cooked through, but not overcooked, 60 to 90 seconds more.

Serve

In 5 large, wide bowls, place a small handful of lettuce and other leaves and divide the noodles among the bowls.

Ladle about 1/2 cup hot broth into each bowl and then divide the bean sprouts among the bowls. Pile beef pieces on top and drizzle in any juice from the wok.

Sprinkle over some cilantro and mint leaves and then top with a heaped tablespoon each of crushed peanuts and fried shallots.

Serve immediately, passing fish sauce and soy sauce on the side for those who want a little more saltiness along with the kumquats, if using, chiles, chili sauce, and extra herbs in bowls on the side for diners to add as they wish.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

I love Vietnamese food, which is why I was drawn to make this soup. Bun bo is one of my favorites to order. The marinade for the meat was flavorful and very good. I also liked the idea of using chopped peanuts as a garnish, which I don't usually see as a condiment in Vietnamese soup.

The flavor of the broth was still very delicious although I was expecting the recipe to have the spiciness and lemongrass flavor to which I'm accustomed. I would probably add in the additional pho aromatics, such as coriander and cinnamon stick. The broth could have used maybe some fish sauce.

I used low-sodium soy sauce and Thai basil, cilantro, Vietnamese mint, crushed peanuts, fried shallots, key lime, Sriracha, sambal chili, hoisin, and lime.

This bun bo recipe turned out a fantastic lunch for me and three friends. I already had homemade beef stock on hand so I simmered a quart along with the star anise, onion and ginger for about an hour. The marinade for the steak was just heavenly. The aroma made my mouth water! While the stock was simmering and the meat marinating I prepped the rest of the ingredients.

I used my wok to fry the sliced shallots that I simply dredged in flour. Then I wilted the bean sprouts and cooked the steak. My friends arrived while I was cooking the meat and they were beside themselves with the delicious smells going on. They all jumped in to help plate the toppings, which included roasted peanuts, cilantro, steamed snow peas, lime wedges, fried shallots, red and green hot peppers, and Sriracha sauce. We were all so excited to try this dish. All the chatter quickly turned to slurping, which was a sure sign this bowl of goodness was enjoyed by all. All the different flavors and textures made for a phenomenal experience.

I boiled the rice noodles for about 2 minutes. I used Red Boat fish sauce in the marinade and Thai basil leaves and watercress in the bowl. I got 4 hearty servings.

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