Bun Bo Hue vs Pho, what is the difference and can you get it in Phnom Penh? Strolling around by the riverside and Royal Palace areas of Phnom Penh you are treated to some seriously good street food. One of the things that make Phnom Penh particularly special is the array of foods from other places you can get. Vietnam being case in point.
Cambodians might not have a lot of love lost for the Vietnamese, but they sure do like its food. On this particular night I was to discover banh trang nuong da lat, a kind of rice cake burrito, and bun bo hue.
Street Food by the riverside
I’ve waxed lyrical a lot about my love of the street food of Phnom Penh, but there is one particular street that is pretty impressive. 3 streets back from the riverside, nearly the girly bar area is a whole street just brimming with street food. I have had some of the best chicken BBQ, oysters and Khmer beef that I have ever had here. It was here that I saw a sign saying Bun Bo Hue. Asked my Khmer friend what it was and was greeted with “its just Pho”. Bun Bi Hue is not Pho.
Pho is a bit overrated!
Unless you;ve been living under a street food rock you will know what Pho is. Pho is a soupy noodle dish that is a borderline religion in Vietnam. It is also probably one of the most famous Vietnamese dishes, right up there with banh mi.
To read about banh mi click here.
I’m not fan of soupy noodles, this is for many reasons. I really like fried noodles and I usually get soupy noodles all over my clothes not ideal. I also find them bland. I am not pho man.
To read about Cambodian Fried Noodles click here
Bun Bo Hue in Phnom Penh
I was though in the mood for a bit of strange, so I sat down and duly ordered a bowl. At 10000 riel, or $2.50 cents I was satisfied with the price. It irked me that no beer was sold, but I was presented with the biggest ice filled class of coke I have ever seen.
To read about beer on ice click here.
After 5 minutes, or so out it came, a bowl of soupy noodles, looking a bit like pho, BUT different. I’ll deal with their differences after, but first lets sing about my dinner.
Bun Bo Hue has a spicy broth and noodles shaped like spaghetti, it included huge bits of beef and congealed Asian style pigs blood. I am a fan of all of the above. This kind of pigs blood is not to be confused with black pudding. Veggies, spring oions and all that jazz. As if standard with Vietnamese dishes like this you get the bowl of salad whereby you add as much as you want. I did not want to add much.
You can read about black pudding Click here .
Of course you get the chance to add your own extra “Khmer sauce” to increase the spice, which obviously I did. In Khmer it is called ប៊ុង ប៊វ៉េ which is basically a transliteration of Bun Bo Hue
You were also given a Vietnamese version of prahok. I like prahok a lot, but this purple monstrosity was easily one of the most disgusting thngs I have tasted, but more so smelt. Keep in mind I have eaten stinky tofu AND hakarl.
To read about hakarl click here.
To read about stinky tofu click here.
Bun bo hue though I was deeply impressed with. Two of us had it, so I really got to see the differences between what you add. I spiced mine to such extremes that my anus will undoubtedly pay the price. Even without the added spice though it is a flavoursome dish, and I must say much less bland than your average pho.
So, the 5 million dollar question Bun Bo Hue vs Pho – What is the difference between Bun Bo Hue and Pho
Ok, so what is Pho? Pho is a soupy noodle dish. That we know. The broth is made by simmering beef bones for as much as a day and adding garlic, clove and cinnamon whilst preparing it. You then add the broth to a vermicelli style rice noodle. From there you add sliced beef, fried tofu, chicken (pho ga), grilled pork or pork belly, and garnished with bean sprouts, Thai basil, lime, sliced chili,and other optional things. There are tons of different varieties of pho, How you have it will likely depend on where you are. The dish originated in the northern capital of Hanoi. It is probably the most famous Vietnamese dish, has been gentrified and you can get it everywhere.
What is bun bo hue? Bun bo hue is made by simmering beef, or pork bones (in a similar fashion to pho), adding sugar, lemongrass, shrimp paste and chili. It is the chili that gives it the spicy twang you do not get with pho. This is then combined with thinly sliced beef, or pork, with things like cilantro, basil and lime added. You also get the gelatinous pig blood that we previously mentioned! Other ingredients that can be added to the soup include mung beans, bean sprouts, hoisin, red cabbage, and bun cha. Although these can vary depending on where you are. The dish orientated in the central Vietnamese city of Hue, home of the DMZ.
You can read about street food in Hue here.
Its is the combination of these ingredients that make the flavor of bun bo hue so unique and indeed different from pho.
Which is better ban bo hue, or pho?
To me it is ban bo hue all the way! It is literally a tastier, and yeah a bit spicy. To me pho, which is seen as more of a “peasant” food is more to the point. It is fuel food, so in my mind more bland.
And that is Bun Bo Hue vs Pho!