Hot soups for the cold winter at Bún bò Huế Cố Đô

    It was a warm, cloudy day. Few cars were on the road and every store was closed. So were restaurants, but not Vietnamese restaurants. We drove all the way down FM 1960 to Veteran Memorial, and pulled in the parking lot of Phở Danh (with the helpful hand signal of a Vietnamese gentleman, who just happened to stand there for no reason and apparently noticed my clumsy parking skill). But we went next door for Bún Bò Huế Cố Đô, since my mom spotted it out and we were in adventurous mood. There were as few people inside as cars on the road today. Everyone in the neighborhood seems to go to Phở Danh, cuz it’s bigger and more noticeable. We weren’t deterred. So how is Cố Đô?

    My dad got the house specialty: bún bò Huế (Hue beef noodle). Rice noodle, beef, beef broth, (sounds like phở so far, isn’t it?), congealed blood, cha lua, a thick side cut of pig leg (not foot), and some good spicy hot pepper. I suppose it wasn’t spicy enough for my dad, so he put in some satay, which makes the broth colorfully pretty. And the whole side of greens (that has more than green):

    Bean sprouts, a slice of lemon, plants whose English names I have no idea, and a purplish bundle of thinly sliced young banana flower. The meat was tender and generous, but I’m not so sure if this bowl has everything an authentic Hue beef noodle soup would have. For some reason I had never gotten the crave for it, I must have had it at some point and just can’t remember. It certainly looks good, perhaps a little busy. The noodle is thicker and rounder than the noodle in pho, so bún bò is more filling. The pig leg meat is just all too common pork with a bit of thick skin, pig foot is better and more interesting for the teeth. According to my dad, the soup didn’t quite live up to his expectation, except for being tenderly meaty. But the rest of the crew was actually quite pleased with the other dishes we got:

    Hủ tíu mì
    Hủ tíu Nam Vang.
    They have different names, the hu tiu mi has egg noodle (), and Nam Vang is the Vietnamized name of Phnompenh. Other than that, exactly the same broth, same meat, same ornaments of crab meat and fish ball (the white circles at 11:30-12 o’clock), and a couple of shrimps. The broth has a swift of sweetness, a subtle but confident base. It’s light, warm, and clear. The noodle is hủ tíu dai (chewy), which is made of cassava. It’s thin, clear, and a little chewy (duh). There’s a kind of hu tiu made of rice, called hủ tíu mềm (soft). I prefer hu tiu dai. With sprinkles of chives, coriander, fried shallots, a few slivers of pork liver (the darker piece in the southwest corner of the bowl), cha lua, and plenty of pork, it was a good lunch. Not too filling, either. I can go as far as saying this is possibly the best hu tiu I’ve tried in America, of course with the number of trials countable on one hand. On a side note, often times liver tastes like chocolate to me, perhaps because of the slight bitterness and the smooth yet granular texture, so taking today’s liver intake into account, combining with today’s presents, I’ve had quite a bit of my late chocolate craving satified. Christmas is nice. :-)Since their hu tiu seems too be the better hit, perhaps it should be renamed Hủ Tíu Cố Đô? I suppose without Huế in the name, “Cố Đô” (old capital) doesn’t quite make a ring. Good, clean, quiet place though, I’ll come back for another meal. Lunch for three was only $19.90, and, they do take credit cards!*

    *Vietnamese restaurants here, even Lee’s Sandwiches, seem to favor the “Cash Only” theme. I wonder why?

    Address: Bún Bò Huế Cố Đô
    13480 Veterans Memorial Suite P3
    Houston, TX
    (281) 537-6760

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    2 comments to Hot soups for the cold winter at Bún bò Huế Cố Đô

    • Huong

      It’s for tax reasons that many Vietnamese owned (and many other Asian owned businesses) require cash only as payment. This helps the business evade taxes and save on credit card system fees and bank reconciliation! It keeps the prices down I suppose.

    • Mai

      Though I understand that it’s good for the business owner, I don’t condone tax evasion though. I’d rather pay a little extra. Perhaps a minimum purchase requirement for credit card would be a good middleground.

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