Thursday, August 13, 2009

Getting Back to Your Roots While Gnawing on Split Pig Knuckles

You have read the title of this post so you have been warned. This isn't for those with weak stomachs. This recipe includes shrimp paste, pig hocks, and fish sauce. It may not sound pretty but for us who have grown up on this soup, its pretty delicious. At least we omitted the congealed pig's blood this time.

Living in a family full of foodies, it is no wonder that my mind rarely strays from the subject of food. My cousin Stephanie is a bigger foodie than I can ever be. No one emails me more articles, more recipes, or invites me out to eat more than Stephanie. There have been days when I have cursed her name because she sent me the most delicious article about sushi and every cell in my body starts craving sushi... but I'm just stuck my cubicle...with no sushi. Then she invites me out to eat something fabulous and all is well again.

For the longest time, we have talked about how much we needed to get some of our family member's recipes written down and saved. Her mom once showed me how to make Vietnamese ginger chicken and chicken Pho and I remember the process but never converted her cooking to an actual recipe. So when Stephanie proposed that her mom show us how to cook Bun Bo Hue on a random Sunday, this was going to be our first chance to really get something documented. We approached it with all seriousness. We each brought a note pad and pen. I brought my laptop. We took turns taking pictures. We watched, we listened, we chopped, and it was delicious. The broth tasted meaty and was fragrant from the lemongrass. The noodles were perfectly cooked and the meat was tender. My chopsticks filled my spoon with some noodles, some meat, some broth and I slurped it all up. It was great. It was great to eat and it was great to learn that a complicated sounding soup was not so complicated.

Bun Bo Hue

Co-Written: Stephanie
Recipe by: my Aunt Yen

Serving: 8 people

Two packages of Bun Bo Hue rice noodles
Pork Hock - four hocks
3 pounds of beef shanks - fat trimmed off, keep tendon intact
3 pounds split pig feet or pig knuckles
Six stalks of lemongrass
2 shallots or one medium size yellow onion - thinly sliced
8 Bun Bo Hue bouillon cubes
1/4 cup of fish sauce
4 teaspoon size rocks of sugar
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoon of finely minced shrimp paste
3 tablespoon of paprika or Korean chili powder

1. Soak the two packages of rice noodles in cold water overnight.

2. Fill a 15 quart pot a quarter way with water and add two tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil.

3. Rinse beef shank, pig hocks, and pig knuckles thoroughly with cold water and use some salt to scrub them down. Rinse meat once again and add meat to pot of boiling water.

4. Allow meat to sit in water until pot almost boils (parboiling the meat). The impurities from the meat will start to float to the top of the water and the water will get cloudy. Do not over boil the meat at this point because you do not want to lose too much flavor from the meat.
Using tongs, take meat out of pot and set aside in a bowl. Throw away all the water from the pot and thoroughly clean pot.

5. Refill pot 3/4 the way with water and add two tablespoons of salt. Place pot back on stove and turn on heat to "high" and bring water to a boil.

6. In a sauté pan, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil to medium heat. Place 3/4 of thinly sliced onion into pan and sauté for 3 minutes or until transparent. Add paprika and IMMEDIATELY remove from heat and add rest of sliced onions. Add contents of pan into pot of water.
***Note - it is very important that pan is removed from heat so that the chili does not burn. The soup will appear cloudy and the soup will be bitter if the chili is burned. This can ruin the entire pot of soup if done incorrectly.

7. Cut lemongrass into 3 inch pieces. Discard top 1/2 of lemongrass (you only want to use moist part of the stalk.) Using back end of a cleaver, lightly pound stalks to bruise them and then add them to the broth. This will help release the flavor when it is added to the broth.

8. Add bowl of parboiled meat into pot of water and begin adding seasonings: Fish sauce, shrimp paste, salt (approx. 1 tbsp), bouillon cubes, and rock sugar. Bring pot to a boil. Simmer broth for an hour an a half. Skim any fat that rises to the top of the pot. The beef will be well-done. The pork hock and the split knuckles need to be tender. The flesh should spring back when you poke it. If it feels tough, they will need to be boiled for a longer period of time. Once the beef has cooled, slice the beef into 1/4 inch pieces. For the hocks, meat will need to be removed from the bone and cut into bite sized pieces. Knuckles will be served as is in the bowl. For the broth, this is where you are just going to have to cook the old school way. Taste and add seasonings as needed. Some like a little more sugar, some like a little more shrimp paste. Just remember that you can season your individual bowl of soup so this step is just to make sure that the flavors have come together the best way possible.

9. Boil noodles for five minutes, drain, rinse with cold water. Instructions on the package says to boil it for longer but soaking the noodles in cold water lets you cook the noodles for a shorter amount of time. My aunt found this out from Bun Bo Hue restaurant owners who say that when you cook the noodles as the package recommends, it never fully cooks the noodle and you end up with a slightly tough middle. Soaking the noodles overnight allows the water time to thoroughly soak the noodle.

10. Assemble bowls of soup by adding the noodles and some pieces of meat to each bowl. If necessary, reheat the noodles and meat in the microwave. Add the broth to the bowls.

11. Garnish
Mix together:
1/2 a red onion – sliced paper thin
1/2 a cup of chopped cilantro
1/2 a cup of chopped Rau Ram (Vietnamese Coriander)
1/2 a cup of thinly sliced Green onions (use white and light green parts only)

Top bowl with as much of the garnish as you would like. We also added bean sprouts and squeezed some lime juice to taste.

Unfortunately, I can't give you a cost breakdown because I wasn't the one to go shopping for these ingredients but I can tell you that for the amount of food that you end up with, the cost is minimal. If I were to approximate, the cost of the entire pot would be around the range of $25 or less. Your best option is to buy your ingredients at an Asian market where the prices are usually much lower than most generic markets. Also, you will not likely find finely minced shrimp paste at your local Harris Teeter.

1 comment:

  1. You know my first experience with making pho at home was from Into the Vietnamese Kitchen. You're right, it really isn't very hard! It's just daunting because none of the ingredients are found in a regular American supermarket - or - because they call for pigs feet. lol
    This looks delicious and it's awesome your family recipes are getting put to paper.