After tasting this soup from Huế central Vietnam, you will begin to wonder why beef, pork and shrimp are not combined more often. Pork and beef bones, lemongrass, and chilies make a spicy broth. The addition of Vietnamese shrimp paste (mắm ruốc or mắm tôm) adds a depth of flavor that only fermented seafood can bring. Meaty pork bones work well in this broth, but fresh pigs feet create the best body. For the same reason, try to use beef shinbones. Marrow bones will make broth lacking in body, but they will definitely make up for it with a rich flavor. The soup’s color has more bark than bite, since annatto seeds, not the chilies, are responsible for the red look of the broth.
To accompany this dish, the Vietnamese table salad includes shaved cabbage or lettuce, banana blossoms, crisp bean sprouts, piles of mint, and limes to brighten its flavor. Add small amounts of these to your soup as you continue your journey to the bottom of the bowl.
When you are in the mood for a đặc biệt (extra special) bowl of noodles, take the time to also prepare shrimp dumplings. These hearty seafood dumplings really add an authentic element not often found outside of Vietnam. Seafood dumplings are available at Asian markets, for those looking to save time on this recipe.
© 2008 Robert Danhi. All rights reserved.