Mum always told me that the best Bún Bò Huế Sa Tế (BBH paste) requires time, effort and a lot of lemongrass. Over the years I have taken this on board and added a few little additions along the way, to develop a version of BBH paste that reflects my personal food journey growing up in Australia.
Lemongrass is the dominant fragrance in BBH paste, but in this recipe my addition of galangal and selective use of fish sauce (Son fish sauce) adds an earthy, sharp citrusy flavour profile, with a refined level of umami.
The time invested to cook off the paste on a low heat is most important, and gives the aromats every opportunity to release their essential oils. Cooking off on a high heat will inevitably burn the aromats leaving sharp and harsh bitter notes. Low and slow is the key here, and this cooking technique will create the most fragrant BBH paste you’ve ever made.
So what are you waiting for? Do yourself a favour, harvest your lemongrass, source some galangal and block out the afternoon to perfect your Bún bò Huế flavour.
1½ tablespoons red pepper flakes
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large stalks of lemongrass, finely chopped
5 medium thai shallots, minced (100g)
20g ginger, grated
20g galangal, grated
1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
½ tablespoons sugar
125ml vegetable oil
2 star anise
4g cassia bark or cinnamon
Add oil, star anise and cassia bark into a large fry pan, cook on medium heat for 1 minute.
Add garlic, lemongrass, thai shallots, ginger, galangal and cook on medium until sizzling, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until well golden. Occasionally agitate every minute or two to avoid it sticking to the pan.
Once golden, add red pepper flakes, sugar and fish sauce and mix well for 3-5 minutes on low heat.
Remove off heat and set aside.
Add to Bun Bo hue broth to desired taste or store in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 6 weeks.