The Greatest Beef Noodle Soup? The Warming, Soulful, Flavorful, Mouth-Watering Beef Noodle Soup of Central Vietnam - Ngu Binh [Thoughts + Pics]


#1

When it comes to Beef Noodle Soups, there are so many delicious offerings to choose from here in Southern California. The first thing that springs to mind for me is the wonderful Chinese Niu Rou Mian (Beef Noodle Soups) at places like Corner Beef Noodle House and Dai Ho. We have Pho, probably one of the most famous dishes from Vietnamese cuisine, which is a lighter type of Beef Noodle Soup.

Then there’s a lesser known version called Bun Bo Hue from Central Vietnam. The first time we had Bun Bo Hue was at our old board’s recommended SGV spot called Nha Trang. There were quite a few positive posts about the place and we got to try it a few years ago.

Nha Trang’s Bun Bo Hue was fine. A little spicy, a little saltier and almost like an inbetween version of Beef Noodle Soup from Chinese Niu Rou Mian and Pho. But we never felt like we wanted to go back and get more of this dish. Soon it was forgotten.

So during our recent Chicken Pho journey, trying out Pho Ga Hai Van (thanks again @JeetKuneBao), as we were about to leave the mini-mall, out of the corner of my eye, I caught the words “Ngu Binh”.

Wait… this couldn’t be the actual Ngu Binh that I had bookmarked for years and never gotten around to trying it yet, could it? :sweat_smile: We decided to stop in.

From the massive crowds waiting for a table outside, we concluded that this must be that Ngu Binh (or so we hoped). :wink:

Ngu Binh specializes in Hue (Central Vietnamese) Cuisine, and most of their menu had dishes I had never heard of before, so this was exciting.

Cafe Sua Da (Vietnamese Ice Coffee):

Wow. If you ever needed a potent pick me up, Ngu Binh’s Vietnamese Ice Coffee is it: It tastes like a super concentrated, fragrant punch of pure caffeine, and not too sweet either. :slight_smile:

Banh It Kep Banh Ram (Glutinous Rice Cake with Shrimp and Pork):

After hearing @ipsedixit deliver a love song about this Vietnamese dish at another restaurant, seeing this on the menu at Ngu Binh made us want to give it a try. :slight_smile: We have no frame of reference about this dish, but the first impression is that Ngu Binh’s Banh It Kep Banh Ram is maybe too much carb overload. :sweat:

The Glutinous Rice Cake itself (on top) is slippery, soft, chewy, like a Super Mochi or something, and the base is crunchy and pleasing at first… until it gives way to more Glutinous Rice on the inside of that crunchy exterior. :open_mouth:

And having tried a few more versions of this after (more on this later), Ngu Binh’s serving is gargantuan (it’s about 200% of the size of some versions we tried). It’s like an entire bowl of Rice packed into each of these 4 servings. The filling is also 80% Glutinous Rice, with only a little bit of Shrimp & Pork, so we were just overwhelmed after a couple of bites. :frowning:

Mi Quang Dac Biet (Special Dry Egg Noodles with Pork, Shrimp and Fish Cake):

Then we get to this: A giant bowl of “dry” Egg Noodles (basically it’s still moist, wet, but without Soup), with Shrimp, Pork, Fish Cake, Vegetables in a spicy sauce (at the bottom) that you mix all together.

It’s spicy, salty and sweet (just a touch), there’s a great convergence of flavors going on. Initially you think all of these disparate ingredients might just clash, but it works! It’s delicious and I think we liked it more than the recent dry Jade Noodles at Sapp in terms of overall flavor bomb and taste (although we loved the Jade Noodles as well). :slight_smile:

Bun Bo Hue Dac Biet (Spicy Hue Style Beef Noodle Soup):

But what Ngu Binh is most known for is their Bun Bo Hue, and when it arrives it looks a bit shocking with the stark crimson red color, but thankfully it’s nowhere near as spicy as it looks. :wink:

I decided to take a sip of the Broth first…

It is piping hot, with that layer of Chili Oil on top sealing in the heat, like the best bowls of Tonkotsu-Shio Ramen at Santouka in their heyday!

Then, the flavor hits my mouth: It’s beefy, spicy, warming, intensely savory, a touch of piquant and sweetness, just pure magic.

It was incredible! :heart:

They deliver a plate of beautiful Vegetables & Herbs to add into the Soup (including the tasty, crunchy Banana Flowers!):

And we quickly added it all in and mixed it up, letting the piping hot heat partially cook the veggies and herbs a bit:

Now taking a bite with a bit of everything:

There are those times in your life when you are lucky enough to eat something so good, something that hits your palate and brings you such joy in each bite, that it can only be described as sublime.

This is one of those times.

Ngu Binh’s Bun Bo Hue is simply OUTSTANDING! :heart: :blush: :heart:

Seriously, why didn’t @Ns1 @Porthos @attran99 @JeetKuneBao @ipsedixit @A5KOBE or anyone else ever tell me about this place?! :cry:

I kid, I kid! :stuck_out_tongue:

I seriously think everyone on our old Chowhound and here on FTC told us about Ngu Binh, and I regret never going until now! :sob: I hate myself for missing out on this for so many years! :frowning: :grin:

How great was this Beef Noodle Soup? The next day, we had cravings for Ngu Binh’s Bun Bo Hue again. :sweat_smile: I was seriously thinking about it as I had lunch at work, wishing I could have another bowl of it right then and there.

2nd Visit:

Banh Beo Chen (Steamed Rice Cake Served In 10 Individual Small Dishes):

This delightful, cute dish is made up of 10 small individual dishes, with a bit of Steamed Rice Cake topped with Dried Shrimp, Shallots, Green Onions and a Shrimp Chip.

Make sure you add some of the Nuoc Cham (Fish Sauce-based Dipping Sauce) onto your individual Steamed Rice Cake dish, and then using the little spoon provided, you scoop it up and eat it. :slight_smile:

And Ngu Binh’s version is light and airy. The Steamed Rice Cake is silky, delicate, and the Nuoc Cham gives each bite a bit of brininess from the Fish Sauce, some sweet and tart, and you get some different, distinct briny qualities from the Dried Shrimp shavings on top, and the Shallots and Green Onions… it’s delicious! :heart:

Nem Chua Hue (Hue Style Fermented Pork Roll):

We remember @ipsedixit asking about some Vietnamese Pork Rolls, and saw this on the menu. Ngu Binh offers a Cha Hue (Hue Style Steamed Pork Loaf), and this Fermented Pork Roll, so we decided to try this one.

It’s rather dense, like a pressed meat product like Headcheese in a way. And there’s a real funk to each bite (probably because it’s Fermented Pork?). :sweat_smile: It’s not something we thought about ordering again.

Bun Bo Hue Dac Biet (Spicy Hue Style Beef Noodle Soup):

We had to order their Bun Bo Hue again. And just like the 1st visit, it arrived piping hot, and taking a sip:

Just as INCREDIBLE as the first time! :heart:

The ingredients are wonderful: They give you thin, meaty slices of Stewed Beef Shank. There’s a Homemade Ground Marinated Pork “Meatball,” and some Pork Blood (that you can ignore if you want @TheCookie @Bookwich) :wink: and then some Pork Bones (with some meat still on it).

Each component was delicious and fresh-tasting, and just added to glory of this Beef Noodle Soup! :slight_smile:

3rd Visit:

There was another large crowd, but it moved pretty fast.

Banh Uot Tom Chay Va Cha (Steamed Rice Roll with Ground Shrimp and Steamed Pork Loaf):

We have no frame of reference for this dish (it’s the first time we’ve seen it), but it looked beautiful on the menu so we decided to order it. :slight_smile:

The Steamed Rice Rolls are braided, and each one contains morsels of Shrimp as well as Dried Shrimp. What struck me as the most stand out part of this dish was the Rice Rolls themselves: They were thinner and more fragile / delicate than the Rice Rolls you get at Dim Sum restaurants, and the Shrimp filling matched pretty well.

The Steamed Pork Loaf on top felt like an unnecessary topping, but I’m guessing that’s a traditional complement to the dish.

Bun Bo Hue Dac Biet (Spicy Hue Style Beef Noodle Soup):

Of course we had to get their Bun Bo Hue again, it is seriously THAT good! :blush:

I love how immaculate, clean and bright their Vegetables and Herbs are:

Just like the previous 2 times, Ngu Binh’s Spicy Beef Noodle Soup is as fantastic as before:

In these cold chilly days, drinking some piping hot Beef Noodle Soup, with the long-stewed Beef Shank and Bone base is just happiness for your soul. :grin:

There’s a real depth of flavor here that’s indescribable in some ways, but it hits nearly all of our favorite flavor profiles, tasting something that’s been long stewed for hours, with tender bites of Beef Shank, Homemade Pork Meatballs, Pork Bones, and the yet it’s actually light and easy to sip and drink, lighter than a Chinese Niu Rou Mian Soup. Interestingly, our server (who spoke great English) said that one secret to their Soup is the Shrimp Paste they use (which we couldn’t even detect, but I’m guessing that’s what adds to the umami factor).

And the thicker straight Noodles match perfectly with this Broth. It just tastes like it was made for each other. :slight_smile:

Ngu Binh’s bowl of magic runs you only $8.75 for a small bowl (which is more than enough for 1 person), and $9.75 for a large (which was enough for the two of us, as we tried out an appetizer).

When you get a chance to experience one of those stunning game changers for food, it’s something worth celebrating, which is precisely what this little shop in the corner of a strip mall has delivered. Ngu Binh’s Bun Bo Hue (Hue Style Beef Noodle Soup) is more compelling, more delicious, and just more flavorful than Vietnam’s more famous Beef Noodle Soup - Pho - in every way imaginable. :heart:

And if you’d rather try some other dishes, their 10 small dishes of Banh Beo Chen (Steamed Rice Cakes in 10 Individual Dishes) and their Mi Quang (Special Dry Egg Noodles with Pork, Shrimp and Fish Cake) are worth ordering as well.

(Cash Only)

Ngu Binh
14092 Magnolia Street
Westminster, CA 92683
Tel: (714) 903-6000


Of Delectable Meatball Sandwiches, Refreshing Cococane, Steaming Beef Noodle Soups, Crunchy & Silky Rice Cakes and Vietnamese Ice Coffee - A Weekend in Little Saigon [Thoughts + Pics]
It's Raining in Los Angeles! What Are You Eating?
Let's say you live in West LA and want really good Pho. You don't mind driving at all to get it. What is the closest best pho (and PLEASE not the best that's closest)?
#2

So glad you loved it, @Chowseeker1999! That’s been on the family rotation since forever, but admittedly, it’s fallen on the back burner now the older folks want to more potlucks at someone’s house. Their nem is one of my Dad’s favorite dishes…he enjoys the funk in some old favorites. I like it the first few bites, and then remember on the fourth bite why I only have it once a year. My sister loves the Mi Quang…in fact, we are both stuffed from dinner and are now hungry, again, after seeing your write up. Looks like I know where I’m going later this weekend! Thanks!


#3

Ngu Binh is a Little Saigon classic like Brodards, Pho 79, and Trieu Chau. So glad you got to try it!

Banh It Kep Banh Ram at Ben Ngu is wonderful and not quite what you describe. Perfect bite! Ben Ngu is owned actually by the ex-wife of the owner of Ngu Binh! Both are probably some of the best for Central Vietnamese food!

And I hope to see more Little Saigon adventures from you!


#4

And that’s why we can eat this type of soup for days but can only tolerate ( due to its richness) one bowl of most ramen a month :joy: plus, it’s a lot cheaper, but that’s another subject entirely…

other not so secret ingredient is lemongrass. And lots of it. Stalks are used during cooking of the broth and minced in the chile oil sauce.

The shrimp paste is mixed into the chile/anatto seed oil sauce along with mince lemongrass so its flavors are well rounded out and mellowed so you don’t easily taste it except for the umami.

Hope you continue to discover real diversity of Vietnamese cuisine!


#5

Wow that soup looks absolutely amazing. I was getting excited until I saw that it was in Westminster. How did you make 3 trips down there for food let alone one??


#6

Thanks @attran99. :slight_smile: Besides the Bun Bo Hue and the Mi Quang, are there any other things you’d recommend at Ngu Binh? (I really like the Banh Beo Chen little dishes.)


#7

And thank you @JeetKuneBao! Your posts into Little Saigon have added a lot of bookmarks for us. :grin: Can’t wait to try more places.


#8

You’re a goddamn legend. Thanks for your reports; we’re all the better for them.


#9

Hi @hppzz,

Totally agree! We used to really enjoy Tonkotsu Ramen, but over the last few years, it just feels heavier and heavier. Now I think we might have Tonkotsu Ramen like once every few months. :wink: But that Bun Bo Hue (Hue-Style Beef Noodle Soup) at Ngu Binh? I’m craving it again! :smile:

Thanks for the tip on the lemongrass, yes! We tasted that as well.


#10

In all honesty, banh beo and banh uot…anything rice flour-based and turned into cake or noodles are my favorites. Maybe because I get to douse it in nouc cham and add fresh herbs. I’ve been known to get banh beo to go, and go home and make lettuce wraps filled with herbs and the banh beo…with the sauce, it’s a great meal.


#11

Off-topic I suppose but I’m sharing a few pix from the bon bo hue that we had in Hue, Vietnam. I’d read a blog that declared it the best soup in the world and we agree.


#12

central region specialties - ban bot loc, banh nam or the sampler platter… mit xuc banh trang , the youngfruit salad with crispy rice crackers


#13

They put pork blood in the beef soup?


#14

Thanks @attran99. Making lettuce wraps with the banh beo sounds delicious! :slight_smile:


#15

Hi @catholiver,

The bun bo hue soup in your pics looks amazing! Thanks for sharing. :slight_smile:


#16

Hi @Bookwich,

To clarify, it’s a pressed block of pork blood, so you can remove the cube and not worry about it. :wink: Thankfully it’s not mixed into the broth like, say, Sapp’s Boat Noodles.


#17

My pleasure! We got there when she starts serving at 8ish IIRC. When it’s gone, she closes for the day. Two huge bowls and a bottled water was about $4 :slight_smile:


#18

It’s typically made with both pork and beef (bones and meat products)


#19

Pork blood cubes are great. Soft yet resilient with a velvety mouth feel. Good in soups, hot pot and stir-fries.


#20

Anyone have a good lead on Cao lầu?