Bun Bo Hue Minh has no relation to Binh Minh, the venerable banh mi shop with locations in NE and SE Portland, or Pho Binh Minh, the erstwhile pho joint in Tigard with attitude problems. It’s all a bit confusing, but one thing the Vietnamese people are known for, along with degenerate gambling and screaming into phone handsets for no apparent reason, is a lack of brand self-awareness and being innately incapable to create singularly unique nomenclature. On my mother’s side, I have at least three cousins named “Duc Nguyen”.
The location, just east of the 205 on SE Division, is kind of a dive, which for Vietnamese soup joint is often considered a redeeming quality.
That and the chili-spiked fish sauce condiment that is on the table informs you that this is the right place for a good bowl of soup.
As the name suggests, Bun Bo Hue Minh specializes in the central Vietnamese soup that features rice noodles (fatter than the vermicelli common to pho or bun dishes), and showcases a deeply flavored, fiery broth seasoned with chilis and lemongrass.
And Bun Bo Hue Minh certainly does produce a solid rendition. The broth—strong and assertive—is chock full of the meaty goodness you expect out of a great bowl of bun bo hue, including slices of beef shank, peppery cha lua, pork knuckles, and, for the bold, cubes of congealed pork blood. If you come here only for the namesake specialty, you’ll do good. I have to say, in regards to this particular dish, Ngoc Han Bun Bo Hue delivers the unrivaled deliciousness in these parts, but Bun Bo Hue Minh is no slouch (along with “Bun Bo Hue”, further down south on SE 82nd near Clackamas — I know, it’s very confusing).
But BBHM also rolls a tight salad roll—fresh and well handled. At $3.50, two of these are great value. The dual chive backbone that runs the length of the roll informs you that someone cares. As I always sub nuoc cham instead of the (more traditional) hoison, and I appreciate it when a Vietnamese restaurant aggressively seasons their dipping sauce, but I always spike it with garlic chili sauce. If your Vietnamese doesn’t have this on the table, you’re going to the wrong place.
I also enjoyed the bun rieu here. The soup came with a fair amount of meat/seafood “loaf”, and the broth had a great balance of flavors, pungent with seafood flavor and redolent of deep tomato. Bun rieu is typically a soup I avoid in a restaurant (my mom’s version was a household favorite growing up) and in my experience it’s an afterthought at most Viet restaurants that try to cover all the bases. As a general rule I won’t order it unless a place is known for it (the only reason I came here to order it was on the strength of Extra MSG’s report at Portlandfood.org), but BBHM delivers a dependable version.
Above: The busser hates my kind.
I’m not sure what was up my first very visit (when I ordered bun rieu), but I was only given a sparse salad plate of cilantro, sprouts, and lime by a busser. Bun rieu absolutely demands mints (spearmint, parilla, lemon balm) so I had to flag down my server and insist that this treasonous crime against humanity be addressed immediately. I’m not sure if the busser thought perhaps I wasn’t part Vietnamese, but in any regard I accused him of racism and cursed his family, including his pets. We exchanged fisticuffs on Division street, and subsequently a pop-locking/breakdance battle. Nobody won (nobody ever wins). I assume this faux pas de garni was simply a one-time oversight, and ensuing visits have proved this to be the case. But as overly enthusiastic Ron Paul teabaggers abundantly proved this past election cycle, don’t ever allow anybody to TREAD ON YOU.
Above: What I made them bring me, as the U.S. Constitution mandates an abundant garnish platter (Article 7, Section 3, Paragraph 2), just like it says slaves are 60% human.
Bun Bo Hue Minh
8560 Southeast Division Street
Portland, OR 97266-1553
Bun Bo Hue Minh on the WORLD WIDE WEB