Yes, you too can experience bun bo hue in Albany. It's not just any ole spicy soup, but rather a very rich and complex one. For reasons I don't know, bun bo literally translates to beef noodle soup but the stock highlights more of the pork flavor. It's made with a mix of pig's feet and ham hock slowly simmered with beef shank and flank steak, a touch of fermented shrimp paste, and scented with aromatic lemongrass. Don't worry, as pungent and funky as shrimp paste can smell, it mellows out in the broth and lends another layer of flavor that sets this soup apart from pho. See that little pot on the left? It's a delightful medley of chiles, lemongrass, more shrimp paste, garlic, and spices. You're gonna want to add a few spoonfuls until the broth is bright and glowing red.
You won't find exotic bits like blood cake here but for an authentic taste you will find pig's feet with slices of cha lua pork bologna and stewed meats. Like pho, you can add accoutrements to your liking. Instead of banana blossoms, you'll find shredded cabbage alongside fresh herbs and a wedge of lime. Personalize as you wish and get in there and slurp away this spicy noodle soup. Your soul will find so much satisfaction as you sweat away whatever toxins are in your body.
As for the beef pho? It kind of takes a back seat to the bun bo hue noodle soup but has drastically improved in flavor since our last visit. We finally did the Capital Region pho rounds and even stopped by Pho Yum for comparison after much stubbornness. Now that Kim's Vietnamese is gone, Van's has stepped up in rank as the one of the better pho soups in the area. But what you're really going to want to order is the bun bo hue.