The second most popular Vietnamese noodle soup, behind only pho, is arguably the fiery and fragrant bun bo hue. The vermicelli dish originated in the central Vietnamese city of Hue and gets its signature taste and aroma via chilies and lemongrass.
Word is, the best place around Dallas for a bowl of bun bo hue has long been Richardson's Pho Tay Do. Nestled in a shopping strip that has no other Asian business in sight, the restaurant is located far from the constellation of ethnic eateries dotted along the Belt Line Road and North Greenville Avenue Chinatown neighborhood.
Is it strange that I instinctively thought Pho Tay Do's remoteness would affect the authenticity of its Vietnamese food? Well, it doesn't, not with the bun bo hue, anyway. Although the pho had an unappealing cloudiness to its broth (taste was fine), the crimson hue of Pho Tay Do's bun bo hue was perfect and beautiful. Broth is such an important component, and many restaurants can't seem to get it right. I've seen broths that were too brown, too red, too thin or too greasy. The consistency of the bbh broth at Pho Tay Do was neither too heavy nor watered down. The spiciness of the soup, although not overbearing, was strong enough to clear out my cold-knackered sinuses. Once I regained my sense of smell, I was able to enjoy the lemongrass-perfumed beef broth.
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As for the other ingredients in the dish, thick vermicelli noodles are accompanied by slices of beef shank, cubes of congealed pig blood, links of gio lua (steamed sausage) and to top it all off, a good-sized pig knuckle. Typical garnishes for bun bo hue are onion, cilantro, bean sprouts, shredded purple cabbage (in the States) and lime. Pho Tay Do, however, serves lemon in substitution of lime, which is consistent with a horrific trend seen in several Vietnamese restaurants nowadays.
Besides the sacrilege in citrus substitution, my other gripe with the restaurant is the prices. Dishes range from $6-$9, and that may be fine for a large bowl of bun bo hue, but it's not OK for a really puny plate of com suon nuong. The rice plate was pitiful, and the grilled pork chop, although seasoned well, was entirely too fatty. For almost $7, it isn't quite worth the price. Better to just stick to the bun bo hue when at Pho Tay Do and head down to Chinatown to fulfill any other Asian food cravings.
Pho Tay Do 1403 E. Campbell Road, Suite 104 Richardson