I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a Vietnamese restaurant before and with good reason why. Seeing that it’s my heritage, the food at Vietnamese restaurants can never compare to a home cooked meal. Sure it’s usually saltier, more MSG, etc and once in a while I’ll order a dish that my own mother doesn’t make often enough. But for the most part, I’ve left Vietnamese cuisine go unspoken for. This post changes that!
When Joe and I went to Calgary, I had a long list of places to try. It was only fair that I gave up one of my meals for Joe, his choices almost always being Vietnamese. This brought up the question, where’s the best place in Calgary for bún bò Huế? Multiple references led us to Song Huong, a small cash-only eatery in the southeast quadrant of the city.
Joe is a big (I mean big) fan of the central Vietnamese dish, bún bò Huế. If you’re unfamiliar with the dish, I’m not sure if Joe will even acknowledge you. Just kidding. But in all seriousness, you must try it! Most are familiar with our native country’s noodle soup dish of phở. The beef-based broth is the only thing linking the two dishes together as bún bò Huế has the added mắm ruốc (fermented shrimp paste) flavor. The flat rice noodle of phở bowls are substituted with a thicker, cylindrical variety giving it more chew and sustenance for the spicy dish. Traditionally, it’s served with thin beef slices, pig knuckles, oxtail, and in some restaurants, cubes of congealed pig’s blood. I think Song Huong’s bowl did a pretty good job with authenticity, coming with toppings of pork knuckle, beef slices, sliced Vietnamese ham, and pig blood. The broth was not as sweet as some of the broths I’m use to, nor was it spicy despite its red-ish hue. Joe seemed to enjoy it though, stating that if it was spicier, this would be the best bowl he’s ever had!
Lately I’ve been in the mood for “dry” noodle dishes, my favorite being the “mì khô đặc biệt” from Edmonton’s Co Do Hue (post to come… one day). It’s essentially egg noodles, thrown together with a savory sauce and a variety of seafood items with a side of chicken-based broth. You can make it as soup-y as you’d like! Song Huong didn’t have my egg noodle dish, but they had a flat rice noodle (hủ tiếu) instead. It’s the same rice noodle used in phở. The dish was saaaaaalty! And MSG-packed, with the taste of deep-fried onion bits and pepper in the mix. The rice noodles absorbed a lot of the sauce as well. I still prefer my egg noodle variety better! Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so bold and ordered their phở or bún bò Huế instead. Newbie mistake! Always order what they specialize in!
So if you’re in the Calgary region, craving Vietnamese cuisine of the soup-y sorts, check out Song Huong. Bun Bo Hue Deli (4909 17 Ave SE) was another contender and came up numerous times in my searches. My mom brought back a bowl once and I didn’t remember anything outstanding. Perhaps a dine-in meal is worth a try though. Next trip! The restaurant has plenty of parking in front and it’s cash only!Song Huong
1704 61 St SE (Calgary)