This is my typical bowl of homemade beef pho noodle soup. I can’t imagine eating it with cubes of congealed pork blood. But maybe that is something going on these says.
Have you heard of or eaten pho with pork blood? During the past several weeks I’ve read about it twice, most recently in The Globe and Mail, a newspaper from Toronto, Canada. In “You eat meat, so why not blood? Chefs strive to warm up diners to the red stuff,” journalist Chris Nuttall-Smith reports on uses of blood in hip, modern food. The article was focused on Western chefs, such as Rene Redzepi of Copenhagen’s famed Noma, who marinates vegetables in blood according to photos he posted.
I was looking for mention of blood-laden Asian foods, expecting to see classics like Filipino dinuguan blood stew and Korean sundae (not a dessert). Instead, my eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when I read the last three words of this paragraph:
To be sure, this is nothing new to most Europeans – from black pudding to morcilla to Poland’s duck blood soup, the continent has almost too many blood recipes to count. Blood dishes are also common across South and Central America, Africa and most of Asia; you can find blood tofu in many Chinese grocery stores in Canada; some Vietnamese restaurants also offer pork blood pho.
Whoa! I have not seen pork blood in pho before and wondered if it was a new Canadian thing.
Over the years, some Vietnamese cooks have taken to adding cubes of congealed pork blood (huyet or tiet) to brothy noodle soups, such as bun bo Hue (spicy beef and pork noodle soup), bun rieu cua (a crab-based noodle soup), and bun oc (round rice noodles with snails). The addition of the pork blood lends extra nutrients and texture (it’s kinda like minerally-tasting jello). Vietnam is a protein-poor country with a large population. It makes sense to apply that kind of head-to-tail-and-gut rigor to cooking.
Do note that the old school preparations of the three noodle soups described above do not include blood. In fact, my mom once ordered a bowl of bun bo Hue at a Hue restaurant in Little Saigon. When the bowl arrived and she saw the huyet blood cubes in there, she pointed to the blood and asked the waiter, “What is this? It does not belong there.” (Don’t mess with my mom.)
He sheepishly responded, “It’s what people want now so we have to make it that way.”
That said, the Vietnamese practice of adding the pork blood to noodle soups has not [yet] spread to pho. But has it? If you’ve had menu sightings or tasted pork blood pho, please let us know.
Nuttall-Smith may have mistaken pork blood pho with bun bo Hue. It’s hard to tell because there is no detailed description of the dish in the article. Many pho restaurants offer bun bo Hue but the former is delicate and nuanced while the later is spicy rustic, making more simpatico with the blood.
Other bloody Viet fare
In case you wonder, the Viet repertoire includes some bloody good dishes. My favorite is Vietnamese blood sausage (doi or doi huyet), which includes fresh herbs to cut some of the richness of the blood. The Ravenous Couple blog has a Vietnamese blood sausage recipe here. Vietnamese blood sausage is terrific grilled or fried and enjoyed as a nosh with herbs such as Thai basil and mint.
The Viet sausage is also great with a bowl of creamy rice soup (chao in Vietnamese, aka congee/jook), which may have other offal parts and be called chao long (gut rice soup). Sometimes, the congealed cubes of blood are simply added to chao with pieces of fried Chinese crullers for chao huyet.
There’s also Vietnamese blood soup, tiet canh, typically made of slightly congealed duck blood. I’ve not eaten that dish because I’m not keen on the metallic and minerally quality of pure, raw blood and a few garnishes. The blood can be mixed with the cooked meat of the animal and that seems a bit more appealing.
Here’s an eating tip: If you’re averse to the notion of eating blood in Viet food, look for “huyet” or “tiet” on a menu or street vendor’s signage. Avoid those foods or order your food without it.
Overall, don’t get grossed out. If blood is mixed with other things or used with a light hand, it’s barely noticeable. A great example is the Taiwanese street snack of sticky rice with blood and peanuts. My friend Sara Lin introduced me to it last year in Taipei. It was delicious. Scroll down this page for a photo of it. You won’t turn into a vampire.
Have you prepared or eaten food prepared with blood before? How did you like it? Or, what is your general take on dishes made with blood? And, if you know about pork blood pho, chime in!
Related posts and sites
- My Beef Pho Noodle Soup recipe
- Ravenous Couple’s Vietnamese blood sausage recipe
- Gastronomy Blog’s post on chao long in Vietnam
- Noodle Pie’s post on tiet canh blood soup in Vietnam
- Korean blog’s lowdown on sundae blood sausage
- Casa Veneracion’s pork dinuguan recipe