Bite of the Week: Pho’s heartier, lesser-known cousin, Bún bò Huế, at Co Tu

Bún bò Huế at Co Tu in Bloomington // Photo by Tj Turner

Co Tu is refreshingly simple. Tucked in a Bloomington strip mall with a leather shop and a liquor store, they don’t pull you in with gimmicks—they just make good food. With an intoxicating aroma and only a handful of tables, eating here feels like you have discovered a secret treasure, because you have.

Bún bò Huế is pho’s heartier, lesser-known cousin. A traditional Vietnamese dish, it’s a pleasant blend of spicy, salty, and umami flavors melding into a smorgasbord of flavors. The thicker, cylindrical rice noodles absorb the savory broth and give a pleasant chewiness that contrasts the crunch of the bean sprouts and the tenderness of the beef shank. The broth has a pleasant kick (I loaded chili sauce into it because I’m a glutton for punishment) and the mint and lime that come on the side give the bold, rounded flavor a nice bright note to finish.

Thanks to word of mouth and Facebook, it’s rare to find an empty booth for long at Co Tu. As the warm, spicy concoction gently churned in my stomach, I was already looking at the menu planning my next visit. (Plus Bún bò Huế and their house-made noodle pho is perfect for bellying up during the colder months.)

The thick, cylindrical noodles in this Bún bò Huế allow for a more chewy experience // Photo by Tj Turner

THE DISH: Bún bò Huế, $9.50

THE PLACE: Co Tu Oriental Cuisine, 8907 Penn Ave. S, Bloomington, MN, 55431

THE REASON: A unique bouquet of flavors in the broth brings home the savory side of the noodles and meat. (Plus it comes in a bowl as big as your head)