Hủ Tiếu Sa Tế Bò (Vietnamese Satay Beef Noodle Soup)

When it comes to Vietnamese comfort foods, one of my first go-to’s is Hủ Tiếu Sa Tế Bò or Vietnamese Satay Beef Noodle Soup. It is brothy and packed with umami flavor. 

P.S. it isn’t Pho!


What is Vietnamese Satay Beef Noodle Soup (Hủ Tiếu Sa Tế Bò?)

Hủ Tiếu isn’t a recent creation. This soup has been popular in the South of Vietnam since the 1950s, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. However, it still remains a soup least known by tourists. 

To me, that’s a major shame. This soup is too dynamite to overlook. Locals at Vietnamese hawker stalls love Hủ Tiếu. In fact, the most commonly ordered version of the dish is Hủ Tiếu Sa Tế. This dish is full of so much umami and spice - I can never get enough.


What is Vietnamese ‘Sa Tế’?

Sa Tế has a funny history. Vietnamese families still debate over what generational recipe is the most authentic. Vietnamese and Southeast Asian families altogether always have the best secret family recipes. Usually, these are only word-of-mouth recipes, making them a little extra special. 

No matter what family you believe, Sa Tế is absolutely delicious. I can’t imagine cooking Vietnamese food without it! If you haven’t cooked with Sa Tế, you haven’t really cooked Vietnamese food at all.

Sa Tế origins lay in Ho Chi Minh City. This city grew a very unique culture due to its history with the  Silk Road. This created foods like Sa Tế. 

Sa Tế originated specifically in the Cholon District, or the Chinatown of the city. Chinese (Guangdong) immigrants made up this district. Their nostalgia for home resulted in Sa Tế - a multipurpose sauce that is used as a marinade, condiment, and dressing. 

Sa Tế has simple and aromatic base ingredients. Fish sauce, lemongrass, chilies, and shallots are the main stars. This sauce is used in other popular Vietnamese dishes, like Bun Bo Hue and Pho.


What is the difference between Hủ Tiếu vs Phở?

The one thing Hủ Tiếu and Phở have in common are noodles, meats, and garnishes. These can all be the same if you choose. However, these two Vietnamese soups use widely different techniques to create their broth.

Phở broth is very simple on its own. Its flavor comes from adding meats, bones, and aromatics to the broth. These ingredients are then poached by the hot soup, releasing their delicious aromas and flavors.

On the other hand, Hủ Tiếu broth has its own flavor. The broth starts with sautéing the aromatics (like alliums, chilies, warm spices) along with meats. Water is slowly added, bring everything to a harmonious simmer.

The one big exception to note is Vietnamese pork broths. These are almost always Hủ Tiếu broths.

So, how do you make this epically delicious soup? I have the recipe you need to nourish yourself with the best Vietnamese comfort food. 


Hủ Tiếu Sa Tế Bò Spiced Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Recipe

Cook time: 2 hours 
Serves 6
Expert level



Hủ Tiếu Sa Tế Broth

2 lb. 

Beef neck bones


Yellow onion


Garlic cloves

2 oz.

Hawaiian ginger, fresh & unpeeled

2 tablespoons

Organic sugar

As needed

Kosher salt

4 tablespoons

Son fish sauce

1 quart 


2 quarts 

Beef bone broth

½’’ cubed 2 lbs

Beef Stew

1 teaspoon

Garlic, minced 

1 tbsp 

Lemongrass, minced

½ cup

Peanut butter, unsweetened 

1 tablespoon

Tiger Sa Tế (mild)

2 tsp

Chili powder (or korean chili flakes) 

1 packet

Tumami Pho Spice Blend*


*Or substitute with 2 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, and ¼ teaspoon cloves



14 oz. Pack

Three Ladies Dried Pho Noodles



12 oz. 

Thin Sliced Beef` 

2 packs

Lao Thai Nam Bo Vien (beef meatballs with tendon)

16 oz. 

Bean sprouts 

2 bunches

Scallions, sliced


Tomato, sliced

½ cup

Persian cucumber, sliced 

¼ cup

Fried shallot 


For the Fortified Beef Stock 

Step 1:  First, we must brine beef neck bones. This is essential to clean and remove any impurities that seep into the pho broth.

In a large pot, fill it with 2 quarts of cold water. Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt, mix until salt is dissolved. Then, submerge the beef for 15-20 minutes. Drain water and rinse beef under cold water, until the water runs clear.

Step 2: Time to make the fortified beef stock. Add 2 quarts of beef bone broth to a pot along with  1 quart of water. 

Step 3: Gently add in the beef neck bones, along with sliced whole yellow onion and unpeeled Hawaiian ginger.

Step 4: Simmer everything for 30 minutes. 

Step 5: Strain stock through a fine-mesh strainer. Reserve onions, ginger, and beef neck bones 


For the Hủ Tiếu Sa Tế Broth 

Step 1: To marinate the cubed beef, add your beef to a medium-sized bowl. Add in the chili powder, Tumami pho spice blend, garlic, and lemongrass. Marinate for 30 minutes.

Step 2: When beef is ready, heat a large pot over medium heat. Using 1 tbsp of cooking oil, saute your marinated beef with reserved onions and ginger from the stock. 

Step 3: Once the beef is lightly browned on all sides, add in the peanut butter and Tiger Sa Tế  

Step 4: To make the broth, cover the sauteed beef with your fortified beef stock. Bring everything to a simmer.

Step 7: When your beef begins to simmer, turn the heat down to medium-low. Then, add in organic sugar, kosher salt, Son Fish Sauce, and Lao Thai Nam beef balls. Allow it all to simmer for 30 minutes, occasionally skimming off any fat.

Step 6: As your beef simmers, prep your noodles and herb garnishes (instructions below.) When your beef is done simmering, reduce to low.


For the Noodles 

Step 1:  Soak the dried rice noodles in hot tap water for 10 minutes. They will soften just a bit, and become more opaque. Drain the noodles. 

Step 2: Simultaneously bring a separate pot of 2 quarts of water to a boil. Add noodles, stir occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.

Step 3: Cook until the noodles are done (2-3 minutes) 

Step 4: Once the noodles are done, drain the noodles into a food colander and rinse them thoroughly with cold water until the water runs clear 


How to Make Scallion Oil 

Step 1: Shave scallions.  

Step 2: In a small saucepan, preheat 1 tsp of oil on low for 1 minute. Add shaved scallions and cook until tender. 


To Prepare Garnishes 

Step 1: Slice tomatoes, cucumbers, and 2 bunches of scallions.

Step 2: Rinse and clean 16 oz of mung bean sprouts- to get them crispy, soak them in cold water for 5 minutes prior to serving. 


Assembling your Vietnamese Satay Beef Noodle Soup

Step 1: In a large soup bowl, add your cooked pho noodles.

Step 2: Garnish with Beef Balls, your bean sprouts, and thinly sliced beef.

Step 3: Carefully ladle boiling broth into the bowl . 

Step 4: Now, for your garnishes. Add in the tomato and cucumber slices. Dollop scallion oil into a bowl. Then, garnish with fried shallot.


Recipe by Tu David Phu

Tu David Phu is an Oakland, CA-born first-generation Vietnamese-American chef whose family hails from the island of Phu Quoc, accredited as the birthplace of fish sauce in Asia. Inspired by his mother, Chef Tu transformed his classic culinary approach, making him the pioneer of Vietnamese-California cuisine he is today. He is also an active food education and justice advocate, serving as a James Beard Smart Catch leader and member of the Oakland Asian Cultural Center.

Follow him on social media: @cheftudavidphu