Nail Shop Eats #2 -Bun Bo Hue

This story was published in 2008. My mother has now retired from the nail shop industry and is now cooking full time to her hearts desire.

My last rant about Mom’s nuoc man noodle party seemed to fuel her real flame. I thought all was said and done after the fish sauce initiation episode at the nail shop, but now this woman is really afire. I’ve seen her bring some crazy meals into the shop, but today had to top it all off.

Mom reminded me that she was coming a little late because she was bringing her bún noodles again. OK, fine. We’re not gonna debate over this again. Although I wasn’t able to stop her last cooking rampage from making garlicky fish sauce, I did remind the staff to not talk customers until they’ve had a breath mint or two.

Our intense, but loving, mother-daughter food disagreements remind me that although we disagree, we’re often way too much alike.

So today, right at lunchtime, in  my cooking obsessed mother with her gigantic stock pot of …Bun Bo Hue! For those of you Viet food junkies who know your noodle soups, a  really good Bun Bo Hue is all about the spices.

This spicy noodle soup is a blend of rich, lemongrass infused spicy broth and round bun rice noodles. In this specialty soup of the Hue region of Viet-Nam, achieving the right balance of chili spice and shrimp paste pungency reins supreme. Mom’s version has always been the winner amongst her friends when it comes to flavor and the spice.

Yes, it’s a great bowl to eat,  but at the nail shop?!?!

Here we go again with her cooking escapades amidst pedicures and manicures. Before I could even finish a credit card transaction at the counter, she’s trying to heat up a portable butane stove.

“No! What are you doing? Are you flippin’ crazy? Are you seriously thinking about assembling this noodle soup in the middle of a salon?”, I asked firmly.

My mother of all mothers replies, “No. I assemble in back salon”.

So there goes the mother hen to the back along with her prodigies all salivating over the fragrant stock pot. Before my very eyes, she was assembling her famous noodle soup from her huge spread of noodles, limes, greens and chilies.

Yes, the whole staff was having a good time as always.

Yes, customers were asking the same curious questions again.

And yes, I do what I have always done as her part-time manager, to be a mediator between both parties. I call out orders for someone to work on a manicure here and a pedicure there. The whole staff transforms into massaging maniacs from the spicy broth. Today, the customers get their extra massage, without the extra tab. Good Price! Good Price!

In between all the noodle slurping chaos, I schmooze and chat with customers to help distract them from the campfire in the back of the salon. I tried to not be a party pooper this time, but I sure as heck made sure the fire department didn’t come in to hose down all the fire breathing manicurist dragons.

Just another day at the nail shop.


Read more Nail Shop Eats stories:


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Kristen

    This is hilarious! Your mom sounds like my mother-in-law haha! No recipe? This is one of my favorite soups and one of the hardest to find a recipe for online :(.

  2. Bernie

    Very funny story! I can imagine what the saloon looked like that morning…..this made me laugh out loud!!

  3. Downtown Foodie

    Goodness, that looks DELICIOUS!!! Did you share the recipe? I’d love to try it at home, mmmm!!

    Your story is funny. It reminds me of the first time my boyfriend and I manage to get his parents to slow down enough to do something with us for once. We get up in the morning and it’s not just his parents, but also his aunt and uncle come along for the ride, so we pack into two SUVs (maybe 7 young people from 12-25 and 4 parents) and head up to the DC Zoo from Richmond, VA.

    Well after walking the huge zoo in late summer heat, we’re all starving and wondering what we’re going to eat. Well, apparently, the parents had been cooking earlier and packed the trunk up with 2 pots of hot rice, a pot of noodles, kari, and 2 other soups. The parents bust out the bamboo mat and we enjoyed a delicious, fresh, homemade meal in the DC Zoo parking lot. Whoever witnessed our zoo feast is surely to have never forgotten, haha. It was a wonderful surprise in my mind ;).

  4. Rebecca

    So funny, Mom seems a lot like my older sister in temperment. Maybe she should branch out into spa days with lunches?

  5. nhi

    I’ve recently just started reading your blog. It’s hilarious because that stuff happens in my family, too. 🙂 There’s nothing like coming home from college to thit heo kho trung or bun/pho. Yum, yum.

  6. calamansi05

    Can you post your Mom’s version of the soup?

  7. Meaghan

    So funny!
    I’d start getting manicures if they came with bun bo hue around here!

  8. Nhiro

    Oh god. That sounds exactly like something my crazy mom would do. If she had more staff in her salon, I’d imagine her and my aunt would be in the back making BBH too (if they had a kitchen, of course). Also, looking at your photos makes me hungry now. Look forward to trying your recipes!

  9. Tanya

    Freaken hilarious, your mom has balls. I miss my mom and her bun bo hue now.

  10. Milena

    Where IS your salon? I should like to schedule an appointment immediately. Also, please tell your mother that I’m willing to be adopted. She may light a butane stove wherever she wants in any vicinity of mine.

    Great post. This is my first time here at your blog but I’ll be back.

  11. Dani

    I don’t get manicures and avoid nail shops because of the smell(what is that chemical anyway?) … but, I think you’re on to something having good cooking to tantalize the customers. Am with everyone else… I would seriously consider a manicure at a shop like Mom’s! Must go read Cooking Adventure #1 now. LOL.


  12. Julie

    Hey, if I thought there was a chance of getting a soup like that with a manicure, I would be having manicures right and left. And how am I not familiar with bun bo hue? It sounds fabulous.

  13. Carrie Oliver

    Well, that soup does look delicious, and I do need a pedicure 😉

  14. courtney

    I normally don’t like salons , etc, but your Moms would be a blast to go to! How fun and what good eating.

  15. Renee

    I SOOOOO wish I lived down there – I would DEFINITELY start getting manicures. If only for the smells (and possibly for some of the glorious food – and the laughs!! *grin*) I so love this blog!!

  16. matt

    I’m SO coming to get my nails done. That’s it.

  17. danil

    The stories on this blog are hilarious =D

  18. nikkipolani

    Diane, why do I get the feeling this is not an isolate incident?! Terrific story 😀

  19. Denise & Lenny

    This is a funny story!

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