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Hue - The king of Vetnamese cuisine

Hue’s cuisine is served from villa restaurants and sidewalk stands, but alley eateries with tarps for roofs and plastic stools for seats are often the best choice.

  22/02/2017 16:46

Cơm hến

“Foreigners can’t eat this,” I was told off-handedly when I first tried cơm hến, or “clam rice,” a decade ago. “They get sick. People from Hanoi and Saigon get sick, too.”

I braved it anyway. And quickly became a fan of the spicy yet cool-rice dish made with tiny stir-fried river clams. Added are fried shallots, peppers, green onion, mint, pork rinds, peanuts, and — this being Vietnam — nuoc mam (fish sauce). It’s excellent. (And I never got sick.)

You’ll find this at several food stalls and open eateries on Truong Dinh Street or nearby Pham Hong Thai Street on Hue’s south bank.

Bánh bèo & bánh nậm

Many of Hue’s dishes are small bite-sized dishes, often made with glutinous rice rolls coated in dried shrimp. Think “Vietnamese tapas.” They’re tasty and cheap; most go for well under a dollar a serving.

One of the standout survivors of the dynasty days is bánh bèo (or “water fern cake”), a steamed rice pancake served on small saucers, and topped with dried shrimp, pork rinds, shallots, herbs, and a dollop of mung bean paste.

Also watch for bánh nậm, which is like a flattened cousin of bánh bèo, with a little pork tossed in and wrapped in banana leaves as a thin tasty rectangle.

Bánh khoai & Nem lụi

One of my favourite anecdotes during my time living in Vietnam in the mid-90s revolved around a simple Hue restaurant known for its noodles and the family running it. Lonely Planet championed Lac Thien (at Dien Thien Hoang and Tran Hung Dao Streets), run by a “deaf-mute” family, and it soon turned into a backpacker staple. (Still is.) But as business soared, a restaurant soon opened next door, with an identical menu and nearly the same name — and run by a staff pretending to be deaf-mute. (That’s so Vietnam, I love it.)

One of the Lac Thien favourites — and perhaps best served from street carts at the Dong Ba Market — is the bánh khoai (or “happy cake”), a yellow crepe, fried till crispy and served with shrimp paste and a peanut-y hoisin sauce.

It’s great, perhaps no Hue cuisine satisfies my palate more than nem lui tom, essentially a shrimp salad heavy on garlic and fish sauce that’s grilled and served with figs, cucumbers, carrot, green onion, and rice paper for DIY rolls.

Bún bò Huế

That Bún bò Huế in its namesake city is excellent is understood. Where to sample Hue’s best bowl is where the debate starts.

This is the one Hue delicacy that’s been successfully and widely exported: a beef noodle soup served with a bigger kick than a bowl of pho. The round noodle — slippery on the chopsticks — coils in a spicy red-brown broth of chili, shrimp paste, green onion, lime, and mint.

Source Gadventures
Subject: Vietnam

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