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.
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
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 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
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.
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