Food in Hue Vietnam-Day 4

by formerchef on July 25, 2009

July 7, 2009

Hue is known for its Imperial cuisine as this was once the center of the Vietnamese royalty. It’s where the Imperial City/Citadel was, where the emperors lived and where they built Royal Tombs as massive tributes to themselves before they died. According to Reid on Travel, it’s said that of Vietnam’s 1700 dishes, 1400 may come from Hue. Emperors being finicky eaters, insisted on new dishes to try and their chef’s gave them many choices in the form of small bites, or, “Vietnamese tapas” if you will. We came here hoping to live like the emperors, to see, taste, and experience all Hue has to offer.

We flew from Hanoi to Hue late in the morning, but by the time we got settled into our hotel it was well past lunch time. We set out in the bright hot humid heat, walking toward one of the recommendations on my list, called “Hang Me.” Like many places in Vietnam, if successful, there is a copycat with the same name right across the street. So if you go, make sure you go to the right place, #45 Vo Thi Sau St. This place is known for its glutenous rice dishes and only has 5 or 6 items on its laminated, oddly translated, photo-menu.

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We started withBanh Beo, tiny plates of gelatinous rice with teeny dried shrimp and fried pork rind. We weren’t even sure how to eat them until one of the women who worked there showed us how to scoop it out with a spoon and dip it in the sauce. The other dish served on the basket was called Banh Ran and was described on the menu as “fried rice noodle, pig skin crispy.” The third dish we tried was Banh Lok, which was more gelatinous rice served in a banana leaf package with a whole dried shrimp and a chunk of pork fat tucked inside. While I enjoyed the uniqueness of these dishes I sometimes found the chewy texture a bit too much to go back for more. Lunch was 110,000 VND, including 2 cokes, about $6.

VNhudabeerLater in the day, exhausted and dehydrated after exploring the ancient Imperial City, we stop at the well known Lac Thien (6 Dinh Tien Hoang St),owned by a deaf family. Again, there is a similarly named place right next door, also owned by a deaf-mute family. Even though this place is listed in almost every guidebook, the food here was quite good and the place seems frequented by locals and tourists alike. Here we had our first local Hue beer called “Huda.” I have to say, it was probably my favorite beer of the trip. The label says, “Brewed by Danish Technology.”

We order another famous Hue specialty called Banh Khoai, which is an egg and rice flour “pancake” filled with shrimp, meat, and bean sprouts. We also have an order of Nem Luiwhich are “roll your own” spring rolls made with rice paper, grilled pork and assorted fresh herbs, lettuce, and star fruit served with a peanut sauce. We like this enough to order a second round, this time with chicken. Lunch #2 was 75,000 VND, including 2 large Huda beers, about $4.

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VNhuespringrollFor dinner, I have what sounds like a great recommendation for the Hue’s local version of Pho, called Bun Bo Hue. Unfortunately, after trekking what feels like all the way across town on a humid summer night, in the dark, over cracked pavement (can you tell I was getting cranky?), we find the place to be closed. This is one of those times when my research failed me. I had plenty of places listed, I just couldn’t find most of them on a map. We end up eating at a place favored by guidebook toting backpackers called Phuong Nam (38 Tran Cao Van St).We have more nem (spring rolls) and sauteed chicken and vegetables. They are both ok, but nothing spectacular and I wonder about the restaurant’s claim to be “voted best food in Hue by International travelers.” But it’s cheap, and I can see why it’s filled with travelers every time we pass. Dinner, with beer, is 61,000 VND (about $3.30)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 bob July 25, 2009 at 2:09 pm

loving the descriptions….but what is there to eat….it all looks like apetizers??

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2 formerchef July 25, 2009 at 5:13 pm

Yes, it did seem like there were a lot of appetizers. I think you just eat a lot of different things. There’s a beef noodle soup coming on the next day….

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3 Vivian Boroff July 25, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Everything looks so delicious. The rice paper for the spring rolls looked dry, what was the texture like? Was it rolled fresh? The filling looked great.

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4 formerchef July 25, 2009 at 6:01 pm

The rice paper was dry. But as soon as the heat and moisture from the meat hit it, it started to soften. Got softer still when dipped in the sauce. But I’ve never seen it served dry like that before either.

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5 White On Rice Couple August 3, 2009 at 11:13 pm

What an amazing trip, fabulous stories and mouth watering photographs! Thank you so much for giving us so much detail about your trip, we feel like we were back there again. It was so much fun following you on Twitter!
Now let’s get together in Little Saigon and we’ll take you on a tour of what Viet food is like in CA. It’s time to compare!
hugs,
diane and todd

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6 formerchef August 4, 2009 at 6:58 am

Absolutely! Just let me know when and where. Already craving Vietnamese food again!

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7 ravenouscouple August 26, 2009 at 9:10 pm

For some Vietnamese dishes such as the Banh Bot Loc (Clear Shrimp/Pork Dumplings) it is all about the chew :) While it shouldn’t be too chewy, that consistency is what sets that dumpling apart. So glad to discover your eating adventures in Vietnam. We wish we could be there but we’ll enjoy it vicariously through your blog. :)

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8 niki June 23, 2010 at 7:41 am

Just had a very similar experience in Hue tonight, which we resolved by ordering pizzas for our two children and asking the owner of the italian place where he eats Vietnamese food. He directed us to Temple, Chu van An, around the corner where the regional cuisine of Hue was well represented and nicely prepared. And since we’ve figured out how to fit a family of four onto a scooter, we’ve been much less bothered by the heat and cracked pavements in our search for food.

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