Come to Hue and Eat like a Local
Hue City is the old capital of Vietnam. Despite its location – next to Da Nang – the new economic center, Hue is calm and peaceful in a unique way. If you want to have a truly relaxing travel experience, Hue is definitely the city you must visit.
The lifestyle of the people here is different from other places in Vietnam. Are you afraid that you don’t have enough time and language skills to see this difference? Do not worry! Try Hue food, as the way Hue people do! The way they make and eat food represents the way Hue people live their lives. In this article, I will introduce a list of Hue dishes which you should enjoy when you come to this old capital and where to find them.
Hue Rice Dumplings
Banh Beo, Banh Nam, and Banh Loc are the 3 most typical dumplings of Hue. As you might guess, they are all made from rice flour. To have a perfect dish, the food should be meticulously made by the locals. These are sophisticated dishes, from the selection of raw materials to the processing, you will enjoy the rich flavors. These should be eaten with style, at your discretion, just like the way the sellers prepare and give the food to you.
From 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM, a lot of women sell these dumplings on all streets. Hue people like these treats and they often have them for light snacks instead of the main meal.
Banh Beo – “Water-Fern Cake” – Rice Savory Dumpling
Some people have coined Banh Beo as “water-fern cake” – even though “cake” is not really the right term to call this savory dumpling. The shape of the dumpling literally looks like a water fern, Beo in Vietnamese. Also, another meaning of Beo is “very cheap”. So please just have Banh Beo as much as you want without worrying about your budget.
You can choose between different flavors: shrimp paste, green beans, and pork rind, just to name a few. The fish sauce accompanying with Banh Beo is different from the regular one, it is quite sweet and not too salty.
Banh Nam – Steamed Flat Rice Dumpling
Banh Nam is made with rice flour, shrimp paste, and wrapped in banana leaves. They have to steam the dumpling for about 10 minutes before serving. You should enjoy them with salty fish sauce and hot chilly sauce.
Open slowly, savor the fragrance of the cake, shrimp infused with the essence of the banana leaf, and enjoy this delicacy with a spoon.
Banh Loc, or Banh Bot Loc – Tapioca Savory Dumpling
The shade of Banh Loc is different from the two above-mentioned dumplings, it is translucent. You can use your hands to eat them, just peel the leaf, dip the cake into the fish sauce, and taste the deliciousness in your mouth.
Here are some of my recommended restaurants that serve all these three yummy dumplings:
- Hang Me: 45 Vo Thi Sau st., Phu Hoi Wd., Hue City
- Ba Do: 8 Nguyen Binh Khiem st., Phu Cat Wd., Hue City
- Thuy: 16 Pham Hong Thai st., Vinh Ninh Wd., Hue City
- 2 Truong Dinh st., Vinh Ninh Wd., Hue City
If you want to try it in a very local way, wait until 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM, and wander through the streets of Hue. You will see a lot of women carrying heavy loads with bamboo carrying poles (a symbol of Vietnam), high chance they sell Banh Beo, Banh Nam, and Banh Loc. Squat or sit on the low plastic chair and try the food as they feed the masses.
Please comment below to share with us your experience!
Bun Bo Hue
You can find this dish all across Vietnam, but trust me, try it in Hue, it will be a precious experience. Bun Bo made by Hue people in Hue city is more spicy, tastier, and people here use vermicelli noodles. Local people usually have Bun Bo Hue for breakfast but you can also find many restaurants serving this dish all day.
Bun means noodle, Bo is Beef, and Hue is the name of the city. The funny thing is- you can also find this noodle dish served with pork. Whether you use beef or pork, people still call it Bun Bo Hue. You can also expect cubes of coagulated pig’s blood. Although it may sound unappetizing, give it a try!
Here is a list of my favorite places to get bowls of Bun Bo Hue:
- Thuy Bun Bo Hue: 26 Truong Dinh st., Vinh Ninh Wd., Hue City
- O Cuong & Diep: 6 Tran Thu Nhan st., Vinh Ninh Wd., Hue City
- Bun Mu Roi: 14 Nguyen Chi Dieu st., Thuan Thanh Wd., Hue City
Banh khoai is a type of crepe fried in oil or lard. Locals often add duck eggs to make the color of the cake turn into a medium yellow and the eggs also contribute a powder-spongy texture; which is different than “Banh Xeo” which is also yellow, but due to turmeric powder. Banh Khoai is topped with shrimp, pork, and served with lettuce, herbs, coriander, and a few slices of sour bananas and star fruit. Do not expect sweet and sour fish sauce, that is reserved for Banh Xeo. The sauce for Banh Khoai is more meticulously made of pig liver, lean minced meat, roasted sesame seeds, and peanuts. Have you realized that I am biased? Banh Khoai is my favorite! Try it and tell me which is your favorite:
Below are some places for you to try Banh Khoai:
- Banh Khoai Hong Mai: 110 Dinh Tien Hoang St., Phu Thanh Wd., Hue City
- Banh Khoai Lac Thien: 6 Dinh Tien Hoang St., Phu Thanh Wd., Hue City
Com Hen, Bun Hen – Baby Clams with Rice or Noodle
These are local and cheap dishes, but they are not easy to make. Com Hen is just a dish of rice with clams. But you can also try it with pork rind, shrimp paste, raw vegetables, banana flowers, bean sprouts, small white taro, and peanuts. Mix everything up to make a very characteristic and pungent flavor of Hue. Hue locals know that the most delicious clams should be caught in Con Hen – the floating alluvium on the Perfume River in Con village, Vi Da ward.
Water in Perfume River flowing through Con Hen is usually clear, with less sediment and alum. Moreover, the bottom of the river is covered with a thick layer of mud, suitable for the growth of the clams. The clams here are so delicious that they used to be classified as food for the ancient kings.
Please be careful if you have a bad digestion system when you try dishes with clams as it can upset your stomach.
Have a look at these restaurants when you have a chance to come to Hue:
- 2 Truong Dinh st., Vinh Ninh Wd., Hue City (morning only)
- 11A Truong Dinh st., Vinh Ninh Wd., Hue City
- Di Cuc: 51 Han Mac Tu st., Vy Da Wd., Hue City
If you want an off-the-beaten-track experience in Hue, Banh Ep is absolutely the one you should try. Different from the above dishes, the ingredients of Banh Ep are much more simple: tapioca flour and the filling (egg, pate, jerky, meat, or any combination of them). The chef cooks the cakes by pressing the dough between two pieces of cast iron on charcoal, and then they put the filling on top, and press them again into the heat.
The way people sell Banh Ep is also very interesting. The sellers sit in the center, and we – as the diners – sit surrounding her, and order one by one. People call out “One with meat please,” or “Two with egg and jerky please.” You can observe how she does it; smell the cakes from the time the two ingredients are two separate parts, to the point when they are mixed together. You can hear the sound of sizzling as it reminds your stomach that you’re hungry. The cake is then passed right to you after it’s done. You can touch the cake and feel its heat and crisp.
Like most of the foods in Vietnam, we dip Banh Ep in fish sauce and a dish of sweet and sour sauce is often added to the side.
Banh Ep is a light food which is often eaten by the youth. The Hue old people do not choose to eat it. It is so popular among the young people, that Hue has many streets which are called Banh Ep streets like Nguyen Du st., and Nhat Le St. If you are on the way to Thuan An beach, stop by the stalls to eat Banh Ep, Thuan An town is the birthplace of this amazing dish!
Hue city is well known for having simple, yet sophisticated dishes. The dishes I have mentioned above are just some of the many options. And my recommendations are just for reference, in case you are lost in a city with a lot of happiness and an adventurous spirit. Come to Hue with a happy mind and an empty stomach. Trust me!
If you enjoyed reading this article and would like a comprehensive guide about Hue, an interesting one-day itinerary, or some more fun info about off-the-beaten-track points of interest in Hue (and a bunch of interesting cafes!) in Vietnam, follow us at the Christina’s blog!