Hue is not only known for an old city with numerous royal relics but also its fantastic food scene. Having experienced a wonderful travel in Hue this autumn, I thought that a walking food tour gave me a nice insight into the unique cuisine of this foodie city. If you want to learn some things about Hue cuisine and culture before your trip to central Vietnam, check out my food review!
1. Bun Bo Hue
Bun Bo Hue (Source: Internet)
After nearly a day on the train from Hanoi to Hue, I felt deadly hungry so I decided to start my Hue travel by a bowl of bun bo Hue at Bun bo me Keo – a popular food place to the local. Though I had eaten bun bo in Hanoi several times, trying this iconic dish in Hue is such a different and special experience.
The main ingredients in a bowl bun bo are rice noodle, a pig’s leg, beef, cow’s blood cubes and some meatballs. It is served with various herbs like shredded banana flowers, bean sprout, lettuce and shredded cabbage. Bun bo’s flavors are hot, spicy and sweet. It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that bun bo is the soul of Hue cuisine since this delicious dish can be easily found in every city’s corner for the price of about VND15,000 to VND30,000.
2. Com hen (rice with mussels)
Com Hen (Source: Internet)
It is said that in the past, com hen with cheap and easy-to-find ingredients was a dish for the poor. Nowadays, it becomes a must-try for any tourists coming to Hue. I had the chance to taste com hen when getting on a river cruise along Perfume River (Huong River) at night. It seemed to be a quick and easy meal, however, it required a skillful chef to make it a specialty. The most difficult step is preparing the mussels, boiling and winnowing the mussels to split off the shell and the sand inside. Next, mussels are stir-fried with chopped onions, shrimp paste and pork rinds before mixed with cooked rice and served with roasted peanut, herbs, bean sprouts and shredded banana flowers.
3. Banh beo tom chay (steamed rice cake)
Banh beo tom chay (Source: Internet)
Hue’s streets at night were very quiet and peaceful so I left the hotel at 8:00 p.m to walk down the street and had a walking Hue food tour with some of my friends. Coming along Vo Thi Sau street, I decided to have a late night meal at Hang Me Me – a small and famous food store in Hue. I ordered a plate of banh beo tom chay which is more commonly known as banh beo.
The name of banh beo (water fern cake) originated from the shape of the cake which looks like a water fern (beo) in Vietnamese. Rice flour and cornstarch are mixed with water to make a kind of dough, then, it will be poured into tiny bowls and steamed. Banh beo is served with a topping of minced stir-fried shrimps, chopped spring onions, and special fish sauce. Its flavor was the mixture of sweet shrimp, spicy and salty sauce.
4. Banh bot loc
Banh bot loc (Source: Internet)
After finishing the full plate of banh beo, I ordered a plate of banh bot loc. Banh bot loc is made from tapioca with stir-fried shrimps and pork and wrapped in fresh banana leaves before steamed in a large cooking pot.
Banh bot loc is not only a specialty in Hue but also a popular dish that you can find around the country. You can try it in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Danang, but it never tastes like banh bot loc in Hue. I was charmed by its flavor since the moment I ate the first banh bot loc in here. It tastes soft, a little bit tough, sweet, salty from shrimp, fatty from pork and spicy from fish sauce. Be careful! Once you take your first bite, you cannot stop!
5. Che hem
Che hem in Hue (Source: Internet)
I came to a small che hem restaurant on an alley of Hung Vuong Street the next day and was strongly impressed.
Che is a very common sweet dessert in Vietnam, from the north to the south, che can be found everywhere, from street hawkers, traditional markets to restaurant. However, che Hue, especially che hem was absolutely a different experience to me. “Hem” means alley in Vietnamese since che Hue is originally sold in small food stores located in alleys. There are various ingredients in a cup of che: red beans, black eye peas, green peas, lotus seeds, coconut milk, some kinds of fruits and many more. I ordered a special cup of che with all of the ingredients according to the recommendation from my tour guide. It tasted so good, so tasty, chill and not too sweet. My tour guide told me that visiting Hue without trying che hem is such a great pity and I totally agreed with him.
When setting your foot on Hue for the first time, you should not miss the chance to take a food tour around the city to enjoy the unique and tasty dishes and learn more about Hue culture.
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