Visit Hue: The Secret Capital of Vietnamese Cuisine

Calling all foodies! If you’re looking for your next travel destination, you’ve just found it. A trip to Hue in Vietnam will send you straight through the golden gates of foodie heaven! 

Hue is already a popular place to visit, being situated halfway between Ho Chi Minh City in the South and Hanoi in the North. Travellers are drawn to the area to ride boats to royal tombs along the Perfume River, see the bomb-blasted Citadel, and sit on the nearby South China Sea beach. 

However, the secret to truly exploring Hue is to taste its food. Of the 2,700 Vietnamese dishes in existence, 1,700 of those hail from Hue, which was the country’s royal capital from 1802 to 1945. Chefs would churn out dishes as part of a rotating mix of 52-course meals for the kings, and very few of these culinary delights have been served outside of this central Vietnamese city. 

The food in Hue is served up from villa restaurants and street-side stands, but the best choices are usually in the form of the alleyway eateries with tarps for roofs and plastic stools for seats. These modest and informal dining areas are where you will find the most authentic and delicious local food. Here are a few culinary highlights of the delectable dishes on offer in Hue.

Bún bò Hue

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 noodles are served up in a spicy broth of chilli, shrimp paste, green onion, lime, and mint. 

An eatery of the same name as this dish is found at 17 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, and their food is delicious despite the place becoming a little too touristy now. Banging bowls of this delicacy can also be bought from a local lady who cooks the meal under the bridge close to Dong Ba market. Alternatively, it can be enjoyed on Vietnamese fishing boats at floating markets. 

Bánh khoai and nem lui tom

Lac Thien is a famous, family-run restaurant which became a backpacker staple after it was championed by the travel guide giant Lonely Planet. 

One of the favourite dishes served there is bánh khoai (“happy cake”), a yellow crepe which is fried until crispy and served with shrimp paste and a nutty hoisin sauce. You’ll also find these being sold from street carts at the Dong Ba Market. 

Alternatively, opt for nem lui tom, which is essentially a grilled shrimp salad flavoured with garlic and a fish sauce. It’s served with figs, cucumbers, carrot, green onion, and rice paper for do-it-yourself rolls. 

Bánh bèo and bánh nậm

Many of Hue’s dishes are small and bite-sized, frequently made with glutinous rice rolls coated in dried shrimp. In fact, think of them like Vietnam’s answer to tapas! These tasty morsels are also very cheap, with most selling for less than a pound per serving! 

One of the standout dishes 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.

Additionally, try 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.

Cơm hến

Cơm hến, or “clam rice,” is a spicy yet cool rice dish made with tiny stir-fried river clams. Added ingredients include fried shallots, peppers, green onion, mint, pork rinds, peanuts, and – of course – Vietnam’s nuoc mam (fish sauce).

Local people will claim that foreigners can’t eat it because it makes them sick. In fact, they’ll also say that even other Vietnamese people from places such as Hanoi and Saigon can’t stomach it. But plenty of people go for it anyway because it’s simply delicious. 

You’ll find this dish at several food stalls and open eateries on Truong Dinh Street, or nearby Pham Hong Thai Street on Hue’s south bank. So go on, take a bite… if you’re brave enough!

Has Hue got your taste buds tingling and your travel bug itching? Check out our Vietnam tours here

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