As a girl born and raised in Hanoi, northern part of Vietnam, I spend most of my time writing about Hanoi cuisine, its unique characteristics and flavors. But today, I would like to take you all on a different journey in which we will discover about the culinary delight from another region – Hue City, the one that is located in the middle of Vietnam.
When you talk about Hue City, every single person will be under the impression of an imperial city where the royal ancient architecture is well-preserved and the people somehow behave in a tender gentle manner compared to others. However, all those delicate characteristics of Hue would not be complete without the sophisticated cuisine that can make tourists immediately love at the first sight. During our culinary adventure today, some of the most famous dishes here including Nem Lui, Bun Bo Hue, Com Hen will be “on-air”.
Nem Lụi (Hue’s lemongrass skewer)
The reason I chose this one to be up first is because this is my favorite dish in Hue. Even though it looks like barbecue, it is a mixture of different ingredients. The ingredients are ground beef, pork, shredded pork skin and fat mixed together with garlic, sugar, pepper, and fish sauce. These are then combined and formed into sausages around stalks of lemongrass, and grilled over charcoals. When it is ready, Nem Lụi is served with a pile of herbs and a range of vegetables such as green fig, cucumber, pickled carrot and papaya, all of which are in string shape. To enjoy the meal, just pull the skewer out of them lemongrass, take a little of each ingredients, put them all on the rice paper, wrap them all in a roll, and “grip and dip” your roll in the special sauce made from peanut and peanut butter, fermented beans, sesame seeds, shrimp paste, garlic, and shallots.
Bún Bò Huế (Hue style beef vermicelli)
Another specialty of Hue is Bún Bò Huế. It is so famous that you can catch sight of many restaurants in other regions serving the dish. Basically, it is broth made from beef and pork bones, flavored with ginger, annatto seeds, lemongrass, and some special additives. To prepare the dish, round rice noodles, cube of maroon brown congealed pig blood, slices of beef shank and pig knuckles are put into a bowl with bean sprouts sprinkled on top and wait for the broth to pour on all over. A serving of a hot bowl of Bún Bò Huế always comes a dish of various herbs such as lime wedges, cilantro sprigs, onions, and sliced banana blossom. If you are okay with the distinct smell of shrimp paste, it is recommended that a little of shrimp paste or chili paste be added into the soup to genuinely savor the dish as a local resident.
Com Hến (Mussel rice)
This specialty is a perfect choice for the hot summer vibe as everything is served cold but still super delicious. The dish is a harmonious mixture of various colorful spices but the chili flavor is most prominent. Normally, in a bowl of Cơm Hến, you can find rice, tender stir-fried clams, crispy pork cracklings, fruit, fish sauce, cabbage, onion, pepper, peanut, chili, and a variety of herbs. But it does not just end like that. The key factor in the dish is a bowl of boiled mussel broth with chili sauce that you can pour into the big bowl of mussel rice.
Interestingly, when in Hue, if you are an observant, you can easily notice the presence of chili in any restaurant because Hue people eat really spicy food due to the cold weather in rainy season.
On the whole, no matter what flavor you like, Hue cuisine can always live up to your expectations. Pack your bags and sketch out a plan to experience the yummy dishes in Hue City.
By Nguyen Thu Thao, ASEAN Correspondent from Vietnam