The best Hue dishes were once exclusively served to past emperors and royal families of the Nguyen Dynasty, but travellers nowadays can find plenty of local restaurants, roadside stalls and high-end resorts serving these specialities all year round. When it comes to Hue cuisine, it’s predominantly sweet and spicy in flavour from fresh herbs such as lemongrass, basil, red chilies, and mint mixed with the quintessential nuoc mam or fermented fish sauce.
1. Bun Bo Hue (Hue Beef Noodle Soup)
Bun bo Hue (Hue style beef vermicelli) or more detail, Bun bo gio heo (beef and pig’s knuckle vermicelli) is a popular Vietnamese soup vermicelli dish, and one of the most typical foods of Hue, Vietnam. Fine combination of ingredients make the food famous; the broth is prepared by simmering beef and bones for a long period of time, after that a large range of different spices containing lemon grass and chili are added in. Shrimp paste holds no less importance. Hue people usually add thin slices of beef shank, chunks of boiled oxtail, and pig’s knuckles or pork into the bowl. It can also contain cubes of maroon brown congealed pig blood, which are good for those suffering from high blood pressure. The specialty is commonly served with a plenty of herbs like sprouts, lime wedges, cilantro sprigs, onions, and sliced banana blossom. Thinly sliced purple cabbage or iceberg lettuces are used in case of lacking in banana blossom. It is highly recommended for tourists to add a few of shrimp paste directly into the soup.
Bun Bo Hue: 38 Tran Cao Van street, open only until 9am. (South Bank)
2. Bun Thit Nuong (Vermicelli Noodles With Grilled Pork)
Bun thit nuong comprises rice vermicelli noodles, grilled pork, lettuce, cucumbers, beansprouts, pickled daikon, basil, mint, chopped peanuts, and deep-fried spring rolls. Priced at VND 20,000 upwards, this hearty dish also comes with a side of pickled carrots, fresh lettuce and fermented fish dipping sauce. Eat like the locals by pouring the sauce over the noodles for an extra kick of flavour.
Bun Thit Nuong: 244 Dinh Tien Hoang street, small stand that opens after 12pm. (Old city)
3. Banh Beo (Steamed Rice Cakes)
Known in English as steamed rice cakes, banh beo look similar to cupcakes but are topped with dried shrimp, deep-fried pork rind, shallots, rice vinegar, and fresh herbs. Accompanied with a side of nuoc mam (fermented fish) dipping sauce and red chillies, there are two variations of this local delicacy – banh beo chen is prepared in a coin-sized ceramic saucer (you can get five or six for about VND 30,000 at sit-down restaurants) while the larger banh beo dia is eaten as a main dish.
Banh Beo: Quan Hanh, 11 Pho Duc Chinh (South Bank)
4. Com Hen (Clam Rice)
Com Hen (rice with mussel) is a very unique cuisine of Hue. Com Hen contains rice, boiled mussel, star fruit, fish sauce, cabbage, onion, pepper, peanut, chili, and a variety of herbs. The specialty is all of these elements are cold. When people eat Com Hen, they add all the above ingredients to a bowl, and slowly add boiled mussel broth with chili sauce into the bowl (the broth is the only hot thing in Com Hen). Com Hen has an extremely spicy flavor as such, so gastronomes remember it just after one time enjoying.
Com Hen: 27 Le Thanh Ton Street, small stand that is open until 8pm. (Old city)
5. Nem Lui (Hue Lemongrass Skewers)
Nem lui is a kebab-like dish using lemongrass stalks, which is wrapped with marinated meat (usually pork or beef) then grilled over a charcoal stove. Diners are also served with a side of rice paper, lettuce and cucumber slices, rice vermicelli, and fresh herbs. It’s available as an appetiser at just about all local restaurants and hotels in Hue. For added flavour, dip nem lui into a local sauce made with ground peanuts, fermented beans, sesame seeds, shrimp paste, chopped garlic, chillies and shallots.
Nem Lui: Quan Hanh, 11 Pho Duc Chinh (South Bank)