How to Eat Like a Local in Hue: A Guide to Experiencing Hue Cuisine
How to eat like a local in Hue? This question may come to mind when you’re planning a trip to this central Vietnamese city. Hue is known for its rich history and culture, but it’s also a culinary destination that shouldn’t be missed. To truly experience authentic Hue cuisine, you need to step away from the tourist traps and explore the city’s hidden food gems. In this guide, we’ll show you how to eat like a local in Hue and discover the best dishes that the city has to offer.
How to Eat Like a Local in Hue: The Culinary History of Hue
Hue cuisine is a fascinating blend of royal and local flavors, shaped by the city’s unique history and culture. Hue was the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of Vietnam, and the royal cuisine developed during this period had a significant influence on the city’s food culture. The royal cuisine was characterized by its complexity, elegance, and attention to detail, and it used a wide variety of ingredients, such as freshwater fish, pork, and various herbs and spices.
However, Hue’s food culture is not limited to a royal cuisine. The city’s location in central Vietnam also means that it has been influenced by the cuisine of neighboring regions, such as the spicy and bold flavors of the central highlands and the fresh and light tastes of the coastal areas. Over time, Hue’s food culture has become a rich and diverse blend of different culinary traditions, with each dish carrying a unique story and flavor.
Today, visitors to Hue can explore the city’s culinary history by trying traditional dishes like bun bo Hue, a spicy beef noodle soup, or banh khoai, a crispy pancake filled with shrimp and pork. Whether you’re a food lover or a history buff, the culinary history of Hue is sure to be a highlight of your visit to this fascinating city.
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How to Eat Like a Local in Hue: Must-Try Foods
Hue cuisine offers diverse and affordable dishes with balanced flavors, but visitors should plan accordingly as most dishes are only available in the morning. Must-try dishes include beef noodle soup, clam noodle soup, water fern cake, and grilled pork skewers, with prices ranging from 3,000-30,000 VND.
For drinks, you can try soybean milk, a grass jelly drink, or sweet soup. We highly recommend trying the roast pork stuffed in clear dumpling soup because “this is the type of sweet soup that tastes best only in Hue”. The price is around 15,000 VND per cup, and in many street vendors, the price may be even lower. The most famous location is Mợ Tôn Đích sweet soup shop, right in Thương Bạc park.
Banh Khoai: A Hue Specialty (Khoai cake)
- Address: Banh Khoai Thu Suong, 84-86 Kim Long, Hue.
Banh Khoai is a type of Vietnamese crepe filled with shrimp, quail eggs, bean sprouts, and pork belly. The batter is made of rice flour and turmeric, giving it a distinct yellow color. Banh Khoai is a popular Vietnamese dish that originated in Hue, a city in central Vietnam.
Banh Beo: A Delightful Hue Snack (Beo cake)
- Address: O Le Cake Shop, Alley 104, 17/9 Kim Long, Hue
Although Banh Beo is small in size, it is a dish that you will want to try over and over again. Each piece of Banh Beo is steamed in a small porcelain dish, then topped with dried shrimp, shredded pork, scallions, and shallot oil. A drizzle of light sweet fish sauce completes this quintessential Hue snack.
Banh Nam (Nam cake)
- Address: Central Region – Banh Beo & Banh Nam – 16 Tô Hiến Thành, Phu Cat Ward, Hue.
As one of the most delicious steamed cakes in Hue, Nam Cake wins over every diner with its beautiful appearance and delicious taste. Each cake is made from a thin layer of rice flour, topped with fresh shrimp, fried garlic, and scallion.
The skillful cook arranges the cakes on banana leaves before steaming. Like Beo cake, just a bowl of delicious fish sauce can turn each beautiful cake into a mouth-watering bite.
Grilled Pork Noodle
- Address: Huyen Anh Grilled Pork Noodle and Steamed Rice Paper – 50 Kim Long, Hue.
Grilled pork noodle is a perfect dish for lunch when visiting the ancient capital. First, the pork is marinated with spices and grilled over charcoal. A bowl of noodles consists of fresh rice noodles, herbs, pickled papaya and carrot, thinly sliced cucumber, a bit of fresh coriander, and the highlight – grilled pork. Finally, add fish sauce to the bowl of noodles and mix well.
Banh Ram It (Ram it Cake)
- Address: Ba Do Ram It Cake Shop – 8 Nguyen Binh Khiem, Phu Cat Ward, Hue.
In Hue, you can enjoy this delicious steamed cake dish. A fried sticky rice cake and a soft dumpling are stacked together into a small pile. Some crispy fried shrimp, chives, and crispy fried pork skin complete the dish.
Steamed rice rolls (Banh Uot)
- Address: Wet Rice Paper Rolls and Grilled Pork Noodle – Huyen Anh – 50 Kim Long, Hue.
Also known as “Banh Trang Uot”, steamed rice rolls are made from soft and moist rice paper that has been freshly steamed. Skilled Hue cooks wrap the rice paper with various herbs, betel leaves, and grilled meat to make the rolls. When eating, diners dip the rolls into a spicy garlic sauce that is perfectly made to their taste.
Banh Bot Loc (Bot loc Cake)
- Address: Quan 109 – Banh Beo – Nam – Loc – 109 Le Huan, Thuan Hoa Ward, Hue.
The texture of each dish is something that Hue locals love to create in their meals. Some tourists may find bánh bột lọc to be a strange and sticky dough. But that is part of the fun when enjoying the food. Tearing apart each translucent cake made from banana leaves reveals a filling of beautiful small shrimp and pork.
Bun Bo Hue
- O Van’s Hue-style beef noodle soup – usually sold out by 9 am – at Trinh Cong Son street.
- Ong Vong’s Hue-style beef noodle soup – sold in the afternoon around 2-3 pm – at Nguyen Du street.
- Ba Nga’s Hue-style beef noodle soup – sold in the evening – at 103 Xuân 68 street.
Mi, com hen (mussel noodles, rice)
- Mi Quang, rice with mussel – O Nho – 28 Pham Hong Thai. It’s so delicious that I can’t get enough of it, remember to add some Hue-style shrimp paste when eating.
- Hong Thuy’s mussel noodle – 88 Han Thuyen. This place is inside the citadel, very cool and comfortable to sit and eat.
How to find a restaurant with authentic Hue cuisine?
- The more secluded and deeper in an alley or side street the restaurant is, the better the authentic Huế taste.
- The older and more classic the signage, or even without one, the better the food.
- If the restaurant name starts with “Mụ”, “Mệ”, “O”, “Bé”, the chef is likely a native of Huế, and the dishes are more authentic.
- The rougher and simpler the seating arrangements, such as plastic stools, floor seating, or shabby chairs, the better the quality of food served.
- Shabby, thatched-roof or nylon-covered restaurants, or even with no decorations, often have better food than upscale establishments.
- Street food sold from carts, baskets, or buckets is worth trying.
- The older the vendor, the better the food.
- Sidewalk or roadside seating, or no seating at all, is more in line with Huế style.
- The area within a radius of 3-7km from the city center has the most concentrated cluster of restaurants.
- Huecuisine is known for its spiciness, so if you can’t handle the heat, make sure to inform the vendor beforehand. Otherwise, you may end up with tears in your eyes and a burning mouth. And always ask about the price before ordering.
In conclusion, “How to Eat Like a Local in Hue” is not just about the food, but also about the cultural experience of exploring the city’s cuisine. By following the tips and recommendations in this guide, you can immerse yourself in the local food scene, discover hidden gems, and try new dishes that you won’t find anywhere else. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or a first-time visitor, embracing the local cuisine is a key part of experiencing Hue’s rich history and culture. So, pack your appetite and get ready to eat like a local in Hue!