Hue cuisine and specialties
Ask the Vietnamese which city has the best food and the answer is likely Hue. By virtue of being a former imperial city, Hue has evolved a nuanced and exquisite ‘royal cuisine’ to serve the kings. Idiosyncratic of Hue cuisine that sets it apart from other regional Vietnamese cuisines is the multiple small dishes of refined presenation that make up a meal, instead of one large serving, which can be likened to the Chinese ‘dim sum.’ Another feature of Hue cuisine is that it weighs in heavily on banh, a generic term for starchy foods made of flour, and can take the form of crepes, dumplings, fritters, noodles and bread. Hue specialties includes Banh Khoai (fried rice pancakes), Banh Beo (steamed round rice pancakes), Banh Nam (steamed rectagular rice pancakes), Banh Bot Loc (stuffed crystal tapioca dumplings), Banh Cuon (stuffed steamed rice noodle sheets similar to the Cantonese cheong fun), Banh Bo Hue (Hue beef vermicelli soup) and a little known dish called Trai Va (green fig salad).
Lien Hoa Vegetarian
Run a search on Happycow and TripAdvisor and you can find a modest listing of vegetarian restaurants in Hue, the most famous being Lien Hoa. It is conveniently located along a main road just a 10-minute walk from our hotel. We patronized Lien Hoa twice. On both occasions the place was filled with tourists as well as local Vietnamese and monks, a harbinger to the incredible Vietnamese food to come. Ordering was a little challenging. The waiters speak no English and the English translation in their extensive menu is at best a humorous Vinglish that at times made little sense. Thankfully the food pictures were helpful. The first night we had Banh Beo, Twelve Predestined Affinity and Pulled Banana Buds in Sesame. The Banh Beo was the most silky rice pancakes I’d ever eaten and they slide down the throat like a ride on a water slide. Twelve Predestined Affinity turned out be a salad of julienned vegetables and fried tofu. The components of the dish were presented as separate piles and I think the name refers to the tasty affinity of the ingredients for each other as you mix them with the sweet and umami serving sauces. Pulled banana buds was an interesting dish, cunchy and nutty. On the second occasion we had Banh Cuon and lau (hotpot) which came with generous servings of tofu, leafy greens, and vegetables. Overall Lien Hoa serves up tasty down-to-earth vegetarian Vietnamese food at bargain prices. It is definitely not to be missed.
At Golden Rice, we enjoyed a killer vegetable curry redolent of flowery coconut milk, zesty lemongrass and lime, and aromatic spices. Swathed in the luscious curry sauce were chopped carrots, pumpkin, potatoes and tofu. Golden Rice is ranked 17 on TripAdvisor’s Hue restaurant guide, and from their curry alone, it is well-deserved. Surprisingly on the lull afternoon we were there, the resturant was empty apart from us and another table. It is located along the hippy backpacker street Pham Ngu Lao, which has many other cafes as well.
Rose 2 Restaurant
Rose 2 Restaurant was a hit-and-miss experience. We were served by a most enthusiastic and sole waiter Hoang. His recommendation for vegetarian food was lau and we aceeded. While the soup base was extremely flavorful like a non-spicy Tom Yum, the ingredients lacked variety (mostly a large handful of tofu puffs) and the portion of greens and noodles were meagre. Furthermore the experience was marred by a long wait for the food to arrive despite ordering when the restaurant was nearly empty.
Hotel in Hue
We stayed at Romance Hotel, a fairly new construction and within walking distance to most tourist attractions in the city such as the Perfume River and Trong Tien bridge. The concierge were hospitable and warm, the rooms clean and spacious and the breakfast buffet boasts a fantastic spread of Vietnamese and Western food including dozens of fresh fruit, which made me more than a happy camper, literally. My parents experienced a hiccup with the magnetic-operated door lock, but the staff promptly transferred them to an adjacent room and repaired the spoilt door.
After two days in Hue, our next stop would be Hoi An down south, but not before a brief stop at Lang Co beach and the Marble mountains.
Lien Hoa – 3 Le Quy Don
Golden Rice – 40 Pham Ngu Lao Street
Rose 2 Restaurant – 02 Chu Van An St
Romance Hotel – 16 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street