10 Hue Foods You Must Try
Regional specialty dishes are often overlooked by visitors travelling Vietnam. While pho and banh mi are world-renowned as Vietnamese food, there are some less-discovered creations awaiting your enjoyment in every province of the country. This is especially true for local Hue food. The city’s cultural heritage and long-standing affluence has produced foods that solely belong to the area yet celebrated around Vietnam.
To spare you the search and mind-boggling google translations, here is a guide of 10 local Hue foods you have to try. Although the majority include meat, There are vegan options available around the city.
If you want to pack as much in as possible during your time in Hue, why not take a deepdive into the food scene with a Hue Grit Food Tour? We not only show you where Hue’s best local food is but tell you how to eat it and the social-historical context of each dish. Check out our tripadvisor if to see we’re the best Hue food tour the city has to offer!
The Noodles, the Rice & the Meat
1. Bun Bo Hue: Hearty Noodle Meat Feast
/>If pho vacates it’s title of ‘most famous Vietnamese noodle dish’, I’m sure that bun bo hue would be next in line. A direct translation would be ‘beef (bo) vermicelli noodles (bun) from Hue’. Bun Bo Hue is a meat feast. It’s primary ingredients, beef brisket, oxtail, pig knuckles and congealed pig’s blood are stewed in a huge pot along with lemongrass and some chili then served with veggies and leafy greens. It might seem too much for one dish but foodies find themselves ordering more. Best eaten on colder days for central heating at the back of a packed hole in the wall.
2. Com Hen / Bun Hen: Majestic and Appetizing
One of the more gracious entries to the local Hue food list. Com hen translates into baby mussels (hen) and rice (com). The dish’s supporting cast include fresh produce (starfruit, green mango, banana leaf,variety of herbs) and fried treats (pork rind, peanuts). Com hen can be served dry or wet depending on your preference. Chili relish, shrimp paste and fish sauce are the usual sauces to accompany com hen. vermicelli noodles (bun hen) is also an optional substitute for rice. One serving is usually too small for a whole meal, be ready to order more. Com hen has a unique spot in the culinary history of Vietnam. Read our article about the dish and it’s relationship with the city here. Can be eaten at any time of the day and any time of the year but best on a warm day with a cooling lemon juice.
3. Bun Thit Nuong Hue: Sassy Tropical Tongue-Melter
Another tasty Hue noodle dish. Unlike bun bo hue, bun thit nuong is a food served dry and cool. When hot soup-based noodle dishes don’t work in sweltering heat, bun thit nuong is the answer. Grilled pork and vermicelli noodles topped with papaya, scallions, leafy greens, herbs and crushed peanuts. An optional tablespoon or two of fish sauce. The result is an explosion of flavors perfect for a light meal. Best eaten on a scorching summer day.
4. Nem Lui: Aromatic Grilled Beef Spring Rolls
Grilled ground pork skewers are nothing new but when those skewers are made from lemongrass, nem lui holds itself up pretty well. Another Hue food now found nationwide. As with all Vietnamese street foods, Nem Lui isn’t a one-trick pony. Straight from the grill, you should take the meat off the skewer, wrap it in rice paper with greens (to make something akin to a spring roll) and dunk into it’s accompanying sauce before taking a bite. Only after taking these steps, you’ve reached Nem Lui nirvana. Best to eat as an evening snack, street food straight from the BBQ. Nem Lui can be found with the sense of smell, most BBQs selling Nem Lui waft the aromatic combination of lemongrass and grilled eat through the street. We can’t find a vegetarian Nem Lui in Hue but Lien Hoa has mecan on bamboo which is mildly similar and damn tasty.
The Banhs (savoury cakes)!
5. Banh Khoai: the Hue Pancake
If you’ve tried banh xeo and loved it, banh khoai is it’s local hue food cousin and you don’t want to miss it. A rice-flour savoury pancake filled with pork, shrimp and beansprouts. Sometimes with quail eggs too! Served sizzling hot from the frying pan with a side of starfruit and local herbs. A spoonful of peanut sauce on top of the banh khoai adds the 4th dimension to the flavour-packed dish. Experiment with the quantities of the condiments to get the balance right. Unlike banh xeo, these aren’t rolled up. Eat them straight from the bowl. It’s a greasy affair so roll up your sleeves. Best eaten as a sundowner/evening snack.
6. Banh Beo Chen: Your Edible Beer Buddy
Banh beo is quite simply a jelly-like savoury cake consisting of rice flour and tapioca. Topped with pork rind, grated shrimp and finely chopped onions. Servings usually come in batches meaning it’s best shared with a friend or two. When eating banh beo, drip some onion oil on top then dig it out from it’s dish with a spoon. Best eaten as a snack any time of the day. Always great with a shared conversation and a beer to compliment the spice.
7. Banh Ram It Hue: Devils’ Delight
This one is a personal favourite. Banh ram it is a triple-layered circular stack of varying textures. At the cake’s base is a crispy, deep-fried rice cracker. Sitting above is a rice dumpling stuffed with pork and shrimp. Topped with scallions and minced shrimp. Not so different from banh beo chen but more filling, more crisp. All in bitesize pieces, that’s if you have a big mouth like me. Best eaten as a snack at any time of the year.
8. Banh Trang and Banh Ep: Vietnamese Pizza
Two local hue foods that are highly popular with students are banh ep and banh trang. Banh ep is a soft thin pancake with vegetables and spicy condiments to be rolled up into a spring roll and eaten fresh off the smoker. Banh Trang is a fried rice cracker topped with herbs luminous sauces and meat. People refer to this as Vietnamese pizza but prepared to be heart broken because this thing doesn’t include a doughy base or elaborate cheeses. The best street-food stalls selling banh ep and banh trang are usually sat beside student dormitories and open until very late at night. Although Hue claims it as it’s own, banh ep actually comes from nearby Thuan An beach.
The Sweet and Fruity
9. Va Tron: Exclusive Local Fruit
There aren’t many fruits and vegetables on this list of Hue foods but this entry makes up for it. Trai va (fig) is particularly special because it only grows in Hue and rarely outside of the region. It’s an unusual fruit since it doesn’t has the properties you would associate more with a vegetable. It’s freshy and savoury. Sometimes brown and sometimes pink. It is used in local salads, soups and even as a meat alternative. Lots of restaurants with larger menus have Va Tron. If you’re feeling unsure, go to the vegetarian address below. I dare you, carnivore.
10. Che & Chè Bột Lọc Thịt Heo Quay: Sweet Dessert for All the Family
The only Vietnamese pudding on this list. Che is not only a popular Vietnamese dessert but all over South East Asia. While Che comes in plenty of varieties, Hue has it’s own take on the regional favourite. Chè bột lọc thịt heo quay is a sweet flour dumpling topped with ginger and a porky surprise within! Certainly one of Hue’s stranger local foods. Nevertheless, if you’re not keen on the meaty addition to your dessert, try another of the many che varieties on offer. Some stands boast more than 20 varieties. If you’re a sweet-toothed kind of human being, challenge yourself to try them all. Me? I would rather take a cigarette to conclude a food gorge. Excuse the cough.
What Other Local Food is Out There?
Finding Hue restaurants is only half the challenge. Knowing how to eat them can be just as difficult! Want a guided culinary adventure? Join us on the Hue Grit Tour! We’re more than happy to show you around and how these foods are eaten!
These aren’t the only dishes available in Hue. In fact, this is just a cornerstone of the Hue culinary experience. If you’re an adventurer. Get out to the streets of Hue and dive deep into the endless amounts of restaurants and street food available.
Looking for a homely lunch? Check out Nha Cafe.
More inclined to some buddhist-leaning vegetarian food? Visit our list of best vegetarian restaurants in Hue.
There are also plenty of fantastic seafood restaurants. Others also serve some very bizarre dishes. Both of these will be covered in future articles.
Have you visited Hue already? Which foods did you try? Which dishes were unforgettable? Are there any you’re trying to forget? Comment below.
Photos by Ana Fortuna.