Last weekend my girlfriend and I decided to get out of town for a bit and go to Hue for a night. We left early in the morning and took the Hai Van Pass. I’ve driven this road more times than I can count, but it never gets old. Since both of us had already been to Hue and ticked off the tourist spots, we decided to dig a little deeper into Hue’s other claim to fame: legendary cuisine. Here’s some snaps from our Hue Food Tour:
When we got to Hue, our first stop was a shop called Anh Huyen at 52/4 Kim Long, the road that goes out to the oft-visited Thien Mu Pagoda. This shop sells grilled meat either in a wet rice paper wrap (bánh ướt thịt nướng) or in a bowl of noodles (bún thịt nướng). We decided to get both.
The next stop was my favorite of the whole trip, and also the most difficult to find. The shop is called banh canh Ba Doi, It gets the name from the fact that they are so busy, you often have to wait (doi) a long time for the grandma (ba) to bring you your food. You can (hopefully) find it at 40 Dao Duy Anh. It’s in the very back corner of the old walled city, across a few bridges, down an unmarked alley in an unmarked shop, and they sell an amazing noodle soup. The best part is, you can watch them make everything, from scratch, right in front of you.
In the end, you get something like this:
The noodles were firm and chewy, without even a hint of sliminess. When we came at 3 pm, we were the only customers in the shop, but apparently we snuck in just before the late afternoon rush. Oh, and this bowl of noodles cost 20,000 VND, less than $1.
Next on the Hue Food Tour, it was time for something a little bit sweet. Che is Hue’s very famous ‘sweet soup’ (I really hate that translation but I can’t think of a better one. Suggestions welcome.) Normally che is made from different kinds of beans, maybe some banana, coconut, lotus seeds; there’s so many kinds, and many shops will let you mix and match. But seeing as I’ve had che in Hue many many times, I was looking to branch out a bit. May I present, che with jelly balls stuffed with roasted pork! What!?
You really do have to try it to believe it. It’s not exactly GOOD, but it’s not bad either. It’s mostly just really strange. You can find che on sidewalks all over Hue, but the best ones are always tucked down some alley. This one is no different; try chè bột lộc heo quay inside the hem at 29 Hung Vuong.
All this snacking was making me hungry, and it was getting dark, so I figured it was time for dinner. We headed back to the old city, to a street called Mai Thuc Loan, which is lined with BBQ shops selling mostly chicken and duck. I’ve tried a few places over the years, but in the spirit of new things, we picked a shop I didn’t know, called Thuy. Wow, what amazing BBQ! We got chicken grilled with lemon leaves (cánh gà nướng), and pork belly with the fat still on (ba chỉ nướng). Yum! Also a big ‘ol plate of xôi sticky rice to… I don’t know, dip in stuff, clean your hands with? Oh and a couple of Hue’s famous beer, Huda.
The next morning, we opted to forgo the hotel’s complimentary breakfast to continue our food quest. We were in search of a Hue classic: cơm hến. It’s basically a rice soup with fresh herbs, chili (especially in Hue!), pork crackling and small little river clams. The broth is mild, like a chicken stock, and none of the flavors should be too overpowering. Again, I decided skip my normal spot and try somewhere new. Quan Nho is at 22 (?) Pham Hong Thai, in the middle of town. It’s a small street, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find. They also serve hot soy milk with a raw egg mixed in, called sửa hột gà, which is awesome.
Last stop on our Hue Food Tour wasn’t actually in Hue. We stopped in Lang Co for some seafood on the famous (and more numerous than I remember) floating seafood restaurants. Yes, it’s expensive, and yes you’re paying for the view, but so what? The view is awesome! And actually the food was very fresh and reasonably priced: we got these prawns cooked in garlic (tôm sóc tỏi), grilled shells (sò long nướng), and a massive plate of fried noodles (mì xào hải sản) plus a few beers (that’s bia Huda), for 260,000, or about $13. This time we ate at a place called Hai Son, which I would confidently recommend, though others are good too.
After getting shuttled through the Hai Van tunnel, we were back in Da Nang. Great trip, great food and great company!
If you want to check out some Hue food in Da Nang, or even in Hue, send me an email or book a tour.