Top 5 Dishes in Hue

by on March 9th, 2011
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Com hen Song Huong

“Com Hen Song Huong” is a dish served at room temperature, made with mussels and leftover rice. It is a complicated recipe that includes sweet, buttery, salty, sour, bitter and spicy flavors.

Com Hen Song Huong (or Com hen in short) is the very simple and low-priced specialty of Hue, the ancient citadel of Vietnam. Accordingly, the way of serving this special kind of food is of great ancience, simplicity and deliciousness.

Com Hen has a sweet-smelling flavor of rice, onion, and grease, as well as strange tastes of sweet, buttery, salty, sour, bitter, and peppery-hot. You have to arrive to Hen river-islet in the Perfume River to have the original Com hen. However, you can find out the dish on some streets in Hue City. It requires 15 different raw materials to prepare for the dish, including mussel, fried grease, watery grease, peanuts, white sesames, dry pancake, salted shredded meat, chili sauce, banana flower, banana trunk, sour parabola, spice vegetables, peppermint, salad, etc.

Com hen is always attractive to many customers since it is tasty and, at the same time, economical to anybody.

What makes this simple kind of food popular is revealed in the great endeavor to adopt and process its main ingredient – mussel. Mussels are sea species, which must be dipped in water for a long while before being processed. Accordingly, people often say that com hen somehow expresses the strenuous work of the maker.

Where to find it? Very easy as it is popular everywhere in Hue and these days, elsewhere in Hue restaurants in Vietnam. More favorably, it is a low-priced specially, thus you could eat it in luxurious restaurants in Hue or even in venturing mobile shops on the streets.

“Visiting Hue could not miss Com hen, or else you have not come to Hue ever!” is the most common remark of visitors elsewhere to Hue. So, please come and enjoy it yourself!

Bun Bo Hue

If you’re familiar with phở, bún bò Huế is another beef rice noodle soup. The beef soup dish originated in the city of Huế, the old imperial capital of Vietnam. Like traditional phở bò, the broth of bún bò Huế is simmered with beef bones and Asian spices such as ginger, but the similarities pretty much end there. The real difference is that the broth is finished with lemongrass and red chilies.

I made a very basic soup with thinly sliced beef shanks, but some people are more adventurous and add pig knuckles, congealed pig blood called huyết (which I do not like), and serve shrimp paste on the side as a condiment. I garnished the soup with the commonly used bean sprouts, lime wedges, cilantro and raw sliced white onions, thinly sliced purple cabbage and shredded iceberg lettuce. Purple cabbage makes sense because it most closely resembles the texture of banana flowers, which are traditionally included in bún bò Huế. The taste is obviously different though.

Once the dish is prepared, everyone should roll up their sleeves and commence slurping down the bowl of beef broth in front of them. This is not a subtle dish; your taste buds will be bombarded with sweet, savory and spicy flavors. My mouth waters just thinking about it!

Banh Beo

Banh beo, oh how we love to slurp up your delicate rice cakes topped with minced shrimp and crispy pork rind bathed in a spicy nuoc mam cham…We smile with satisfaction as we pile empty banh beo bowls upon bowls, one on top of another, ten high on the table. One of our absolute favorite appetizers, banh beo originates from the central regions of Vietnam and Hue and can be served in variety of ways including in a “chen,” a small condiment size bowl or loose, stacked on a “dia,” or plate. There is even a variation where it’s served in a larger rice bowl, yielding a much larger rice cake with a big dimple in the center for the toppings. Also, in the mien bac (Northern Vietnam), mung bean paste is also swiped onto the cake before the other toppings.

For convenience, we just use the pre-packaged banh beo rice flour. But if you were to make it without any alterations you’ll find that it doesn’t have the right texture-rice flour by itself is rather soft and can be mushy. You need to add some tapioca flour/starch to this mix in order to get the right soft, yet slightly chewy consistency.

To make a large quantity, there are modes such as these that you can buy in the Vietnamese markets for about $2. However these are fairly large so make sure you have a big enough steamer and several of these trays so you can steam multiple trays at once. We have a 4 chambered steamer so we use multiple modes at once. If you’re making less just halve the quantites below and pour them in the small condiment bowls-but you’ll need a lot so buy them at the Asian restaurant supply store if you can.

If you’re using the small condiment bowls, the same concepts apply except that you don’t need to grease these since it’s a onetime use. We prefer a thin banh beo so we typically go light on the batter, but use as much batter as you like according to your taste.

When ready to serve, top each banh beo with minced shrimp, scallion oil, and small pieces of pork rinds. Serve with some spicy nuoc mam cham. The banh beo (with out the toppings) can stay soft overnight un-refrigerated so you can make this in advance. Any longer than that then we recommend refrigerating it and then warming in microwave.

banh beo

Banh Khoai

Banh khoai (delicious pancake) is so much like Banh xeo (sizzling pancake) since they both are made from rice flour, water, turmeric powder, added slivers of fatty pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and then pan fried. Banh khoai and Banh xeo also are wrapped in mustard leaf, lettuce leaves or rice paper, and stuffed with variety of herb, like mint leaves, basil and served with a sweet and sour mixed sauce. In Hue, Banh khoai is placed open-face instead of being folded in half like Banh xeo. Moreover, Banh khoai always goes with a fermented soy bean sauce, and people consider it a winter food owing to its greasiness and spicy taste of the sauce. Therefore, most Hue citizens only make them when winter coming.

Mam tom chua

The central of Vietnam is reputable for its Mam tom chua (sour shrimp sauce) and Hue is the best place for this unique sauce. Unlike normal shrimp sauce (has brown color and smooth surface), Sour shrimp sauce has orange color while shrimps still keep its original shape. It is quite simple to make this sauce. First, shrimps are clean by salt water (do not use normal water to avoid bad smells) and “cook” by strong rice wine. The shrimps will turn red. After that, carefully mix the shrimps with sticky rice, sliced lesser galangal, garlic and chili. Slowly put all the mixture into a jar covered by guava leaves. Just need to wait for 5-7 days and we have the mouthwatering sour shrimp sauce of our own making. This is the best sauce for boiled pork with vermicelli.

This article written by Lanh Nguyen from Vietnam Heritage Travel

For original article, please visit:

Vietnam Luxury Tour

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