The best local dishes from Hue were once exclusively served to past emperors and royal families of the Nguyen Dynasty. Nowadays, you can find plenty of local restaurants, roadside stalls, and high-end resorts serving these specialties all year round. When it comes to Hue cuisine, it’s predominantly sweet and spicy in flavor from fresh herbs such as lemongrass, basil, red chilies, and mint mixed with the quintessential nuoc mam or fermented fish sauce.

    The city also offers more than 30 types of che (sweet soups) made from coconut milk and various ingredients, including pomegranate, taro, and sweet corn. The most popular che in Hue is called lotus seeds sweet soup, which uses seeds from lotus flowers found on Tinh Tam Lake. Catering to just about any preference, this guide has all the famous food locals love to eat in Hue.


    Bun bo hue

    Hue beef noodle soup

    Bun bo hue (Hue beef noodle soup) is a regional specialty comprising thick rice vermicelli and various toppings in a thick soup. Unlike pho, this dish is a combination of sweet, sour and spicy. It’s flavored with boiled bones and shank, annatto seeds, lemongrass, ginger, fermented shrimp paste, chili oil, and sugar. 

    As for the toppings, expect congealed pig blood, beef or pork knuckles, beansprouts, lime wedges, cilantro, diced green onions, banana blossoms, mint and basil. You can also ramp up the spiciness by adding fresh chilies and fermented fish sauce to your bun bo hue.


    Nem lui

    Lemongrass skewer

    Nem lui is a kebab-like dish using lemongrass stalks, which is wrapped with marinated meat (usually pork or beef) then broiled over a charcoal stove. Diners are also served with a side of rice paper, lettuce and cucumber slices, rice vermicelli, and fresh herbs. It’s available as an appetiser at just about all local restaurants and hotels in Hue. 

    For added flavor, dip nem lui into a local sauce made with ground peanuts, fermented beans, sesame seeds, shrimp paste, chopped garlic, chilies and shallots.


    Com hen

    Clam rice

    Com hen (clam rice) consists of rice topped with baby basket clams, crispy pork skins, roasted peanuts, shrimp paste, and fresh greens. Commonly eaten as a filling breakfast, the clams are stir-fried with chopped garlic, onion, fish sauce, pepper, and mint leaves before they’re poured over a plate of steamed jasmine rice. 

    In some restaurants, com comes with a bowl of clam broth and a platter of cilantro leaves, shredded banana blossoms and bean sprouts. There are plenty of food stalls in Dong Ba Market selling this Hue specialty.

    photo by Charles Haynes (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Banh khoai

    Vietnamese crepe

    Banh khoai is easily distinguishable from other savory snacks in Hue thanks to its turmeric yellow color. Readily available at roadside stalls, local joints and markets, this open-faced crepe is typically topped with pork, shrimp, scallions and beansprouts. 

    However, you can find several venues offering this local snack with quail eggs and starfruit. As with most Vietnamese dishes, banh khoi is best eaten with a side of fresh greens and herbs, as well as a fermented soybean dipping sauce.

    photo by Alpha (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Banh beo

    Steamed rice cakes

    Banh beo is a type of steam rice cake topped with dried shrimp, deep-fried pork rind, shallots, rice vinegar, and fresh herbs. It comes with a side of nuoc mam (fermented fish) dipping sauce and red chilies. 

    There are 2 variations of this local delicacy. Banh beo chen is prepared in a coin-sized ceramic saucer (you can get 5 or 6 per serving at sit-down restaurants) while the larger banh beo dia is enjoyed as a main dish.


    Banh loc goi

    Tapioca dumplings

    Banh loc goi, made with tapioca starch rather than rice flour, is filled with marinated shrimp and milled pork before it’s wrapped in oiled banana leaves and steamed until cooked. 

    To enjoy this Hue snack, simply unwrap the banana leaf and dip it in a platter of nuoc mam pha, a sauce made with vinegar, shrimp stock, fermented fish sauce, sugar, and fresh chilies.


    Bun thit nuong

    Vermicelli noodles with broiled pork

    Bun thit nuong is a hearty dish of rice vermicelli noodles with broiled pork, lettuce, cucumbers, beansprouts, pickled daikon, basil, mint, chopped peanuts, and deep-fried spring rolls. 

    It also comes with a side of pickled carrots, fresh lettuce and fermented fish dipping sauce. Eat like the locals by pouring the sauce over the noodles for an extra kick of flavor.


    Va tron salad

    Hue fig salad

    Va tron salad was once a dish prepared exclusively for royalty in Hue. It combines boiled figs, sliced carrots, mushrooms and onions with either shrimp or shredded pork. While it’s traditionally served at family gatherings and weddings, there are plenty of Vietnamese restaurants offering this unique dish throughout the year. 

    This particular type of green fig is only available in Central Vietnam, making it a must-try for first-time visitors in Hue. Our favorite way of enjoying va tron salad is by mixing in some fermented shrimp paste, roasted sesame seeds, and fried shallots.

    photo by Ẩm Thực Đam Mê (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Che hat sen

    Lotus seeds sweet soup

    Che hat sen is one of the many local desserts you can find in Hue, containing lotus seeds and green rice flakes in a sweet broth. Thanks to its cooling properties, locals often have it in the summer to combat the heat but you can enjoy this pretty much any time of the year. 

    One of the most highly recommended dessert shops in Hue is Che Hem on Hung Vuong Street, where you can get a generous portion of che hat sen for cheap.


    Banh it ram

    Fried sticky rice dumplings

    Banh it ram is a Central Vietnamese specialty that pairs steamed sticky rice dumplings with a crispy patty. Similar to a Japanese mochi but enjoyed as an appetiser instead of dessert, the dumpling is topped with a savory mix of green scallions, shrimp and pork. 

    You can get a platter of 6 dumplings at local joints at rather low prices. Expect to pay more at upscale restaurants and hotels in Hue.

    Penny Wong | Compulsive Traveler

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