How to eat your way through Hue, Vietnam, in one day

 

There seem to two types of travelers in Vietnam: the ones that never make it to Hue, and the ones that go there for the food.

Hue is a fascinating city. It was the original capital of Vietnam.  During the Vietnam war it was under southern control, although its central position make it very vulnerable. The area was heavily bombed by the Americans, and it was the stage for the bloody Battle of Hue

There is a lot of history in Hue...but...a lot of people skip it.

If you made the time to stop through Hue, you're probably here to try some of the classic dishes of the city. 

Because Hue was the original capital of Vietnam and home to the royal family, a rich culinary history developed. Dishes were perfected to impress the emperor...  and most of them are still enjoyed today! 

What to eat in Hue, Vietnam:

BREAKFAST: Cơm Hến

The most important meal of the day: breakfast.  

 com hen,  HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

com hen, HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

If there is one word you need to learn while in Vietnam it is this: cơm.  It means rice.  Things will make a lot more sense once you learn what COM means. The 'Hen' part of 'Com Hen' means shell or shellfish.  Therefore, Com Hen is rice with dried clams or mussels in it.... and just a few other things, depending on where you get it.  The dish is served at room temperature and the ingredients are prepared in the morning... which means when it is gone, it is gone.  This is why you get it first. 

The place to get it is on a tiny island in the perfume river that I think is basically known as "Com Hen Island."  Get it here.  

After you get your Com Hen, bike over the river to the north shore and find the Dong Ba Market, a famous sight in Hue. This one contains your second breakfast.  I hope you're still hungry!

SECOND BREAKFAST: Bún bò Huế

 bun bo hue,  HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

bun bo hue, HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

As one of the most famous dishes of Hue, you can find Bún bò Huế all over the city.  Truthfully, the process of making it is very complicated, so most places serve a watered down version - that is why you get it at the Dong Ba Market.  You will pay more, but you'll get the real deal experience.

The soup is famous because it manages to be sweet, sour, and HOT all at once.  It contains pork, beef and  congealed pigs blood. 

Don't turn up your nose just yet - you're going to love it! I refuse to eat olives and pickles and I loved this soup. When in Hue, eh? 

 thien mu pagoda,  HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

thien mu pagoda, HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

SIGHT TIME: Thiên Mụ Pagoda

Take a break from eating and visit the Thiên Mụ Pagoda on the west outskirts of the city. Yes, it is just a pagoda.  If you've been in Asia for even a week, surely you've seen one by now?  This one is cool because it is the only attraction in the city that is free. Also, it is 400 years old. Dad, you would like it. 

Go early after your second breakfast to see the monks praying as you walk around.  Work up another appetite because.... 

LUNCH: Bánh Bèo

 banh beo,  HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

banh beo, HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

This is a food that Hue's residents eat throughout their life.  It has its roots in imperial Vietnam, but has always been a street snack for all strata of society to enjoy.

 It consists of a steamed rice cake topped with onion, mung bean, fish sauce, vinegar, and shrimp. The cake has a gelatin texture, but all the toppings add flavor and crunch. I enjoyed mine at Hàng Me Mẹ

SIGHT TIME: The Citadel

Have a relaxing lunch because the next sight is a doozy - the Citadel.  It is huge and there is a lot to process - this one is going to take it out of you. Here is a self walking tour.  

 The citadel,  HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

The citadel, HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

IF YOU HAVE TIME: visit the tombs  

If you have time and energy at this point, visit the tombs. These were just out of the way enough that I was never going to see them with only one day in Hue.  

These are the tombs of the original emperors of Vietnam.  They are ornate and fabulous.  If you make it to them, here is a guide. A lot of people take a dragon boat down the Perfume River and stop at all the different tombs.  Congrats if you make it to them, and enjoy!

DINNER AND SECOND DINNER: Bahn Ep and Banh Trang Trung

If you are lucky, dinner and second dinner can be acquired at the same place. If you hung around the citadel, I have a spot nearby.  If you trekked out the the tombs, you're out of luck.  Ask your guide for some help locating them.  

This is the spot just north of the citadel where you can get both Bahn Ep and Banh Trang Trung for the incredibly low price of 8,000 dong each!  $0.75 cents for your entire dinner! 

 bahn ep, hue, vietnam - m.quigley

bahn ep, hue, vietnam - m.quigley

Banh Ep is a tapioca scallion pancake.  I was very unsure how to eat it when it first was placed in front of me.  After struggling for a second, the owner physically removed the food from my hands and showed me how to eat it.  That really happened.  To save you from that humiliation, I will tell you now: roll the provided veggies into the pancake and dip it into the sauce. Enjoy! 

Banh Trang Trung is "Vietnamese Pizza".  It is a fried rice disc topped with all forms of goodness - pork, onion, and egg.  It is cut with provided scissors.  

 bahn trang trung,  HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

bahn trang trung, HUE, VIETNAM - M.QUIGLEY

Don't feel ashamed if you want to order seconds of at least one of them - when else are you going to be eating Bahn Ep on a street corner in Hue?

Still hungry?  Here

Other cities might be friendlier or more beautiful... but you'll never find the foodie experience of Hue anywhere else.  

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