In Vietnam, we had the appetite and desire to try the local food, but we knew that the best, most local and authentic spots are the ones which don’t cater towards tourists. In a country where we don’t speak or read the language, and can’t be sure about the cleanliness of a road-side food stall we’ve stumbled upon, where different restaurants have the same name, and accuracy on Google Maps or Maps Me isn’t always correct, we thought it would be the best to go with a local guide to take us on a tour of Hue food specialities.
In Hue, $25 USD / $32CAD will buy you a three-hour walking tour with Hue local Anh Phan, the same guy behind the Hue Cooking Class we did earlier that day.
On the four stops we made on the Hue Food Walking Tour, we didn’t encounter a single other foreign tourist (that we could recognize) which made us appreciate the authenticity of the places we went to.
On our Hue Food Tour, our first stop was at a rice flour specialty restaurant where we tried three variations of rice flour snacks, presented in slightly different ways:
- Bánh Beo – Rice flour cakes with minced shrimp, shallot, and pork crackling served in tiny individual dishes.
- Bánh Nam– Rice flour topped with pork, wrapped in banana leaf.
- Bánh Ram It – Sticky rice with minced shrimp and pork crackling.
in Vietnamese, the word “bánh” is a very versatile word that you’ll see appear in a lot of menu items. It translates loosely as “cake” or “bread” but ranges from cakes, buns, pastries, sandwiches (think bánh mi), or even rice flour dishes that are steamed, fried, baked, or boiled. In Hue, one of their “bánh” specialties are rice flour dishes topped with ingredients like minced shrimp, shallot, pork crackling.
On our next stop, we ate at a sidewalk restaurant; one of the many, many, streetside restaurants that you’ll pass by in Hue — or anywhere in Vietnam, really! You really do need a local recommendation to know exactly which one is clean and good.
Most people from are familiar with Vietnamese cuisine will know the noodle soup dish “Pho Bo” (flat rice noodle beef). We learned from Anh that Pho is actually the speciality from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. Hue is known for “Bún bò”, a thin, round vermicelli noodle in soup with beef. We sat on the sidewalk in low plastic stools as two bowls of hot noodles were served to us, alongside a bowl of shredded lettuce, beansprouts and herbs.
For other people doing this tour, Anh will take you to two other places to try Bánh Khoái (pancake) and Nem Lui (pork skewers on lemongrass). But seeing that we already made the pork skewers in our Hue Cooking Class earlier that morning, and had the fried pancake for dinner the night before, we skipped these two items. So if you do go on this tour, expect to eat another 2 savoury dishes.
For dessert, we went to a street side dessert cart serving “Chè”, a traditional Vietnamese sweet beverage. Here you can pick from over 20 different sweet ingredients to be spooned into a glass cup. sweet dessert sugar drink — bean, fruit, jelly, taro, lotus seed, to name a few. All drinks are topped with crispy coconut flakes and peanuts. I had the fruit — dragonfruit, jackfruit and watermelon — mixed with coconut jelly. The result? A sweet, tropical juice. Steve had the same fruit concoction with a black jelly and coconut milk. Anh ate with us too and had two different types of beans with taro and banana.
Our last stop on the Hue Food Tour was for coffee…but not just any type of coffee…we tried “Salty Coffee”! Yes the name sounds gross, but the beverage was actually so sweet and delicious. It tasted like a sweet and creamy toffee or a caramel drink. A metal filter with coffee grounds filters hot water into a cup with milk below. Apparently the owner behind Ca Phe Muoi is the original creator of Salt Coffee — there have been copycats, but the original is held in high esteem. I have no clue how they make it — the recipe is top secret.
We really enjoyed the authenticity of this Hue Food Tour with Anh and would recommend it to travellers who have the appetite and desire to try local specialities in Hue, but may not know where to start. The tour is priced at $25 USD ($32CAD) per person and takes you on a 3-hour tour of 6 to 7 food and drink stops. All food, drink, and the occasional taxi ride is included in the price.