Famed for both its imperial cuisine and the contemporary creativity of its street foods, the ancient town of Hue has much to offer in 24 hours
At 5:30 a.m., drive to Chuon Lagoon in Phu An Commune of Phu Vang District, around 10 kilometers from downtown Hue to enjoy banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake) with a rabbitfish filling.
Banh xeo – a pancake originating in Vietnam – has gained popularity across the country over the last few decades, but nowhere else is it served using rabbitfish fillings, a specialty throughout Chuon Village.
Cooks first wash the fish, then drizzle some oil into the pan. They fry the fish with a layer of flour and let it sit for about three minutes after topping with mung beans sprouts and scallions. It is then flipped over and cooked for another two minutes.
A rabbitfish pancake costs about VND50,000-60,000 ($2.17-2.60) per serving, and just VND2,000 ($0.09) if you supply the ingredients.
Locals hold the best way to eat the pancake is with your hands. After deboning the fish, dip the pancake into spicy fish sauce before taking a bite. The spicy, crunchy and rich taste of banh xeo always has customers returning for more.
Back downtown, why not try the most iconic dish of the former imperial capital: Hue-style beef noodles.
The broth requires both pig and beef bones boiled with a generous dose of lemongrass, sugar, annatto, and shrimp paste. Vendors typically add sliced brisket, crab balls and pork pie. Adventurous eaters can also add cubed pig’s blood for even more flavor. When served, the dish is garnished with a tangle of vegetables like lime, scallions, cilantro, banana blossoms, mint, basil, and Vietnamese coriander. But be warned, if you are not a fan of spicy food: the original version in Hue packs much more of a punch than bun bo Hue served in Saigon or Hanoi.
A bowl of bun bo Hue costs from VND30,000 to VND35,000 at 47 Nguyen Cong Tru Street, 20 Bach Dang Street or Kim Chau Restaurant in Dong Ba Market.
Around 9 a.m., discover the unique taste of salt coffee, a must-try experience while on tour in Hue. Salt coffee is brewed in a traditional Vietnamese stainless-steel coffee filter called “phin“. When ordering, you will be brought a phin dripping filtered coffee into a cup of salty cream. After a few minutes, stir the coffee and cream together, and add a few ice cubes to cool off.
The salty layer whipped from the fermented milk and salt rises to the surface of the cup, offering an experience no other variation of coffee can equal. A cup of coffee is only VND15,000 at 10 Nguyen Luong Bang or 142 Dang Thai Than.
In the afternoon, savor traditional Vietnamese rice cooked in clay pots at a local restaurant. The most typical accompaniments for this meal include salted fish and shrimp sauce. You can try Hue’s fermented pickles (mam dua), which are usually served with white rice or small-shrimp paste (mam ruoc), a staple used in clam rice.