One good argument for staying in Hué an extra couple of days is its many speciality foods, best sampled at local stalls and street kitchens. Here are the main dishes, and the locals’ tips for the best places to eat them:
Banh beo Order this afternoon dish and you get a whole trayful of individual plates, each containing a small amount of steamed rice-flour dough topped with spices, shrimp flakes and a morsel of pork crackling; add a little sweetened nuoc mam sauce to each dish and tuck in with a teaspoon. Banh nam, or banh lam, is a similar idea but spread thinly in an oblong, steamed in a banana leaf and eaten with rich nuoc mam sauce. Manioc flour is used instead of rice for banh loc, making a translucent parcel of whole shrimps, sliced pork and spices steamed in a banana leaf, but this time the nuoc mam is pepped up with a dash of chilli. Finally, ram it consists of two small dollops of sticky rice-flour dough, one fried and one steamed, to dip in a spicy sauce. You’ll find good places in which to sample these dishes all over the city.
Banh khoai Probably the most famous Hué dish, a small, crispy yellow pancake made of egg and rice flour, fried up with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts and eaten with a special peanut and sesame sauce (nuoc leo), plus a vegetable accompaniment of star fruit, green banana, lettuce and mint. Amazingly, it’s even more delicious than it sounds.
Bun bo Spicy rice-noodle beef soup flavoured with citronella, shrimp and basil; also called bun ga with chicken, or bun bo gio heo with beef and pork.
Chè A refreshing drink made from green bean and coconut (chè xanh dua), fruit (chè trai cay) or, if you’re lucky, lotus seed (chè hat sen).
Bun Bo Hué 11b Ly Thuong Kiet. Of all the places serving bun bo, this simple affair has by far the most renown. Any local will confirm this, you should definitely sample it yourself for 15,000đ.
Chè Hém 29/31 Hung Vuong. For a local speciality there aren’t as many places serving chè as you’d expect, but this is centrally located and as tasty as you’ll get.
Hanh 11 Phu Duc Chinh. Here you’ll find banh khoai freshly prepared throughout the day – 15,000đ will be enough for a plateful. It’s another local favourite, and packed at mealtimes – many of the regulars will wonder what on earth you’re doing on their turf.