Influenced by the long history of the royal imperial governance in the country, food in Vietnam represents not just its people’s love for eating, but also the compounded mixture of influences that describes the culture of the country. There are many traditional dishes in Vietnam, and most were reputed to have been created to please its Emperors. You could try them all but be sure to try eating and drinking in Hue in particular. Hue, the old capital of the country and formerly the seat of the government, is where the concoction of many appetizing dishes all started.
A sleepy and a quiet city, Hue is often ignored by tourists who prefer modern entertainment to the cultural kind that Hue mostly offers. But as most Vietnamese and expatriates who have been living for a long time in Vietnam would tell you, Hue’s best attractions aren’t its pagodas and famed heavy rains, but in fact its food. Hue has dishes you won’t find anywhere else in the country. In fact, some seasoned Vietnam travelers go especially to Hue just to eat.
In Hue, the dishes were specially created for the Kings. And if they weren’t, they sure were variations on those royal creations by commoners outside the Citadel. The method of cooking, the plating and presentation are reminiscent of the aristocratic time long gone. You can even find restaurants serving imperial cuisine in what some calle the “imperial menu”. The most popular dishes are Bun Bo Hue (Hue beef vermicelli), Pho bo (beef noodle soup), Banh Khoai (pan cake), Banh Nam and curiously, sesame candy.
The best place to try them in town is the Bun Bo Hue at 17 Ly Thuong Kiet Street, located just a block south of Hanoi St. The food, served in a refreshingly unpretentious restaurant, is delicious and cheap.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian cuisine and vegan cuisine, the best places to find them are the riverside and alleys in the city. Com chay or vegetarian food in Hue is a popular dish for local Buddhists and monks alike.
The Tinh Tam Restaurant at 24 Chu Van An Street serves delicious meals that taste like meat, such as grilled dishes with fake deer meat, cakes with fake shrimp and many others. You’ll also find similar establishments in streets most visited by travelers like the Dien Thien Hoang Street and Tran Hung Dao Street, situated north of the river very near the Citadel walls.
Do try eating at Lac Thien at 6 Dinh Tien Hoang Street also, where you’ll find banh khoai, a shrimp pancake and nem lui tom, a delicious shrimp salad. Because Vietnam is a Buddhist country, you’ll find lots of restaurants serving vegetable dishes.
There aren’t many bars and pubs, though, so if you’re looking for a hard night of drinking, the best alternative you have is the DMZ Bar. Besides beer, wines and cocktails, they have locally brewed Hue beers, Huda beers as well as beers used during festivals.
So, if you’re ready to explore the country by the stomach, try eating and drinking in Hue and you won’t be disappointed.