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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Good Morning Vietnam! Part 7: Hue Foodie Fun!

Hue is one of the places in Vietnam that is famed for its food- not just the "Royal Cuisine", such as I wrote about in my previous post, but for its unique and special "street food". As I'm married to Chef Dan, and thus his little "foodie" (LOL), when we travel we seek out great food experiences- cooking classes, markets, interesting restaurants, local wines, liqueurs and beers, and foodie tours. In previous posts about this trip (and the one we made to Vietnam in 2008), I've talked about the excellent cooking classes we took in Hoi An and Saigon, and as this was our first time visiting Hue, known as the Imperial City of Vietnam, I knew we wanted to explore the cuisine of the city.
After experiencing the "royal" side of Hue for two days, on our last evening we took a great private "foodie" tour around the city with Xuan Hoa (his name means "peaceful spring"), through, a great site I found while "Googling" for "foodie tours" in the various places were planned to visit. Tours By Locals offers a huge selection of tours in 133 countries around the world, all led by local tour guides. The site is easy to use, and the tours are very inexpensive (so tip good!); Xuan's four-hour evening foodie tour was $35 per person. Xuan's tour is called "Hue Food Tour By Cyclo", but at his suggestion we opted to walk (if you do it this way, note that there is a LOT of walking- you literally cover the city on foot!), and then take cyclos back at the end of the tour, and thus, in addition to getting to try many different and delicious Hue specialties, we really got to see a great portion of the city, too! We were glad we walked, for it enabled us to keep eating (LOL), and we were truly stuffed by the time it was over! If you are any kind of a "foodie" with an interest in getting "off the beaten tourist path" and really seeing the city, you will truly enjoy this tour, and we highly recommend it!
Banh Beo!
Throughout Vietnam, small restaurants or street stalls often make only the one or two specialties that they are famous for, and some of the many Hue specialties you can try on this tour includes Hue Pancake (banh khoai), Hue Beef Vermicelli Soup (bun bo Hue), Tapioca Dumplings (banh bot loc), Water Fern Cake (banh beo), Steamed Shrimp Rice Cake ( ban nam ) and Sticky Rice Dumplings on a Fried Dumpling (banh ram it). 
If you don't read or speak Vietnamese, you may be wary of plopping yourself down in a little chair and trying all the delicious-looking things you see in the markets, so a "foodie tour" with someone who DOES know the regional specialties, and who has the best dumplings or the best soup, is a great way to get to know the food- and the people!

Making delicious Nem Lui rolls!

Xuan shoes us how it's done...

Dan makes his roll!

Yes, I even took photos of the menus, so that I would know what we'd eaten once we got home, and be able to find recipes for Chef Dan! At our first stop, we made delicious Nem Lui rolls, with lemongrass-skewered shrimp and veggies, rolled in rice paper and dipped in peanut sauce, and Banh Nam, rice dumplings and shrimp steamed in banana leaves, which you dip in Nước Mắm, Vietnamese fish sauce! We also had yummy little Bahn Beo, the small steamed rice discs topped with shrimp. One of the truly fun things about Vietnamese food is that you often get to "do it yourself", rolling up veggies and meat or seafood in leaves or rice paper, and making delicious things that you then get to dip in yummy sauces!

Yes, I took photos of the menu!

Over the bridge...

...and under the bridge!

We walked over the Perfume River bridge that we had cycloed over earlier, and saw the night markets of Hue- like many places in Vietnam, Hue has wonderful night markets full of people heartily enjoying life!  Xuan was delightful company, and talking with him made the tour a lot of fun.
Night Market Foodie Fun!

Our place for Bun Bo Hue – Hue Beef Vermicelli Soup

Here we stopped for delicious, stuffed "Hue Crepes", made fresh for us, right before our eyes!
We had variations on this dish throughout Vietnam, and each was subtly different! Delicious peanut dipping sauces were one of the things that differentiated Hue foods; we had several different versions of peanut sauce with various dishes on this tour.

Our souvenir of Hue!

So I'll remember what we had! :-)
A good luck shrine at the restaurant...

We also had a chance to stop at Ho Chi Minh's house on Mai Thuc Loan St. where he lived, while a child, with his family, from 1895 to 1901. (And naturally I had to photograph Chef Dan in the kitchen!)

Our last stop of the evening was for Che Hue, "Sweet Soup", what I have taken to calling a "Hue Parfait"! It is literally a multi-layered desert in a glass!
Xuan had the cyclos meet us at the Che Hue stand, and, stuffed to the gills, we poured ourselves into the waiting cyclos for the ride back to our hotel!  
Cyclo home!

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