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Posted By Robert On August 22, 2007 @ 4:24 pm In Uncategorized | Comments Disabled

Those who prefer table cloths with their meals should try the set meals at the lovely Y THAO GARDEN (below), a common introducer to Hue food for small tour groups. It’s within the Citadel, on a sidestreet northwest of the imperial city.

Tucked well away from the guesthouses and river pathways, this family-run alley spot brings in families, couples and the occasional table-of-guys-drinking for Hue’s best tapas-style dishes. Portions are remarkably big and remarkably good. They only serve five choices – all with glutinous rice (a slightly slimy version of rice paper) and usually dunked in fish sauce. One order runs US$0.40 to US$1 and features as many as 10 individual portions served on tiny saucers or wrapped in banana leaf. Heck, try them all. My favorites are the banh beo (grounded shrimp atop a saucer-filled glutinous-rice roll) and banh ram (shrimp-filled rice roll, topped with dried shrimp and served on pork rind). Others include banh uot (a thin, glutinous rice roll with dried shrimp inside), banh nam (shredded meats in a soft glutinous rice roll, and rolled in a banana leaf) and banh loc (a miniature shrimp rice roll wrapped in banana leaf). Not many foreigners come, so you’re likely to get special attention from the lovely owners.
177 Phan Dinh Phuong St (at the alley accessed from 148 Nguyen Hue St)

On an out-of-the-way sidestreet of the Citadel, several blocks northwest of the imperial city, this comfy old French-era home and lantern-lit garden is the setting where most visitors get introduced to Hue’s distinctive cuisine. The US$8 set meal for lunch or dinner includes seven courses in two atmospheric settings: the antique-filled French villa or a transplanted hundred-year-old traditional home next to a small pond with a croaking frog. Food’s great: spring rolls served up as a ‘peacock’ (you have to see it), vegetable soup, steamed shrimp, grilled beef, banh khoai (shrimp-filled pancake), fig salad, green-bean cakes for dessert. They can tailor menus to your tastes – substituting in vegetables or fish for beef, for example. Some tour groups come, but it still feels personal. It’s worth reserving.
Tel 054-523-018; [email protected]; 3 Thach Han St; open 11am-2pm & 6-10pm daily

A legend for years, Lac Thien is famously run by a deaf-mute family and serves reliably tasty Hue-style dishes for a mix of locals and guidebook-toting backpackers. It’s a couple blocks east of the imperial city, making it a convenient lunch spot. The banh khoai (6000D, US$0.40) is a crispy gold egg-flour ‘pancake’ served wrapping grilled shrimp, pork, a lot of bean sprouts, plus a plate of vegetables to mix in (star fruit, lettuce, mint) and a peanut-sesame sauce to dip it in. It’s good as an appetizer, but don’t pass on the nem lui (with chicken, beef or shrimp, US$1.20; or vegetable US$0.75), a hot salad mix you roll into fresh rolls with rice-paper sheets. Over the years, guidebooks have touted the place, which led to a similarly named place (also run by a deaf-mute family) opening next door. The original is to the left when looking from the street. Both are quite good.
6 Dinh Tien Hoang St

Hue’s most famous imported dish bun bo Hue – beef noodle soup, with slippery round noodles and much more of a kick than its cousin pho bo – is served from street stalls around town, but this open-front, concrete-floor place is the one Hue considers its best. Order from the front stall with the hot cauldrons of broth and they’ll bring you tea and a bowl for 10,000D (US$0.65). Popular at breakfast and lunch.
17 Ly Thuong Kiet St

One of Hue’s more distinctive dishes is com hen, churned out to a local crowd at this plastic-stool-on-the-concrete-floor spot. The spicy rice dish is made of tiny river clams (about the size of a broken-off tip of pencil lead), peanuts, pork rinds, green onion, mint, fish sauce and peppers. It’s tasty, but not for everyone. ‘Foreigners can’t eat it,’ one local warned. ‘They get sick. People from Hanoi and Saigon too.’ The warning’s rather exaggerated: it has a bit of spice, sure, and clams don’t mesh with everyone’s tastes perhaps. The friendly staff will come and mix up your bowl if you don’t do it adequately – and I never seem to. A bowl is US$0.45.
Truong Dinh St, just east of Hanoi St

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