Update: 12:09 | 29/03/2022
One of the ways in which the central town of Hue has held on to its former imperial glory is its cuisine with some royal touches.
Here are five appetizing nighttime treats for all visitors to Hue, particularly the thousands expected to participate or attend the VnExpress Marathon Imperial Hue 2022 on April 10.
The event coincides with the Hung Kings Commemoration Day, a national holiday.
Trang Tien banh mi
A banh mi stall near Truong Tien Bridge in Hue.
Locals will invariably recommend the Trang Tien banh mi as the one dish you just have to try at night in Hue. Near the Truong Tien (Trang Tien) Bridge over the iconic Huong (Perfume) River at the intersection of Le Loi and Hung Vuong Street, there are many popular banh mi stalls that serve what locals call the Trang Tien banh mi, a version of the baguette sandwich that has catapulted to international fame in recent years.
Visitors can choose from a wide range of stuffing including Vietnamese pork roll, omelete, pâté, Chinese sausage, grilled pork and sour fermented minced pork.
One banh mi costs VND7,000-15,000 ($0.31-0.66) and the stalls stay open from 7 p.m. until 1 a.m.
The O Tho stall, previously located at the foot of the Truong Tien Bridge, has moved to 14 Tran Cao Van Street in Phu Hoi Ward. Some stalls on Hung Vuong Street also serve the Trang Tien banh mi to night owls.
Banh canh on Han Thuyen Street
Han Thuyen Street near the Imperial Citadel is famous for a row of stalls selling banh canh (thick noodle soup) for more than 40 years. Slurping down delicious banh canh on peaceful nights in Hue is another highly recommended experience.
At just VND15,000 per serving, this dish warms up hungry stomachs with toppings of quail eggs, pork hock, cha cua (crab cake) and cha ca (fried fish cake).
Che (sweet soup)
The sweet soup used to be an indispensable dessert for kings and royal families during the reign of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1954), much liked for its freshness and nutritional value. Sweet soup stalls are today an indispensable part of Hue cuisine that food bloggers and foreign tourists have raved about.
Colorful Hue-style sweet soups are sold at a stall near Truong Tien Bridge in downtown Hue.
Each of the different versions of this dessert, che hat sen (lotus seed), che nhan boc hat sen (longan stuffed lotus seed), and che khoai mon (taro sweet soup) are bound to satiate sweet tooths .
One unusual sweet soup that visitors should try in Hue is che bot loc heo quay that is made with small pieces of roasted pork with crispy skin wrapped in a layer of filter powder served with sugar water and ginger.
Sweet soup stalls, which remain open until about 10 p.m., sell their wares at VND10,000-15,000 per serving. Some of the places recommended by locals are 29 Hung Vuong, Thuong Bac Park and 10 Nguyen Sinh Cung.
Banh ep (Hue-style crepe), made with tapioca flour, pork and herbs never fails to impress visitors to Hue.
Vendors prepare balls of flour containing meat fillings and fry them on order using an oiled cast-iron press. Supplementing the dish with quail eggs for added flavor is a good idea.
Before it is pressed, the dough is divided into small pellets in line with the pressing mold. The chef will put on top of the dough a few pieces of chopped bacon and meat marinated with spices and cook it on a charcoal stove. Customers can either order chewy or crispy versions of banh ep.
The dish is usually served with pickled papaya, Vietnamese cilantro and cucumber.
Hue-style crepe is served with pickled papaya, Vietnamese cilantro and cucumber.
Stalls usually sell the dish until about 10 p.m. Visitors can enjoy this dish at many places including: 20 Nguyen Du, 1 Van Cao, 101 Ba Trieu, 116 Le Ngo Cat and 73 Tung Thien Vuong. Prices start at VND2,000 to VND3,000 for a regular-sized crepe and VND5,000 for a larger one.
Hue-style beef noodle soup
Bun bo Hue is a Hue specialty that can be found in most other parts of Vietnam. The broth requires both pig and beef bones to be boiled with a generous dose of lemongrass, sugar, annatto, and shrimp paste. Various ingredients like sliced brisket, crab balls and pork pie are added. Adventurous eaters can add pig's blood cubes for more flavor.
Other recommended additions are a little chili powder and spices to the bowl of vermicelli, with sides of raw vegetables including bean sprouts, herbs, lettuce, baby vegetables and chopped banana corn.
The My Tam stall on Tran Cao Van Street sells this delicacy from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Kim Chau Restaurant in Dong Ba Market has received kudos for its bun bo hue by Laurie Woolever, a longtime collaborator of renowned chef Bourdain and co-author of "World Travel: An Irreverent Guide," as one of the top five food destinations for the late chef and food presenter.