[Hue, Vietnam] Breakfast at Alba Hotel

I’m normally not a fan of hotel breakfasts. Given a choice, I’d rather get out of the sterile, run-of-the-mill breakfast spreads we usually find in hotels the world over. They all looked the same and offered the same stuff: sausages, bacon, hash browns, and an egg station where they cook your eggs the way you want them (sunny side-up, over-easy, scrambled, ho-hum).

This time, however, I was pleasantly delighted by the breakfast buffet spread at Alba Hotel, which was the second hotel we stayed at on this trip. What I liked about the breakfast buffet spread was the inclusion of freshly-made traditional Hue steamed cakes, and really fine-tasting ones, too. What I had:

  1. Bánh nậm - steamed flat parcels of rice flour pudding, topped with minced shrimp and pork, wrapped in large leaves then steamed. I’m not familiar with these leaves, and wondered if anyone can help me identify what they are. Here are some pictures of Alba Hotel’s open kitchen preparing the bánh nậm. First, the rice flour was mixed with water and warmed up to thicken it into a paste.

The kitchen chefs sort of “painted” the thick, semi-cooked rice paste onto the leaves:

Minced pork and minced shrimp which had been marinated with fish sauce and onions were spooned over the rice flour paste, and the whole thing would be wrapped up into green envelope, and steamed for 15-20 minutes.

I simply loved the bánh nậm - they are so small and light, one could easily consume 4-5 at one go.

  1. Bánh bôt loc - these are tapioca or cassava starch quenelles, with the chewier, denser texture than the dumplings or pudding made using rice flour. The tapioca starch paste also gave the quenelle a translucent look. Embedded inside would be a whole shrimp, tinted red using paprika/chili powder, minced pork, shallot , garlic and condiments, nước mắm or fish sauce being chief among them. These were then wrapped in leaves and steamed as well.

  2. Bánh bèo - these were steamed saucer-shaped rice cakes, with a slightly firm texture as a bit of tapioca flour were mixed in with the rice flour to make the batter. These were steamed in their saucer vessels and served in them. The steamed rice cakes would be glazed with scallion oil, and topped with cooked, minced shrimp and pork crackling or lardons. This dish is native to Hue, and is one of my favourites.

  3. Bánh ướt - flat rice noodles, usually dressed in a bit of lard and fish sauce, topped with chopped scallions and golden crisp-fried shallots.

I wasn’t so keen on the other “heavier” local options: steamed dark glutinous rice with cubed cassava, curried beef, fried rice, etc. But they do look well-prepared.

The buffet also has a salad bar, which was attractively displayed, though I couldn’t bring myself to mix Western-style salad with my traditional Vietnamese breakfast options.

  1. Bún bò Huế - for any die-hard fans of this very Hue dish, there is a cooking counter which prepared the noodles to order.

One of my friends cold not resist having an omelette, prepared Western-style (after 6 days of all-Vietnamese meals) - he was very impressed by a well-executed one which they served him.

So, in a city with many hotels of about the same standards and located relatively close to each other, and since we’d normally have most of our lunches and dinners outside our hotel each day, maybe we ought to pick hotels that served good breakfasts as those are likely to be the only meals we’re going to have in the hotel we’re staying in.

Alba Hotel
12 Nguyễn Văn Cừ, Vĩnh Ninh, Thành phố Huế
Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam
Tel: +84 234 3839 998


Banana leaves.


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I wouldn’t want to skip breakfast at this hotel.

In Japan I really enjoyed breakfast buffet at ryokans and some hotels (Swiss Hotel in Osaka and 2 other ones in Nagano and Mito). We tried everything Japanese at these hotels, whilst the Japanese ate only western-style things. I asked around and found out. It’s because it’s the only time Japanese eat a western breakfast. Same for us, the only time we eat all Japanese breakfast. Makes sense.

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Thanks! They were smaller than the banana leaves back home, which threw me off.

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Beautiful but as with any breakfast buffets, particular ones we’ve encountered in SEA which are sumptuous, my enjoyment of Asian breakfasts is tempered by the thought of food waste. I hope that folks take the leftovers home (?).

I don’t mind being labeled “Debbie Downer.” :grin:


Totally valid concern. And those lavish buffets often have more food than required, just so to make the display more “attractive”.


We always want something “different” when we eat out. :joy::joy::joy:

I visited India on business quite often. I used to ask my Indian colleagues as well business associates what are their favourite types of food when they bring their families out for dinner, and they’d all say “Chinese”. I was perplexed - why Chinese? I felt Chinese food in India was generally sub-par, whereas their Indian food places were simply amazing, with breathtakingly good cooking.

A couple of them did say, "Why would we want to eat the same (Indian) cooking outside as what we’d have at home. We want something different. " :laughing:

In the last decade or so, I noticed Mexican food is now very much favoured, especially by younger Indians when they eat out.