[Hue, Vietnam] Cơm hến (baby clam broth with rice) supper at 26 Đường Truong Dinh

Cơm hến (baby clams rice) is a popular Vietnamese rice dish originating in Huế, and many Vietnamese believed that the best-tasting cơm hến could only be had in Huế, as the tiny baby clams from the Perfume River (Vietnamese: Sông Hương) are sweeter in flavour than any others to be found elsewhere. Huế people are also sticklers for perfecting their dishes - careful preparation techniques and the use of good ingredients, in generous quantities, are the hallmarks of Huế cooking.

The Perfume River, which meanders lazily through Huế, providing the city with much of its freshwater seafood, besides ensuring fertile agricultural land for the city’s vegetables and herbs to grow. Cồn Hến is an elliptical islet in the middle of the Perfume River (sometimes nicknamed the “eye of the dragon”. The other dragon’s eye is Cồn Dã Viên further upriver).

Here at Cồn Hến, the baby clams were dug up from the river, and boiled, before the clam meat were extracted. The boiling water was reserved as a stock for the soup pot. The clam meat would be stir-fried with minced garlic, shallots, and Vietnamese mint, seasoned with nước mắm (fish sauce). The clam-meat would be served with cold rice or noodles, accompanied by herbs and vegetables, pork crackling and the must-have mắm ruốc (fermented shrimp paste). The warm soup will be served separately - either to be poured over the whole dish or consumed by itself.

Every morning, boats from Cồn Hến islet would ferry the cơm hến vendors to Chợ Đông Ba (Dong Ba Market) and Đập Đá to hawk their baby clam dish. On Đập Đá itself, there’ll be a row of eateries serving cơm hến.

We had our first taste of cơm hến here at this eatery on the corner of Đường Trương Định and Đường Phạm Hồng Thai:

Over here at Quán Cơm Hến on 26 Đường Trương Định, the eatery utilises an eating area which they seemed to share with Thuy Bun Bo Hue (which offers the famous Huế noodle dish, bún bò Huế) which Anthony Bourdain apparently ate at.

More on cơm hến: it’s basically a baby clam dish, topped with with pork crackling, fried peanuts, fresh beansprouts, and chopped scallions. Ultra-spicy chili flakes in oil, mắm ruốc and nước chấm are provided on the side.

We poured our clam broth into the dish, and ate it like rice porridge. It was an interesting combination - rice and ingredients at room temperature, with warm broth. But it was utterly delicious, and we polished off every grain of rice in there, even though we just came from another meal at Bà Đỏ earlier.

This place is a definite keeper. Don’t miss this dish if you’re ever in Huế!

Address
Quán Cơm Hến
26 Đường Trương Định - Huế (corner with Đường Phạm Hồng Tha)
Tel: +84 775 464 466 (don’t think they speak English, though - ask your hotel concierge to help)
Opening hours: 24-hours.

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Very nice. I’m partial to bivales and would definitely eat this. Love “mam ruoc”. It’s like Macanese balichão.

Hurry up and make it visa-on-arrival! (Otherwise Mexico remains my new favourite country)

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It is, isn’t it? And the Macanese adapted their balichão from Malaccan belachan, all thanks to the Portuguese.

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Actually, I’m interested in the approche how you prepare a food trip. How do you do your research? Did you use a food tour or guide this time? Which books / resources have you been reading? Did you talk a lot to each restaurant you visited?

I find that if one doesn’t know the language of the visiting countries, communicating in English means some things are lost in translation. It’s interesting the way you write, always with some history or culture facts.

I believe the time you’ve invested in each review is significant, thank you and they are very enjoyable read.

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Visa on arrival is available for US citizens. Not for your nationality?

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We actually relied very much on our local tour guide to translate for us, else we might have encountered blank looks or perhaps rebuffed. In places like Hue, having a local as a go-between is very, very important. The local tour guide also recommends places to us, based upon our requests for “local” places, or places with a sense of history. He also made the reservations for us as, in many places, the people simply don’t speak any other language other than their own.

The rest, we Googled - what I do is, I Google the Vietnamese language sites using keywords, then use Google Translate to understand the results - it’s tedious, but that’s the way I found most effective for me.

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No. Only a few passports can clear customs without obtaining visa in advance. And if I still need to surrender my passport to the hotel then goodbye VN.

Arriving in Mexico one only needs a valid passport and fills in a simple form. No passport control upon exiting the country either.

It’s easier to enter Kyrgyzstan and Georgia. I’m planning on visiting such countries in the future.

I don’t think you’ll need to do that! Our hotels - we stayed in two separate ones in Hue: Imperial Hotel and Alba Hotel merely took photocopies of the detail page in each of our passport, and promptly returned the passports to us.

I think Vietnam is opening up at a much faster rate than we’d anticipated.

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Great news!

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The last few times I’d driven to Baja California or Canada, I did not bring or need my passport. That’s how long ago my last trips were.

I wish the violence in Mexico would subside, we would be there in a heartbeat. So refreshing to see your great trouble free adventure there.

Vietnam will be on the top of our list once we can fly again without the risks of flight cancellations and enforced quarantines.

ETA. The one time we visited VN (2 years ago), we did not have to surrender passports at our hotel.

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I hope you keep doing your great trip reports and don’t hesitate to include also the bad and the ugly.

@Google_Gourmet, I hope it’s over soon so you can go to VN.

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