[Vietnam] A Complete Guide to Dining Out in the old Imperial Capital of Hue

In early March this year, I was in Hue, the old Imperial capital of Vietnam on a gourmet trip with 5 of my fellow Singaporean foodies. We flew from Singapore to Danang, and took a short road trip to Hue, perhaps the most graceful city in Vietnam we’d ever been to.

Hue, by virtue of it being the seat of the Nguyen dynasty, where the Nguyen lords ruled the country from the 19th-century, boasts of being home to about 1,300 of Vietnam’s list of more than 1,700 heritage food items.

In Vietnam itself, Hueian food has a reputation of being finer and more delicately prepared compared to those from other regions of Vietnam.

Listed below are the places we dined at in Hue, from street food to imperial dishes, and everything else in-between. :grin:

  1. Hue-style hors d’oeuvres from Bà Đỏ [Hue, Vietnam] Hue-style hors d'oeuvres from Bà Đỏ
  2. Vietnamese fine dining at Bội Trân Garden [Hue, Vietnam] Vietnamese fine dining at Bội Trân Garden
  3. Imperial cuisine at Tịnh Gia Viên [Hue, Vietnam] Imperial cuisine at Tinh Gia Vien
  4. Duck salad from Phuong [Hue, Vietnam] Duck salad from Phuong
  5. Banh mi - the quintessential Vietnamese sandwich [Hue, Vietnam] Banh mi - the quintessential Vietnamese sandwich
  6. Dinner at Sân Mây Vegetarian Restaurant [Hue, Vietnam] Dinner at Sân Mây Vegetarian Restaurant
  7. Royal Tea Ceremony at Đông Khuyết Đài, the Citadel [Hue, Vietnam] Royal Tea Ceremony at Đông Khuyết Đài, the Citadel
  8. Cơm hến (baby clam broth with rice) supper at 26 Đường Truong Dinh [Hue, Vietnam] Cơm hến (baby clam broth with rice) supper at 26 Đường Truong Dinh
  9. Bún bò Huế from Bà Bớt [Hue, Vietnam] Bún bò Huế from Bà Bớt
  10. Chè or “sweet dessert soups” from Chè Mợ Tôn Đích [Hue, Vietnam] Chè or "sweet dessert soups" from Chè Mợ Tôn Đích
  11. Dinner at Bờ Ao Quán [Hue, Vietnam] Dinner at Bờ Ao Quán
  12. Breakfast options at Chợ làng Chuồn ( Chuồn village market) [Hue, Vietnam] Breakfast options at Chợ làng Chuồn ( Chuồn village market)
  13. Seafood dinner at Quán Hải Sản Tuấn Phúc [Hue, Vietnam] Seafood dinner at Quán Hải Sản Tuấn Phúc
  14. River dinner cruise by HRS [Hue, Vietnam] Dinner cruise on the Perfume River
  15. Chợ Đông Ba morning market [Hue, Vietnam] Breakfast options at Chợ Đông Ba morning market
  16. Home-cooked lunch at Lê Ngô Cát [Hue, Vietnam] Home-cooked lunch at Lê Ngô Cát
  17. Breakfast at Alba Hotel [Hue, Vietnam] Breakfast at Alba Hotel
  1. Dinner at King’s Panorama, Imperial Hotel [Hue, Vietnam] Dinner at the Terrace outside King's Panorama Bar, Imperial Hotel

I arrived home from Vietnam on March 12. On March 18, Malaysia went into complete COVID-19 lockdown for 3 months.

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Wish I were there.

You had a great time, I remember the photos and stories.

I hope it’s safe again a few months from now. I am still hoping to return to Mexico in February.

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Yup! Things are finally looking up with the recent Pfizer announcement!

I want to go back to Hue and re-visit the Buddhist head nun who ran an orphanage there. People would drop unwanted babies in front of her nunnery, and she’d just adopt those children as her own. She runs a vegetable farm near the nunnery, and has set up a school to educate the children. We visited the organic farm, including an awesome indoor one for mushrooms.

One of my friends could not believe the size of the gourd grown here! :joy:

Our tour guide with ears of corn harvested for that day’s lunch:

The head nun, Thích Minh Tú, of the Đức Sơn Pagoda Orphanage Centre, at her mushroom farm.

We were also shown around the nursery (but we didn’t take any photos of the children in there). We were then treated to a simple meal of fried mushrooms. The 6 of us pooled together some money to donate to the nursery.

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Lunch later that day was at Quan chay Hoa Từ Tâm vegetarian restaurant.

The restaurant basically served Chinese-style hotpot, with a selection of very fresh local vegetables, mushrooms, tofu and noodles, to be cooked at the table:

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Crisp-fried mushroom fritters

Sweet-sour mushroom, tofu and seaweed quenelles

Braised enokitake mushrooms with pineapple and leeks

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of Chinese vegetarian cuisine (whereas Indian vegetarian is top of my list of favorite cuisines), and this Vietnamese one was pretty similar to its Chinese counterpart - probably explained why I’d totally forgotten about this meal until I was browsing the photos I took at the nunnery-run farm, and its orphanage yesterday.

A trio of Buddhist monks at the next table seemed to be enjoying their meal very much, so the food must be good from the local vegetarians’ perspective.

Address
Quan chay Hoa Từ Tâm
90 Minh Mạng, Thủy Xuân,
Thành phố Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam
Tel: +84 93 567 98 22
Open 24 hours, daily.

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One of the simple pleasures in Hue: sipping local coffee whilst perched on one of the kindergarten-sized “chairs” in a local coffee joint.

Most of these casual coffee joints catering to the locals would not have the drip-coffee contraption often seen in Vietnamese-themed cafes outside Vietnam. Instead, one’s coffee is often brewed then served in a cup, accompanied by a glass of water or weak tea, to be drunk after one’s finished with one’s coffee. Often, one also gets a glass filled with ice automatically - as locals liked to drop ice-cubes into their hot coffee, to cool the drink quickly.

Hè Phố Café is just a couple of minutes’ stroll from the Imperial Hotel, one of the hotels which we stayed in during our March visit to Hue.

Address
Hè Phố Café
4 Hùng Vương, Phú Hội, Thành phố Huế, Thừa Thiên Huế, Vietnam
Opening hours: 6am to 10pm daily.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold