Roughly in the middle of Vietnam, around the same distance from the country’s major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, you’ll find Hue (or more appropriately, Huế).
The coastal city is a touristic hot spot, not only for its picturesque architecture and ancient temples but also for its food. Hue’s Imperial City had a massive significance and was once home to the influential Nguyen royal family. This made the city’s food especially delicate and high-end. Hue’s food is often called ‘royal cuisine.’
The dishes are smaller in Hue, and the presentations much nicer. All the flavors of central Vietnam come together for food or world-class quality that looks as nice as it tastes.
There’s also an important Buddhist influence in Hue, which means there are many vegetarian alternatives, including many restaurants totally dedicated to meat-less menus. You don’t have to be vegetarian to enjoy the best food in Hue, though, actually, it is customary for locals to eat vegetarian meals twice a month — that already makes a significant difference in your health and the health of the planet. That’s the Buddhist way.
From breakfast, lunch and dinner; from street food snacks to delicate desserts, we've compiled the best food in Hue. Dishes that will definitely change the way you see Vietnamese food forever, in a good way! Here’s the best food in Hue.
1. Bun Bo Hue
Meaning beef noodle soups; this is Hue’s signature dish and its most celebrated recipe. You can’t visit the imperial city without trying a bowl of bun bo hue.
The base for a bun bo is the beef stock, which is fatty and flavorful. Then you have the noodles, lots of fresh herbs, shallots, garlic and the ubiquitous fish sauce.
Bun bo hue is similar to Vietnam’s famous pho soup, but it’s heartier, spicier and much more satisfying.
2. Banh Beo
Another Hue specialty, and a prevalent one indeed, banh beo is a small, steamed rice cake filled with a wide variety of savory filling, most commonly shrimp.
Of course, the filling is flavored with shallots, fish sauce, rice vinegar and many other common seasonings to make this rice dish a dreamy meal.
This appetizer is a Hue original, and you can see it in its presentations. Hue is the land of the small dishes; that’s what makes these so attractive!
3. Trai Va Salad
If you think salads are dull, wait until you try the trai va salad. A colorful tossed salad with an immense diversity of flavors and textures.
The secret ingredient is the trai va or green fig, trendy in Hue. Together with fermented shrimp paste, a sweet and savory dressing and fresh green and herbs, you’ll find yourself in the only salad in the world no one can say no to. It’s that good!
4. Banh Loc
If you like spring rolls and ravioli, then you’ll love Hue’s banh loc. These stuffed tapioca wrappers are unique snacks and starters, and they’re more flavorful than you think. They’re packed with shrimp or pork, and when batched with a fish sauce-based dressing, they’re just too good to be true.
The melt-in-your-mouth stuffed dumplings are crowd-pleasers and some of the best party food in Hue. You’ll want to get a few orders of these to feed a crowd!
5. Cuon Hue (Hue Spring Rolls)
Spring rolls are ubiquitous around Asia, and they’re super popular in Vietnam.
Not all spring rolls are created equal, though, and Hue has its own version called cuon hue.
Don’t expect rice sheets wrapping these rolls, but mustard leaves. The filling is often a mixture of shrimp, bacon and a spoonful of vermicelli rice.
Incredibly fresh, light and balanced, these spring rolls are proof that everything tastes better in Hue. This is the authentic Vietnamese royal cuisine.
6. Com Hen
Did someone say clams? Yes, the delicious seashells play a special role in Hue food.
Clams cooked in pork fat and clam broth, flavored with chili peppers, star fruit, fried shallots, and lots of other tasty ingredients for a thrilling, inexpensive street food soup.
The clams, the broth and the fermented sauce bringing everything together make this unique stew a jewel in Hue’s food repertoire. Clams are elevated to new heights here, and you just can’t stop eating them.
7. Banh Mi
The ultra-famous banh mi, a specialty all around Vietnam and other countries, is definitely the country’s signature dish.
You’ll obviously find banh mi in Hue, but it’s a bit different. Remember, Hue is home to the most refined cuisines in Vietnam.
One of the coolest banh mi types is stuffed with tapioca and shrimps, or the famous banh bot loc. You’ve never tried a baguette like this one, even by Vietnam’s standards!
8. Banh Khot
There’s more than one type of pancake in Vietnam, and many of them are popular in central Vietnam and Hue.
The banh khot is the miniature version of such pancakes, and they’re often shaped as crispy casseroles people use to fill with all types of tasty stuff.
You’ll find these on-biters stuffed with anything, from creamy shrimp filling livened with chopped chives to filling based in pork. The banh khot is a social experience, so share these with friends and family.
9. Grilled Corn and Steamed Sweet Potatoes
This might not be complicated food, but it’s pretty popular. You’ll see these charcoal-fired street food stands all around Hue, where the main feature is corn on the cob and sweet potatoes.
Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest, and that’s precisely the case with these treats. The vendors will coat the corn with fish sauce, scallions, butter and chili powder for a delicious snack. The sweet potatoes, baked over burning embers, are naturally tasty.
10. Banh Ep (Hue Savory Crispy Crepe)
Saying the banh ep are pancakes would be an understatement; they’re much more flavorful than what we know as pancakes. Having said that, the banh ep is really a thin, crispy pancake made with tapioca flour.
The savory dough is pressed in hot cast-iron planks to infuse the tapioca dough with several staple ingredients, including egg, some types of dried meat and lots of chives.
Think of this thin dish as Hue’s most comforting fast food.
11. Banh Trang Trung (Vietnamese Pizza)
Everyone knows this Hue food as the Vietnamese pizza, and that’s actually a very good description.
A banh trang trung is based on a thin sheet of rice paper topped with everything we love about Vietnamese ingredients. Pork, chicken eggs or shrimp, combined with veggies, herbs and sauces, make this street food classic a delightful meal.
You’ll find the best Vietnamese pizza in Hue’s night markets, and we hope you’re hungry because this treat is immensely satisfying.
12. Bun Thit Nuong (Hue Grilled Pork Noodle)
This is Hue’s version of the noodle dish. Vermicelli rice noodles topped with a wide diversity of flavorful add-ons.
There’s always some grilled pork, and fresh herbs abound, including mint and basil. Expect to find some bean sprouts on your noodles and roasted peanuts add a crunch. The whole thing is coated with an umami-rich fish sauce dressing and some pickled veggies.
There are many variations for Hue noodles, but they’re always fantastic.
13. Nem Lui (Hue Lemongrass Skewers)
A very traditional snack from Hue, the nem lui comprises grilled pork skewers flavored with vibrant lemongrass.
Although incredibly meaty and filling, most nem lui comes with a side of tossed salad and dip, including fish sauce.
As you tour around Hue, you’ll find yourself enjoying nem lui more often than you think. It’s just that grab-and-go snack to keep you energized all day, and you won’t find these anywhere else in Vietnam!
14. Hue Balut (Duck fetus eggs)
You might have heard about the infamous duck eggs with a real duck in them. This is not your ordinary street food snack, but they’re really delicious, especially if you’re an adventurous eater.
Balut is popular in Hue. You’ll find it in several food stalls and established restaurants. Just because something is unfamiliar doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it; there’s a reason why this delicacy has been around for centuries, it’s tasty!
15. Banh It Ram
Fried food is always the best, but some are on a whole other level. Hue’s famous Banh it Ram, basically fried sticky rice dumplings, are filled with anything from shrimp and pork belly to sweet mung bean.
Although fried, the dough is still deliciously chewy and sticky, adding new layers of flavor and texture to these one-biters.
There’s a similar dish called Banh it Tran, also famous all around central Vietnam. These are sticky balls of rice filled with similar foods but not fried.
16. Che Hat Sen
There’s lots of sweet food in Hue, too. One of the most authentic is the che hat sen, a sweet soup made with rice cakes and lotus seeds.
This is a cold soup, by the way, and it’s better enjoyed on hot summer days. This used to be a dessert fit for the royalty, but we can now all enjoy it in Hue.
Make sure you pair your sweet soup with one of the country’s most famous drinks, coffee.
17. Ca Phe Muoi
Ending with one of Vietnam’s tasting specialties, coffee, people in Hue enjoy a lovely, sweetened coffee called ca phe muoi.
This is not your typical cup of coffee, though, it’s salted coffee, and it’s unique to the region around Hue. It all starts in the country’s typical stainless-steel coffee maker, where concentrated coffee drips through a filter.
Vendors then combine the coffee with salty cream over ice. A straightforward recipe for a sensational drink. Coffee like you’ve never tasted before.
Hue’s Food is Awesome!
All local dishes served in Hue street food stalls are delicious. Some are stir-fried, and others grilled over charcoal, so there’s an endless array of flavors and textures. This is Vietnamese food from central Vietnam elevated to perfection.
This is Hue, and you can experience it on a food tour or on your own. The best restaurants in Hue are very accessible, and then there’s the street food!
We hope this food guide helps you navigate around the local food. Hue cuisine is well worth exploring and is a worthy ambassador for Vietnamese food.
Travel to Vietnam and fall in love with Vietnamese cuisine. Put together your own food tour and learn all there is about Hue food. The best-kept secret in Southeast Asia.