Another stop on the Real Food Adventure of Vietnam is Hue. The city of Hue (pronounced whey) has a population of around 1 million so it was a big change to the hustle and bustle of our stay in Hanoi. Less traffic, and therefore less horn tooting, made it much easier to cross the roads.
We had traveled overnight by train to Hue and it’s fair to say that we were all a bit exhausted. After dropping our bags off at the hotel, we went for a short walk to try pancakes that came highly recommended by our guide. I went with the banana pancake which seemed to have banana in the mixture AND folded inside the pancake. YES! Also inside was a few scoops of vanilla ice cream and a drizzling of chocolate syrup. It was an incredibly hot day so we had to be quick and eat before the ice cream melted. A delicious way to start off our stay.
As Hue has such an interesting history, we spent the morning visiting the citadel, pagoda (where the monks had just started chanting) and the royal tomb. We also had a boat ride on our schedule but due to the intense and uncomfortable daytime heat, we rescheduled it to dusk when it was much cooler.
With a free afternoon I went for a stroll and found myself sitting outside a cafe enjoying a local beer, watching the world go by – something I did a LOT while I was in Vietnam. It’s a great way to cool down in the stifling May heat and observe everyday life of the city.
Our ride along the Perfume River was really beautiful, the amazing colours of the sunset sky made the decision to reschedule worthwhile. There were enormous pink lotus flowers floating on the centre of the river – part of the many decorations around the city to celebrate Buddha’s birthday which we sadly missed by a few days.
That night we had a fantastic experience – one I will always remember. We were invited to dinner at the home of a local Hue family. On arrival we were greeted by the 83-year-old grandmother who was wearing her best outfit and jewellery and she looked fabulous for her age! Our guide encourages us to ask lots of questions as it’s not considered rude or intrusive – it’s welcomed as it shows interest.
Before going to the dining room we take a peek in the kitchen where the youngest daughter (she’s in her 40s but she looks at least 10 years younger) is preparing our dinner and it smells wonderful. I’m happy to find out she is making some vegetarian dishes just for me which makes me feel very lucky.
To start we had a soup made with pumpkin and peanuts. There were small bowls of soy sauce on the table and we’re encouraged to add a little in to our soup. It’s nutty and creamy and the soy gives it a salty hit. I need to make this at home!
Next comes some spring rolls and I get a plate of vegetarian rolls all to myself. I love the use of the lattice rice paper, it gives the rolls so much more crunch.
Throughout the day our guide had been telling us about the jack fruit and tofu salad, a very special dish, and it didn’t disappoint. Fresh and interesting flavours and, true to Vietnamese cuisine, lots of different textures. Some of the other sides were steamed spinach, char-grilled eggplant and a bowl of clear (vegetable for me) soup.
And now it’s time for me to get a bit gushy. While the rest of the group were enjoying their meaty dishes, I was served this seemingly plain tofu. No complaints from me, I LOVE tofu.
The surprise came when I cut open the tofu. It was stuffed with delicious vegetables! I can quite honestly say that this is the tastiest tofu dish I’ve EVER had. I ask our guide to tell her how much I enjoy it and she says it’s not from a recipe, she made it up herself. What a delicious genius!
There is a lot of pineapple in Vietnam and they are much smaller, brighter in colour and a lot sweeter. Our dessert is a simple plate of pineapple and a mixture of salt and chilli for dipping. Truly, this meal was one of the best I’ve had. It really goes to show that food made with love always tastes better.
I really enjoyed my time in Hue and I was a little sad for it to end. Keep an eye out for my next post on Vietnam, where we stay in Hoi An for a few relaxing nights.