Story: Cam Ly
Photos: Fokus Visual
Stylist: ZnGemie

Set near the tranquil Huong (Perfume) River, the Hue Citadel is remembered not only for its colossal monuments and mausoleums, but for its delicious cuisine. Heritage presents three famous treats from this poetic former citadel.

Basket clam rice (Cơm hến)

Basket clam rice features day-old rice soaked in basket clam broth and served with herbs, ground peanuts, crumbled rice crepes and deep fried pork skin. While it sounds like a rustic treat, this dish is actually quite complex and refined. Basket clams are soaked in rice water to clean them, then boiled until their shells fully open. The cook stir-fries the basket clams with deep fried onions. Other ingredients include chopped star fruit and green mangoes, coriander, giant elephant ear (dọc mùng) mushrooms, ground banana flowers, fried onions, roasted sesame seeds, deep fried pork skin, ground roasted peanuts and chopped chili. The day-old rice is put in a bowl and the clams and other toppings are piled on top, before all ingredients are soaked in the delicious basket clam broth.

Grilled pork rolls (Nem lụi)

A signature dish of the Hue Citadel, grilled pork terrine involves minced pork terrine mixed with ground pork, dried onions, fish sauce, pepper and cooking oil to form a solid mixture. This mix is then divided into bite-sized chunks, which are wrapped around pieces of cut lemongrass around 15cm in length. The terrine is grilled over charcoal or in an oven until the pork is fragrant and well cooked but not dry. This dish is judged by its sauce (nước lèo), which is made of minced pork and pork liver stir fried with spring onions and garlic, water, cassava starch, roasted ground peanuts and sesame seeds. These ingredients are simmered until the stock has condensed. The grilled pork terrine is wrapped in rice papers along with herbs, figs, chopped cucumbers and carrots and fermented papayas. Diners dip the rolls into the meaty sauce before eating.

Khoái cakes

This savory cake bears some resemblance to southern fried rice crepes, but khoái cakes are smaller with a thicker cover. The batter is made of rice flour mixed with tumeric powder to produce an eye-catching yellow color, chicken eggs, water, seasoning and fish sauce. Cooking oil is poured into a small saucepan or a mold. When heated, the cook pours in an even layer of batter, then adds bean sprouts, spring onions, peeled prawns, and well-ground pork or pork terrine. The pot’s lid is kept closed and the khoái cakes are cooked until they grow crunchy and yellow. Khoái cakes are served with herbs, figs, green bananas, sliced star fruit and the sauce (nước lèo).