What to Eat in Central Vietnam

The Imperial Capital of Hue, the Golden Bridge of Da Nang, and the Ancient Town of Hoi An have become some of the most famous tourist attractions in Central Vietnam. The cuisine of this region is distinctively vivid with spicy and bold flavors.

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup (Bún Bò Huế)

As indicated by its name, bún bò Huế (or simply bún bò) is a Vietnamese breakfast staple that originated in Hue, the old imperial capital of Vietnam.

Coming from the land of Vietnam’s spiciest dishes, bún bò is no different. What you’ll get is a bowl of thick rice noodles (bún) topped with tender beef shanks, pork knuckle, Hue-style ham (chả Huế), and beef balls submerged in a red broth. Chopped green onions, slivers of fresh onions, and cilantro are also added for garnish.

To complete your bowl of bún bò, add some greens from an assortment of flash-boiled vegetables, including julienned water spinach, banana blossoms, and bean sprouts. For extra flavor, add sate sauce, a squeeze of lime, and shallot vinegar.

Its fiery-looking broth is colored by annatto and chili oil, scented with lemongrass, and flavored from hours of simmering beef bones with shallots and shrimp paste. Every slurp is like a symphony of taste in your mouth – spicy and savory at first, then sweet and sour later.

The best place to enjoy authentic bún bò is obviously in Hue. If you couldn’t go there, you can also find other bún bò variations all over Vietnam, which are usually less spicy and sweeter.

Quang Noodles (Mì Quảng)

Quang Noodles (Mì Quảng)

Mì Quảng’s name comes from its place of origin, Quang Nam Province.

The mì in mì Quảng is easily recognized by its thickness and yellow color. It’s a type of handmade rice noodles that has a light peanut scent and beautiful turmeric color. When served, it’s usually topped with hard-boiled quail eggs, pork, shrimp, and garnished with grilled rice crackers, crushed peanuts, and green onions.

Unlike other mì dishes in Vietnam, a bowl of mì Quảng is filled with only one ladle of broth, just enough to mix all the ingredients together. You can say it’s a half soup, half salad kind of dish. Its concentrated bone broth also has a turmeric color and a peanuty flavor. As you may expect, this dish comes with a platter of fresh veggies and herbs like lettuce, banana blossoms, young mustard greens, Vietnamese coriander, basil, green chilis, and lime.

Mì Quảng is widely sold at street stalls in Quang Nam and Da Nang, a nearby city. If you visited Quang Nam or Da Nang without trying mì Quảng, it wouldn’t count. Locals usually have it for breakfast but you can eat it anytime you want.

Vietnamese Clear Dumplings (Bánh Bột Lọc)

Bánh bột lọc is a sexy transparent dumpling that you can see through the shrimp and pork belly filling inside. It’s an appetizer or a fun snack to eat throughout the day. There are two versions: steamed clear dumplings (bánh bột lọc gói lá chuối) and boiled clear dumplings (bánh bột lọc trần). The two variants differ in the consistency of the batter and cooking method.

Both versions are made from the same ingredients, including tapioca starch, shrimp, and pork belly. However, the steamed version has a thinner batter, which makes it a bit less chewy than the boiled one. Another difference is that the steamed version is wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed while the boiled version is boiled directly without any wrapping. The banana leaves also add a slight fragrance to the dumplings.

A snackalicious plate of bánh bột lọc is simply topped with green onions, fried shallots, sometimes Hue-style ham (chả Huế), and served with sweet chili fish sauce. You can also order it in a combo with other Hue traditional cakes including savory steamed rice cakes (bánh bèo) and steamed flat rice dumplings (bánh nậm).

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