Sugar and Spice

‘Hue’ seems like another fairly standard example of what I’ve come to expect of a Vietnamese city – alive and buzzing, with roads that you have to be virtually suicidal to cross. Pam and I walked out along the river to the Thien Mu pagoda, supposedly the biggest one in Vietnam. After a near on two hour walk along a busy road, we were not too sure it was worth it. Perhaps this is just in comparison to the jaw-dropping pagodas of Yangon. By happy coincidence we arrived just in time for the sunset, though, which improved the situation a little. Exhausted and hungry in the dark we were then treated with a nice dose of sods law: In every city you get constantly hounded, as a foreigner, by moto-taxi owners asking “you wan’ motorbike?” The one time we actually wanted a bloody ride there were none to be seen.  We walked nearly half the way back before we were able to barter a lift. It was pretty fun, though – particularly adrenaline spiking as the helmet, being three times to big, was about as much use as a swimming cap. The traffic was absurd, as usual, although somehow it doesn’t seem so intimidating when you’re part of it (despite the fact that I’ve already witnessed two crashes already). They drive hilariously close to each other on the roads to the extent that you’re practically rubbing thighs with the person on the bike next to you! I’m surprised that they’re not constantly clipping each other…perhaps they are!

Hue Sunset


This morning I arranged a cooking class with a restaurant down the road called ‘Kangaroo Hue’ (not quite sure of the relevance of the Kangaroo, but never mind). Most of the dishes which we made were adapted from the original to be made vegetarian, me being the only ‘student’. I’ll include the meat/shrimp versions as well though, for the sake of everyone else. They’re not particularly specific as a large amount of the cooking relied on what ‘looked right’ or was to personal taste so forgive the vagueness. In terms of quantities these are all made out for roughly one portion (of lots of little bits in some cases)– perhaps two.

We started off with making the local steamed rice cakes (Hue Beo):

  • rice flour,
  • tapioca flour,
  • water,
  • spring onion,
  • shallot,
  • vegetable oil,
  • tofu or shrimp

Put 5 tbsp of rice flour in a bowl with ½ tbsp tapioca flour then around 3 tbsp hot water. Mix a little then add another rough 10 tbsp of cold water and stir well until all is a smooth liquid. Preferably leave for around 20-30 mins.

Steamed Rice Cakes stage 1

Chop a small shallot v. finely and fry in quite a lot of vegetable oil until yellow – add a little salt – pour onion and oil mix into small bowl and add a few finely chopped spring onions.

Boil the tofu then cut very finely and grind into a sort of powder which you then fry briefly until brown (alternatively boil the shrimps for around 5 mins then remove the shells and again grind into a sort of powder)


Put a little of the oil from the shallots into little clay bowls in a steamer pan (Can use a spring onion as a brush!) leave them in the steam pot for around a minute before pouring in the flour mixture so that the little bowls are each around half full. Steam for around 3 mins then the cakes should have puffed out and be totally white (will sink down pretty instantly)

Pre-steaming prepared bowls.

Pre-steaming prepared bowls.

Put in a little of the onion mix then top with the powdered tofu or shrimp.

 Serve with a fish sauce – 5 tbsp fish/soy sauce, 2 tbsp sugar, 4 tbsp water.

Hue fried pancake:

  • Rice flour
  • Shrimp/pork or tofu
  • Egg (just the yolk)
  • Bean sprouts, carrot (cut relativey finely)
  • Straw mushrooms
  • Stock powder, sugar, vegetable oil

Put 2 1/2 tbsp rice flour in bowl with 1 egg yolk, 1 tbsp stock powder, ½ tbsp sugar, 2 tbsp water – stir well until liquid.

Fry the tofu/shrimp/pork for around 3 mins

Put plenty of oil in a deepish frying pan and wait until relly hot then pour in mixture so covers entire pan up to the edges and fry for around a minute (submerged in oil)

Put the bean sprouts, carrot, mushroom and tofu/pork/shrimp on one side of the pancake then fold over the free side. Carefully flip over– when crispy take it out and drain off excess oil.


Serve with salad of bean sprouts, lettuce, mint, v finely chopped cabbage and peanut sauce


Peanut Sauce:

  • Fried peanuts,
  • Fried sesame seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Stock powder
  • Fish/soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Oil
  • Onion/shallot
  • Garlic

Grind the peanuts and sesames to a powder
Chop the shallot/garlic very finely and fry in oil – once yellow add a tbsp or less of peanut butter, 1 tbsp stock, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp fish sauce and half small bowl of water
Cook for around 5 minutes until thicker consistency


Royal fresh spring roll (nem cuon tuoi):


  • Rice paper
  • Cabbage, carrot, big ear mushrooms, glass noodles
  • Onion/shallot, spring onion, garlic
  • Egg
  • Stock powder, sugar, pepper


Soak glass noodles in water for 10 mins. Cut all the filling as finely as possible and add 1 tbsp stock, 1 pepper, ½ sugar and mix well.
Cook oil until hot then add all the filling and fry for around 10 mins with some water added.

When done move into bowl.
Wet rice paper (using fingers or brush) on both sides – mustn’t get too wet! Put on plate and add a little filling to one side
Fold in the sides on either side of the filling then roll it along the length of the paper to make a sealed roll.



Serve with fish sauce:
1tbsp sugar, 1 rice vinegar, 2 fish sauce, 1 water – cook for about 2 mins – chop fresh chilli and garlic and mix in.


Tofu noodle soup :


Boil water with lemon grass, 2 tbsp chilli powder, a few cloves, 2 tbsp stock powder, 2 fish sauce, ½ sugar, chilli. Add tofu, tomato, potato (pre boiled),carrot, cabbage, pak choi and onion.


Serve with rice noodles and sprinkle of chopped spring onion and pepper.




They use a surprisingly large amount of sugar and oil! I guess for healthier options get rid of the sugar/only use as much oil  as needed to fry not the inch or so used locally!

Anyway those were a bit haphazard – not sure if anyone will be able to get any real use out of them, but they may give you a bit of an idea about what and how people cook here in Hue.


I also found it interesting how they use large ‘cooking’ chopsticks instead of our usual wooden spoons etc.