What Makes Hue Food So Distinctive?

There are two factors really. The first is a matter of climate, soil, sea and even some bias, perhaps. The beef, poultry, seafood and produce in Hue are borne of conditions that make for really tasty dishes. For example, the squid caught off Hue’s shores commands double the price of squid caught elsewhere.

I understand that every region might say the same thing about its food. But not every place can say the same thing about what may be a more persuasive reason for the singular appeal of Hue’s cuisine — the nobility.

From the middle of the 1600s until 1945, nine lords and 13 emperors ruled from Hue. These rulers were finicky eaters. They wouldn’t settle for the same humble dish day after day. And so the cooks of Hue had to get creative. Really creative. It’s said that the emperors wanted fifty different dishes served at a single sitting.


Intricate Dishes of the Imperial Dinner at La Residence Hue

The legends also tells stories of incentives the emperors provided for creativity. He would often let his concubines compete for his favor with the preparation of dessert. Whoever produced the most delicious dessert could have the emperor for the night!

Beyond the royal family, the mandarin class brought up their daughters with a high regard for the culinary arts. Hue’s top female students attended the Dong Khanh School from 1917 to 1975, and there they learned how to take care of their families, how to dance, how to sing and how to cook. The legacy of all that instruction has rippled down through the ages, and produced the most extraordinary food in Vietnam.

                                                By Phan Trong Minh, General Manager La Residence Hotel & Spa