Five Fantastic Dumplings of Hue

By: Tran Thi Minh Hieu

It is sometimes said that Hue cuisine is the most refined of all Vietnamese culinary traditions, a note as much about the food as it is about the elegance and courtesy of the people of Hue. Be it because of their magisterial manner or their delicious food, Hue people are proud. Similarly, we’re proud to offer our selection of the five best Hue dumplings.

1. Bánh bèo (Water fern cake)

Water fern cake is one of the most popular snacks in Hue as well as in restaurants serving this cuisine throughout Vietnam. The fine, white steamed rice cakes topped with scallion oil and reddish shrimp floss are laid out on tiny ceramic dishes all placed on a round tray. This dish looks like water ferns floating on the surface of a lake, hence the name of the dish.

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To eat it, use a spoon to sprinkle the rice cake with a sweet and spicy fish sauce before serving. Alternatively, you can use the spoon to get the rice cake out of the dish and dip it gently in the sauce, but be careful not to let the toppings float away!

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Feel the soft and chewy rice cake in tandem with the spicy sauce; the fatty, sweet minced shrimp; scallion oil and the crispy piece of fried pork skin. The harmonious combination of taste, aroma, color and texture makes this simple dish one you will forever remember.

Learn how to make your own bánh bèo:

Video source: Học Nấu Ăn

2. Bánh bột lọc (Tapioca dumpling)

Beside water fern cake, the tapioca dumpling is also famous to Hue’s visitors. Anyone would agree that this translucent dumpling encasing a bright red-orange shrimp inside looks very interesting and beautiful.

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This dumpling has a balance of chewy and sticky. Texturally, this dish’s pleasures are feeling the crust of shrimp shell playing against the softness of pork belly.

However, not everyone knows that to make it translucent and chewy, the tapioca starch must be mixed by hand with boiling water until it becomes a soft and smooth mixture. The shrimp and pork belly portions that go in to this dumpling are stir-fried in caramelized sugar for color and taste. The dumplings are then wrapped in banana leaves and boiled.

3. Bánh nậm (Flat rice dumpling)

While this dumpling is not as famous as the others, it’s also a common street food sold in many places in Hue city. It has a white color and a flat, rectangular shape with golden shrimp and pork fillings inside, all wrapped in a banana leaf.

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The dumpling is made from a rice flour batter mixed with a bit of tapioca starch. The fillings contain minced pork and shrimp stir-fried with shallots or green onions. First, the rice batter is spread on the banana leaf, with the fillings in the middle, then it is wrapped into shape and steamed. It is served with sweet spicy fish sauce.

Learn how to make your own bánh nậm:

Video source: Helen's Recipes (Vietnamese Food)

4. Bánh ram ít (Sticky rice dumpling on a pancake)

This special dumpling was once a favorite in the royal court of Hue a long time ago, but it has remained popular since. Its name is derived from the dish’s combination of two distinct components: the steamed sticky rice dumpling (bánh ít) on top and the fried sticky rice pancake (bánh ram) at the bottom. You will find this combination of stickiness and crunchiness both novel and delicious.

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Making this dumpling-on-a-pancake dish is a process that demands a lot of time as well as a skillful cook. First, make a smooth dough from glutinous rice flour, water and a little salt. Then, divide it into two parts. For the dumplings, wrap the dough around the filling—stir-fried minced pork and shrimp—then steam. For the pancakes, shape the dough into flat round pieces and deep fry.

5. Bánh ướt (Steamed rice sheets)

These are the same paper-thin, steamed rice sheets that go with Vietnamese sausages in other parts of Vietnam, but in Hue they get creative. Hue people fancy the dish with grilled or roasted pork instead.

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The steamed rice sheets are made from a rice flour and tapioca batter, thinly spread out and steamed on the spot. The grilled pork is then put on the sheet together with fresh herbs to make a roll. It can be served with sweet and spicy fish sauce (nước chấm) or a bean dip made of fermented soybean sauce (tương), ground meat and peanuts.

Served with roasted pork, the steamed rice sheets are to be eaten as a type of noodle together with fresh herbs and pickles. To serve, put all the ingredients together in a bowl with spicy fish sauce sprinkled on top and experience a symphony of tastes.

Watch a Hue’s traditional village making their most famous dish: bánh ướt Lựu Bảo

Video source: Tây Trần Minh

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