Finally, I have struck gold with the local food. The setting sun extracts the last rays of light out of the air, but street life illuminates this city in a whole new way. Daytime seems so quiet in Hue, and night is the complete opposite. I wandered around the neighborhood poking my head into whatever presented itself and got a good introduction into life off the beaten path.
After about ten minutes of random milling about I came across the street Mr. Do at my hotel had recommended the other day for a good bowl of bún bò Huế. An open front shop house at 17 Ly Thuong Kiel Street met all my requirements at first glance. Locals only, fan cooled, no frills and a family serving one dish. I ordered in Vietnamese much to the surprise of the young girl who I am sure was ready for sign language and stress. Yes, I have progressed past counting only to three and can actually procure sustenance in the native tongue.
A wizened old woman manning a cauldron at the back of the restaurant ladled my dinner into a big white ceramic bowl. I have noticed anytime I frequent a family owned joint, especially one with grandma still on scene, the food is most likely good. I wonder what will happen when this older generation finally passes on. Will things become like the US where we sometimes settle for mediocrity while dreaming about grandma’s cooking?
This soup hit the spot. The yellow tinged broth was lightly spiced but adding an oily chili paste from a table bowl kicked this thing up a few notches. Two fans aimed right at me could not stay ahead of the sweat now pouring from my brow.
I noticed that grandma had snubbed me by not tossing in the fatty knuckle or congealed blood along with the thick, ropy rice noodles. Not that I would have eaten it anyhow, but still. I watched as others around me devoured these pig parts that I dare not ingest. Grandma did, however, give me lean slices of meat that were highly compatible to western tastes. Westerners before me have obviously primed her as to what our normal dining limits are.
Adding lime juice and herbs ranging from fish mint to shredded banana flower deepened the tastes and for a whopping buck fifty a serving this was quite the satisfying dinner. Now that we have the stereotypical food out of the way, we can graduate from kindergarten here and move on up in our education of all tastes local.