It’s been more than two months since my Vietnam trip, and I still can’t get over how good the food is (and how cheap!). Yes, we have plenty of Vietnamese restaurants here in Melbourne, and many of them are considered to be authentic. However, nothing beats being in the motherland of pho and enjoying a steaming bowl of Viet yumness for the low, low price of $2. Reality hits really hard when you go for a meal here in Melbourne and a bowl of noodles is at least $10. Ten big buckaroos! And that’s just the minimum at the best of times.
It doesn’t make it any easier having moved from London where most of the time a simple takeaway cooked meal is about 6 quid. I know with conversion, that’s about $9.00 but it’s still a single-digit number!! I’m really bad with numbers (i’m sure my dearest hubby is nodding vigorously now) so when it’s single-digit, it’s good. Anyway, I digress – back to dreaming about Vietnamese food.
My brother-in-law (S) and his then fiancee, now loving wife (M) took us to this restaurant called Rat Huế (which means truly Huế). We were not in Huế then, still in Ho Chi Minh City. However S & M swore that this is THE place for Huế cuisine. We would never have found the place if not for their local knowledge. Tucked away in a back alleyway, Truly Huế is where locals go for their dose of central vietnamese fare.
We started off with this wonderful little steamed rice bites. They’re little – the size of a chinese sauce dish. Topped with what I think is minced smoked fish of some sort. The steamed rice cake part is rather bland but the fishy bits and the sauce that you drizzle over is what makes the dish so amazing. The flavours are clean and the texture of the rice cake is soft with a slight chewiness to it. What a perfect little starter.
Aside from the steamed rice cakes, we had a couple other starter dishes. Another version of the rice cakes, except it comes wrapped in banana leaves. Also yummy, but I kinda preferred the novelty of scooping the rice cake out of the tiny dishes. And also, a Viet meal isn’t quite complete without rice paper rolls.
Now comes Bun Bo Huế (Huế style beef vermicelli). The stock is made from cooking beef bones for a long time with aromatics like lemongrass, chilli and shrimp paste. It’s usually spicy and always delicious. The power packed soup base is what makes the dish so amazing. I could slurp on this all day long. We also tried a crab meat version of the noodles, also with a very tasty stock, and crab balls. Yum!
Accompanying the noodle dishes were the usual suspects – fresh bean shoots, basil leaves and mint leaves. What was new to me was the brown noodle-like pile next to the bean shoots. Apparently they are shredded banana flowers. I never knew you could eat banana flowers. (Actually, how does a banana flower look like? Time to google it!) They didn’t have much flavour but added much fibre and texture to the noodle dish. Ah…such wonderful memories….Truly Huế.
4E Le Loi, District 1
Ho Chi Minh City