Hue – A Foodie’s Paradise

Hue – A Foodie’s Paradise

Hue was on my list as we planned out our trip to Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) was on B, and Hanoi we knew we had to do. I wanted to do Hue for the Old Imperial Capital, or the Citadel as they call it… but what I quickly came to learn about Hue was more than old building ruins, I have learned the Hue should be more known for the food.

Sure Bourdain (RIP) had visited before, and I had seen the last episode he did while visiting the region, but it didn’t hit me until our first meal. In the pouring, soon to be monsoon-like, rain that stayed with us the entire time, we made our way to grab some lunch after our hour flight from Hanoi. We stumbled upon the restaurant and bar area of Hue city centre and plopped down at a place called Xuân Trang where I order Banh Khoai (without the pork of course!) and an order of chicken with rice. B got Nem Lui (ground pork patties grilled on lemongrass skewers). Place number one set the bar high.

Our first food in Hue was amazing, my jet-lag, not so much. Four days into the trip and I still had trouble sleeping the entire night, needing naps during the day… but my Hue nap took us into well into the night and we ended up missing dinner. At 11:30 pm we took to the street only to find that Hue is not a town of late night eats. After wandering around for a good 30 minutes in the rain, I turned on my data and found a food stall that serves burgers and fries… not very traditional but I was starving. We weren’t the only ones, and found a group of three Malaysian travellers who were also in search of food. We all went to the burger stand together and took it back to our respective hotels… even Hue’s roadside burgers and fries are outstanding!

Breakfast the next morning was included in our hotel. The buffet had a wide assortment of fresh fruit, breads and pastries, meats (which B made a comment on), rice, crepes and more. What really stood out was the pho. I’ve come to learn over my short time in Vietnam is that pho is eaten really any time of the day… and it differs depending on the city (not really a surprise here). B was so obsessed with it that he convinced me to get a bowl. And he was right to obsess over it, it was THAT good. (Naturally I asked for mine without the beef in it – I’m so complicated)

Aside from the Banh Khoai which I so desperately wanted to try, I wanted Banh Beo. These tiny coin shaped rice circles come with shrimp and fried onions and I had had them at a Vietnamese restaurant back in Canada. Knowing that they’re a uniquely Hue dish, I knew I had to check it off my list. We ordered a dish of them at a restaurant called Madam Thu, which serves up traditional Vietnamese food and has vegetarian options! As our mains, B ordered chicken and rice while I ordered a vegetarian Banh Khoai (honestly, could not get enough on that stuff!). Our Banh Beo came with the traditional fish sauce but what really made the dish was the chilli sauce that they provided. The spicy was a nice compliment and I should have ordered more.

I could go on and on about the food in Hue, but all good things must come to an end. Aside from the endless rain, and the crippling jet lag that I still haven’t kicked after 6 days, we’ve made our way to our next destination (Hoi An). But I know that Hue will always have a special place in my food-loving heart.

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Lēe Hò Taiwan

Lēe Hò Taiwan

changing-of-the-guard

When I reflect on some of the adventures I’ve had, one that will always have a special place in my heart is Taiwan. From its stinky tofu to its bustling night markets, to its volcanic ruggedness and its pristine beaches, Taiwan as a whole will always bring me amazing memories.

Taiwan introduced me to the roadside duck. It was the first place I rode my first scooter. It was home to my first earthquake. And it is home to quite possibly some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

People told me not to travel to Taiwan during Lunar New Year. They told me that Taipei is dead and that everyone leaves to be with their families. They told me that everything shuts down and that, in a nutshell, there’s nothing to do. So when I was planning how I would spend my vacation, I decided that Taiwan during Lunar New Year was the best place. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to those people.

 

Now I’m going to keep this short because the country in and of itself is only 394 kms long but the experiences you get all around the small island nation are unique in their own way. In Taipei, you have amazing night markets (including snake alley), Taipei 101, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, beer floats (that’s right people, beer and ice cream), stinky tofu, and free Taiwanese rock concerts. Head southeast and you land in Hualien – palm trees, Taroko Gorge, and earthquakes. Make your way to the tip of the country and you’re in surf country. The laid back, reggae vibe is present in the strangest of places. It was here that everyone flocks to during New Years it seems and there are no vacancies anywhere in the town. If you get stranded without a place to stay, like I did, set up shop on the beach – there are lots of people who bring their tents and set up shop there – set up a bonfire and make friends, you’ll never be alone. Eventually you’ll have to make your way back to Taipei to fly back to wherever you came from but first, take a pit stop in Kaohsiung. I wish I had spent more time in Kaohsiung but that didn’t happen but Kaohsiung is the perfect balance of ancient and modern – or so I’ve heard from friends that have lived there.

Taiwan seems to always get overlooked by people looking at traveling the Asia circuit. Some put Japan, Korea, and China on their list, or go the South-Eastern route and put Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia but if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten track and offers a LOT in a small package – Taiwan is top on my list.