Culture Culture

30/05/2022 - 06:54

Another story of beef noodle soup & Hue culture

In recent days, Hue beef noodle soup has been mentioned again. The first is the strange but happy news when in April, a special dish of the Ancient Capital has been introduced on the menu of the schools in Saijo City (Japan).

Photo: Hoai Man

According to NHK News, on April 26, Saijo City Mayor, Mr. Toshihisa Tamai visited the 4th-grade students of Saijo Primary School. Here, Mr. Toshihisa talked about Hue. After learning that Hue is an ancient city like Kyoto of Japan, and being introduced to local specialties, the students had the chance to enjoy Hue beef noodle soup for lunch.

Not long after that, beef noodle soup, Chuon village pancake, rice with salts, lotus seed sweet soup, a variety of cakes and jams, etc., appeared at the Hue specialty food stalls during the "Hue - the Capital of Gastronomy" Festival 2022 on the holiday of April 30 and May 1.

Being present on the opening night, I witnessed the excitement of many visitors when having first-hand experience watching Hue people preparing "genuine" Hue dishes.

I remembered the late famous American chef Anthony Bourdain. It took him more than a decade to travel around the world, but finally, Tony came to Hue and enjoyed Hue beef noodle soup at Dong Ba market.

“The rice noodles are carefully poured over with broth from the stewed bones, blended with the aroma of lemongrass, spices, and shrimps paste…, served with stewed beef, crab balls, pork leg, and blood cubes, accompanied by a bowl of fish sauce, lemon, cilantro, scallions, chili sauce, shredded banana flower, bean sprouts… It's really the best of the best,” the "Chef King" shared.

It is said that the ancestor of the noodle-making profession in Hue is Ms. Bun. When people from the North came to the South to settle down, a group of people settled in Co Thap village. While everyone was engrossed in farming, Ms. Bun thought of making noodles.

Unfortunately, for a while, people in the area had consecutive crop failures. Some people suspected that it was due to a divine rebuke because Ms. Bun took rice which is "Heaven's pearl" to soak and crush to make noodles. The village gave her two options, either quit the noodle business or be expelled.

Ms. Bun accepted to leave. Five young people volunteered to escort the stone mortar to make noodles. They walked along the Bo River until the fifth villager fell to his knees with a stone mortar on his shoulder in Van Cu village. Here, Ms. Bun established a career and passed on the profession to make Hue noodles until now.

At first, Hue people cooked noodles with pork legs, so at Gia Lac market, which was only open for three days during Tet in Hue in the old time, Dinh Vien Cong (1797 - 1863), launched a cooking competition with two criteria "ten perfections, five achievements”. When the French came, the Western beef soup greatly influenced and modified the pork leg noodle dish into today's beef-pork leg noodle soup.

I’m recalling the story of Ms. Bun to reiterate that it was not easy to "steal the heart" of Anthony Bourdain. Inherent in a bowl of Hue beef noodle soup is hundreds of years of ancient capital culture. The two events of Hue noodle soup at the same time appearing on the menu of Japanese students and the festival "Hue - the Capital of Gastronomy" remind us of preserving, exploiting, and spreading the culinary and cultural values of Hue.

In Japan, the bowl of beef noodle soup is the ambassador of Vietnamese culinary culture in general and Hue in particular. In the Culinary festival, it plays the role of attracting tourists to Hue. In the hot bowl of beef noodle soup, people see that Hue is not only dreamy but also very close to everyday life.

By Dan Duy