Life Life

02/03/2018 - 08:03

Hue-styled bread

There is so much good food in Hue that diners almost forget about bread, one of the favorite convenient and delicious takeaways. Hue bread can be identified on the map of Vietnamese bread as small, hot with chili and with less salty broth.

Bread is heated over a charcoal fire

Small, hot and spicy 

Looking around for information and photos of Hue bread, I caught a very exciting image of a foreigner gobbling up a loaf of bread while sipping water from a bottle in hand now and then. Obviously the bread tasted too hot for him but he did not forget to give the little girl seller a thumbs-up sign. He was David Taylor from Australia.

David Taylor said he had tried many kinds of bread in Vietnam and other countries around the world, but Hue bread had its own typical flavor. Spicy broth, hot taste with chili, sweet and sour taste of thinly-sliced ​​cucumber and carrot and coriander, etc. made him eat nonstop. It was also the first time he had eaten so much bread all in one go.

What makes Hue bread distinct from that in other places and why do visitors and Hue natives living elsewhere miss it so much? We have implemented a survey and this is the result. Hue bread loaves are small enough, not too big like those in Ho Chi Minh City or too thick like those in Hanoi. Dough is specially made with a proper combination of egg, baking powder and flour so that the inside is not too thick; the crust is yellow and crisp with the aroma of egg and butter.

Various fillings

Among popular fillings such as cha que, pate, omelet, sausage, pork, etc. there is one indispensable ingredient; it is stir-fried chili. Fresh chili which can be bought at the market is crushed then stir-fried with garlic, sugar and fish sauce.

Before stuffing the bread, chili paste is put in first throughout the loaf so that the diner can feel the hot taste right away, which stimulates the sense of taste. For Hue people, chili is top priority. That way, bread is still good even when it is not warm.

Even though you do not like it hot, you are still encouraged to try Hue bread with chili. You will not be disappointed when experiencing mixed tastes: hot, crisp, good-smelling and fatty.

Only in Hue is broth, made from minced pork and soya sauce, added to the bread. This broth is special in that it is spicy but not too sweet like that in the South and not to salty.

A made-in-Hue kind of bread considered "divine" is bread with banh bot loc inside (either with shrimp or mung bean). This bread type needs nothing else except some broth or sweetened fish sauce. My peers keep mentioning this bread and say that only in Hue is there this so peculiar "sandwich." Those who love Vietnamese bread find it insufficient if they have not tried this "Vietnamese sandwich."

Not just street food

Although a loaf of Hue bread is smaller and different from those in other places, bread makers in Hue still catch up with the trend. Besides traditional bread, they also make long bread, round bread to meet various needs of customers. Recent brands, often owned by members of 1800s-1900s generations, have quite interesting improvements in terms of shape, size and location, including luxurious shops where youngsters eat bread, drink milk tea, coffee and "check in."

About these changes, Mr. Nguyen Xuan Hoa, a researcher on Hue, said Hue has caught up with the trend of the whole country as well as the world. According to him, when introduced in Hue, bread was originally mainly used for breakfast, but over time, it has been processed into many different types and become familiar with Hue people as well as the Vietnamese.

Bread of various types, accompanied by beef omelet and milk tea for lunch

Though bread is considered exotic to Vietnamese cuisine, it is the convenience, deliciousness and cheap prize that make it popular and gradually Vietnamese.

Bread is considered as Vietnamese finger food, pleasing everyone from laborers to rich people. Regretfully Hue bread has not been added yet to the Vietnamese bread map. Many visitors to Hue hence miss the chance to enjoy it.

According to Nguyen Xuan Hoa, Hue bread can be added to the map of Vietnamese bread provided that we choose a typical brand so that diners always remember the Hue-styled bread.

In March 2011, the new vocabulary bun mee, meaning Vietnamese bread, was added to the Oxford dictionary. In late 2017, Fodor's Travel listed the 10 favorite typical dishes of the world and Vietnamese bread was in the first place.

Story and photos: Linh Dan