Ask any Anthony Bourdain fan, and we all know: Tony’s favorite destination was Vietnam. There was something magical about this place for him, something which brought him back time and again, and made it one of his most-visited destinations during his long career.
Over the course of those many visits, Bourdain explored different parts of the country: cities in southern Vietnam like Ho Chi Minh City, those in northern Vietnam like Hanoi, and some in Central Vietnam, like Huế. It’s this last city we’ll focus on here, highlighting the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Huế.
Anthony Bourdain visited Huế once during his many visits to Vietnam and career; it was for episode 4, season 4 of Parts Unknown. This was his only visit to Huế, though he packs a lot in – both in culture, history, and locations visited, and in dishes tried – both beloved and new.
Welcome to my place of dreams, my spirit house, a city of ghosts.Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown
If you’re planning a trip to Huế and want to seek out some of the same dishes and dining spots that Tony visited in Huế, read on. Below you’ll find a breakdown of each place Anthony Bourdain visited in Huế plus what he ate, so you can seek out the same on your own journey to explore his favorite place.
Dong Ba Market
Photo credit (R): Anthony Bourdain via Twitter
First up, if you’re looking for great food in Huế, Dong Ba Market is a must-visit. This is a spot to stock up on, well, anything you might need during your visit – including both raw ingredients and prepared dishes, which is what you should definitely seek out if you visit.
In particular, find a spot offering Bún bò Huế, which Bourdain calls “the greatest soup in the world.” This bowl goes way beyond Vietnamese soups you might have tried before, and includes rice noodles with slow-cooked beef shank, crab meat dumplings, pig’s feet, and blood cake with lime, cilantro, green onions, chile sauce, shredded banana blossoms, and mung bean sprouts; it’s served with a special broth of mixed bones scented with lemongrass, spice, and fermented shrimp paste.
Nhà Hàng Duyên Anh
If you’re looking for a more formal sit-down, head to Nhà Hàng Duyên Anh. Here, Tony meets up with his first Vietnam fixer, Lihn, and they enjoy their meal with a large portion of memories and nostalgia.
Nhà Hàng Duyên Anh is known for its fresh seafood, which is what you should try if you visit. If you want to follow Bourdain’s lead – and they have them fresh to order – , opt for the eel with lemongrass, green chili, and pepper, grilled with special house sauce and South China Sea lobster.
Quan Banh O Lé
The final named and known restaurant visited by Anthony Bourdain in Huế is Quan Banh O Lé, which is actually a bit outside the central part of the city. In any case, it’s a great spot for eating “an choi” (I might be off on the spelling, please correct me in the comments.)
An Choi is snacking – a light, fun meal – and Bourdain is joined by a local food blogger for several delicious smaller dishes. They try Bánh bèo, pancake-like discs made of rice flour topped with crispy fried shallots and cassava paste and crumbled fried shrimp; Banh bot loc, cassava or tapioca with pork and more shrimp from the lagoon, steamed like a tamale in banana leaf; and Banh it ram, fried and glutinous sticky rice dumplings stuffed with shrimp.
Unknown Street Stall
Bourdain’s Huế episode opens with a visit to an unnamed street food stall. I did a bunch of research trying to figure out which one and where; my research suggests it may be Cơm hến Roa, but if you know better, please let me know.
In any case, Cơm hến is what Bourdain enjoys: also called Clam Rice, this soup includes little local clams, mung beans, white rice or rice noodles, spicy green chilis, crunchy roasted peanuts, fried pork rind, and cilantro, with hot clam broth.
Unknown Country Restaurant
Last but not least, the episode ends at another unnamed restaurant outside of Huế near the rice patties. Here he is joined with several locals for a final meal and well wishes for his future travels.
The main dish they enjoy is Gà nướng đất sét. This dish takes a chicken, stuffs it with lemongrass, wraps it in banana leaves, covers it in clay, and bakes it over coals or straw. It is seasoned with lime, salt, and chili sauce dependin gon your taste. They enjoy it paired with squash, bitter melon, and morning glory greens.
Local Dining Experience in Huế
As usual, Bourdain travels beyond the bounds most of us can visit to have a local dining experience during his time in Huế. In particular, he is hosted at the home of artist Boi Tran. There, she and her staff prepare a meal of traditional dishes for him and other guests.
They start with Bird’s nest soup, which is a swallow’s nest cooked in chicken stock and served with crab meat, steamed Lotus seeds, and crab roe with red onion, pepper, and seasoning. Next, they have Gởi Huế, a soup made with stock from Cao Bằng, as well as pineapples, onions, chilies, shallots, and coriander. It’s served over a salad of prawns, rice noodles, banana flowers, ginger, red chili, garlic, and galangal at the table. Finally, they indulge in lobster with five spices: the crustacean is boiled with red onion, ginger, lemongrass, and chilies, and presented on its own in a bowl of lime leaves, with the stock then poured over it.
Huế Food Tours to Try
One of the best ways to sample all the incredible flavors you can find in Huế is by taking a food tour – it’ll certainly give you the chance to seek out some of the dishes Tony ate, even if not at the same place he ate them. Best of all, it supports local tour companies and guides in Huế, and the tourism industry as a whole.
Here are a few food tours that caught my eye when searching for ones that seem like Tony’s style.
Have any other questions about the places visited and dishes tried by Anthony Bourdain in Huế? Let me know in the comments below!