Banh Nam or Steamed shrimp rice cakes - a Hue Specialty

Banh Nam or Steamed shrimp rice cakes, Hue specialty, Vietnam

by Lac Thanh

Banh nam or steamed shrimp rice cakes

Banh Nam, or steamed shrimp and pork rice cakes, is one of Hue's specialty dishes. Hue is the royal city of the Nguyễn Dynasty of emperors. The Imperial City not only holds a long history, but also boasts lots of exquisite royal food developed through the generations. Some say that the reason why the emperors chose Hue as their home was because of it had some of the best vegetables and meat in the whole country! Hue is a city where I'm so impressed by how beautiful and delicious the food is. They may have Hue food throughout the country, but people say that there is no where else like Hue for royal cuisine.

It's almost my last day in Hue before I move further south. We stepped out of the Imperial City in order to find more Hue food. I have a list of Hue dishes in my hand, and I have been looking for Banh Nam ever since I arrived in Hue. Banh Nam is wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. It may not look as complicate or elegant like other Hue dishes, but it's simply delicious.

Banh Nam or streamed shrimp rice cake, Hue, Vietnam
Banh Nam steamed inside banana leaves

The restaurant where I ordered this Banh Nam is called "Lac Thanh". There are three restaurants along the road that are all quite similar, and it seems like maybe they are in competition with each other. But the owner of this particular shop greeting us so warmly and friendly, so we chose to sit down and eat there. Mr. Lac is incredibly nice and such a character! He is always smiling, and he taught us how to eat step by step through funny exaggerated charades without speaking a word in English to us! He cooked all of the food fresh in front of us. You can watch him cook his amazing dishes. When we ordered our Banh Nam, he steamed it fresh before serving us.

It's not hard to eat Banh Nam. He showed us how to unwrap the banana leaf and sprinkle some fish sauce - with or without red chili - then just scoop some of the rice cake into your mouth! Banh Nam is made out of rice flour and topped with shrimp and ground pork, and garnished with a sprinkle of shallot. I did as he said and took a big scoop. It's so so so delicious! I have a vivid memory of how the Banh Nam just melted in my mouth. The flavors of fish sauce and shrimp, plus a little salty taste all mixed together into a delightfully savory dish. I just keep unwrap more and more until our plate was just a pile of empty banana leaves.

Hue food at Lac Thanh, Vietnam
Friendly smiling owner is cooking for us!

I like this place and I love his cooking. Mr. lac also runs a small tour company, and offered to take us around to the top sites in Hue by motorbike. Too bad it was our last day though, and we were running out of time. This was such a great choice for our last meal in Hue.

For the good memories...

The front of Lac Thanh shop

Price: 30,000d for one big plate