A heavenly dish from Hue

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Bizarrely named it may be, but hell rice is a splash of colors and a mix of some delicious flavors

Cơm âm phủ (hell rice) sold at the Am Phu Restaurant on Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hue

The central town of Hue often provokes people into asking about its cuisine, which not only boasts many exotic delicacies ,but also some weird names.

And names do not come any weirder than cơm âm phủ (hell rice). The name causes curiosity, even a feeling of anxiety, among visitors who nevertheless always order for it when they see it on the menu.

It is actually a simple dish, made from ingredients like pork, shrimp, egg, and vegetables.

There are various stories about the origin of the name.

The most vivid is about the rice being served at "Hell Restaurant" in Hue more than 80 years ago. The eatery was situated in a large field and opened only at night. The simple place had just oil lamps to dispel the pitch dark, the wind blew from all sides, causing an eerie, somber atmosphere. Its clientele was mainly workers, prostitutes, and their clients.

In the past, hell rice was a simple but tasty dish combining hot rice and ingredients such as braised fish, pickled bean sprout, shrimp, and pork.

Am Phu (Hell) Restaurant is now located at 35 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street opposite the stadium in Hue, but is not the apocryphal place with bamboo tables and oil lamp. It is a restaurant with electrical bulbs and reasonable tables and chairs.

The dish has become more elaborate than in the past. It still has hot rice, but also contains many items that are cut into thin strips to give it an attractive look.

Cơm âm phủ requires delicious and fragrant rice made in a rice cooker. To make the rice soft and prevent it from becoming dry, it needs to be soaked in water for two hours before cooking.

Customer can enjoy cơm âm phủ in Ho Chi Minh City at the following address:

Truong Nguyen Restaurant
66/5 Pham Ngoc Thach Street, District 3

La Thom Restaurant
778/45 Nguyen Kiem Street, Phu Nhuan District

Next, thin omelets are made from duck eggs without the addition of any condiments, and cut into strips.

Some prawns are peeled and pounded with a mortar and pestle after their heads are removed. A pan is heated, some oil added to it, and the prawn paste is put in. The paste is stirred over medium low heat until the shrimp turns color, indicating it is dried and done.

Depending on the taste of a customer, one can add other ingredients like pork sausage, barbecued pork, boiled chicken, or lean pork paste, which are cut into thin strips.

One can also add vegetables such as cucumber and pickled carrot radish, and scallion heads, again all sliced into thin strips.

Cơm âm phủ is eaten with a dipping sauce made by mixing fish sauce with lime, chili, garlic, and sugar.

The result is an explosion of colors and flavors.

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