Tapioca dumplings are my antidote for a long, boring rainy day in Hue.
The former imperial city is home to hundreds of delicious dishes, but its version of tapioca dumplings, banh bot loc, has a unique appeal.
Steamingly hot dumplings taste best when dipped in spicy, lightly sweetened fish sauce.
There are two kinds of Hue dumplings: those wrapped in banana leaves and those left uncovered.
I just love my dumplings uncovered because they are see-through and I can see what's inside. Red, crunchy shrimps are my favorite but pork and mushroom fillings are also excellent.
To make tapioca dumplings with shrimps inside, you need to prepare the dough.
For this, place tapioca starch in a large bowl and add boiling water. Knead the dough into small dumplings.
The next thing to do is to make the fillings. The shrimp used to make this dish is pretty small, same size as the pinky finger. Remove the shrimps’ heads, legs and tails, but leave their peel intact.
The shrimps are then simmered in a pan with some oil, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and sugar, until they are dry and crunchy.
Place the shrimps into the tapioca dumplings, then you can boil or steam the dumplings.
Hue people prefer steaming, because they believe steamed dumplings are more delicious -- they are much less moist and much more chewy than the boiled ones.
The dumplings are well done when they turn so transparent that you can see the red shrimp inside.
Hot dumplings are served in a dish with deep-fried shallots on top. And of course the fish sauce dipping sauce with red chili.
One of the most famous places for shrimp tapioca dumplings in Hue is a small restaurant run by a local woman named Cai. It is nicely tucked in a small alley, No. 475, at the end of Chi Lang Street.
Although the 30-year-old restaurant has no sign outside, Hue food lovers know exactly where it is.
The dumplings here are perfectly made, as if they just came out of a palace kitchen.