Ho Thi Hoang Anh has learnt from the best.
The granddaughter of a royal chef serving the last family of the Nguyen Dynasty was taught at a very young age how to prepare the best meal in the traditional Hue style.
Now watching many royal dishes losing popularity, even in their own homeland, Anh has decided to team up with her husband Tran Dinh Son to recreate an elegant 19th century menu that they believe would have satisfied any king or queen.
Son himself is a grandson of a high-ranking mandarin during the dynasty. Together they have revived a number of signature dishes, using memories as well as descriptions found in old royal documents.
Phan Thanh Hai, director of Hue Monuments Conservation Center, said their special menu is being served to a small group of diners at the Duyet Thi Duong Theater inside the Hue Citadel.
The six-course royal’s meal starts with a shrimp cake seasoned with fish sauce, onion and pepper. It is skewered, steamed and then grilled. The appetizer is served with pickles.
The second dish is a soup of sea cucumbers with shrimp balls and vegetables. The broth is made by stewing marine specialties including peanut worms and noble scallops for 24 hours to achieve its desirable taste with completely no seasoning.
The third dish is a pair of cakes. The purple yam cake is made from a specialty rice flour of the town’s Huong Can Village. The other is made from Hue’s millets, considered the best in Vietnam. The yam cake is filled with shrimp, pork, bamboo sprouts and the latter with mung beans, tofu and wild shiitake mushroom.
The fourth dish is chicken salad with chicken, glass noodles cooked from mung beans, pork paste, egg, and pork, all shredded. It is topped with sesame seeds, peanuts and rice crackers and served with thick chicken broth.
The fifth dish is boneless duck stuffed with chicken innards, eggs and mushrooms. The duck is wrapped in pandan leaves and steamed together with sticky rice.
The dessert is a sweet sticky rice cake made with water melon and melon seeds, wrapped in colorful papers. It is served with tea. In the photo, artisan chef Ho Thi Hoang Anh and the sweet cakes.