Hue, home of the last Vietnamese emperors

Storytelling Vietnam

” It’s here ! You’re French ? ”

She recognized from afar our lost gaze in the alleys and soon invites us to enter. We know the address is recommended by many French guidebooks, and the few graffiti that we see quickly left by the backpackers don’t even waste the strange charm of the place.Very quickly, she installs us at a table near a fan that buzzes in the heat.

Along the Perfume River where fish stalls wait in the shade of the fruit trees, where the air is lighter, we decided to stop here, in a quiet alley away from the noise of the city of Hue.

“Are you here for the Imperial City? ”

Directed by a charming family of deaf mutes, only the owner of the restaurant approaches the tourists in a perfect French. She begins to cook our order in front of our eyes, while she enjoys telling us about her city. Many tourists spend time in the freshness of her restaurant, on the way to visit the Imperial Citadel …

Located in the center of Vietnam, Hue is the ancient capital of the emperors and gives a real plunge in the history of the country: strong of its royal trace, it’s classified in the world inheritance of UNESCO. Its monuments have housed the greatest dynasties that have continued to inspire poems and romantic tales. The place is culturally very important in Vietnam because it contains the most beautiful historical treasures of the country, mausoleums, pagodas and the most sumptuous royal tombs …

The Imperial Citadel also owes its charm to its proximity to the Song Huong River, the Perfume River, picturesque when the weather is nice, the main access to the enclosure is shrouded in mystery on the faintest days. It’s from the south, through the outer ramparts of the citadel, that one reaches this disparate ensemble of meticulously restored palaces and pagodas, ruins and rubble. The entrance by the impressive door Ngo Mon, increases the feeling of exaltation when the visit begins …

The dishes arrive quickly and salty, sweet, and sour parade before our eyes.

Crispy beef noodles, banh khoai garnished with shrimp, pork, eggs and soy sprouts, sign the cuisine of Central Vietnam, which seems the marriage of many flavors. We can guess the imperial cooking educated to transform the humble products of the earth in dishes of choice for a gourmet emperor, quality of a certain inheritance of the court of Hue. At the next table, pork stewed in a clay pot is served with a bitter toffee sauce, while beef vermicelli soup, orange-colored because of pepper and annatto, still  the Center’s predilection for spicy dishes.

Once inside, the Thai Hoc Palace and its incredible ironwood columns face a small courtyard, framed by two Mandarin halls, which served as offices and ceremonial dressing rooms. Nearby, you can walk along the paths of the charming Co Ha garden, dotted with hundreds of bonsai and potted plants. It is a true open-air museum, steeped in stories and medieval reveries. A few basins filled with goldfish and water hyacinth punctuate the treasures of the old feudal power, between vast turfed fields, and an architecture rich in gilding and colors. In the middle of the vast green spaces which bring a little freshness, they are majestic doors, poems in ideograms engraved on the walls, and long corridors with the lacquered columns of yellow and carmine.

During the conversation, she ended up asking for my name recognizing my Vietnamese origins.

At the back of the restaurant, a photo of her husband before the war overlooks the room. At the end of the meal, it is him who brings us a glass surmounted by a curious aluminum filter: the tradition of Vietnamese coffee does not suffer the haste. Very slowly, the filter lets drop coffee, which dissolves the layer of concentrated milk at the bottom of the container. The minutes pass and a thicker liquid, dense in caffeine, is formed above the milk. As he pours it into a separate glass of ice cubes, he invites us to enjoy the real ritual. His wife, meanwhile, seeing we’re in a rush, advises us to savor the visit of the Imperial City:

“Take your time, take your time! “

To not waste your pleasure, and travel quietly in the heart of the ancient Vietnam of the emperors, you will really need to follow her advice.