Awesome to see Hue Gourmet getting some love! Was late getting here after hearing about it but it's become a favorite! Craving Bánh Canh Cau!
By New Times
By Robrt L. Pela
By Lauren Saria and Heather Hoch
By Deborah Sussman
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Kathleen Vanesian
By Eric Schaefer
By Heather Hoch
"Sometimes I think the pig blood scares my American customers," Ha says, "and I leave it out."
As good as the bun bo Hue is the crab soup, banh canh cua. Packed with lumps of crab meat, pudgy pink shrimp, hard-boiled quail eggs, and slightly chewy Vietnamese noodles in an opaque, rust-colored broth with hints of pork and handfuls of garlic and onion, it is deeply flavorful and by far one of the most hardy and comforting dishes on the menu.
If you're going to take the time to indulge in the cuisine of the ancient citadel of Vietnam, the least you can do is try its specialty, com hen song huong (or com hen for short). It doesn't sound very appetizing — baby clam meat over rice with vegetables and clam juice — but this popular street food of Hue actually is a unique and intricate dish that gets better with every bite. Sometimes requiring up to 15 different raw materials to prepare it, Ha's version includes ingredients like rice, peanuts, taro stems, pork belly, minced banana flowers, jagged pieces of Vietnamese sesame rice crackers, and slices of green apple that she uses in place of starfruit.
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You are responsible for pouring the clam broth, served in a separate bowl, over this textural potpourri of ingredients; it will be just enough to moisten them. The result is a complex medley of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and peppery-hot flavors — and a taste as addictively peculiar as it is intense.
As if Hue Gourmet's one-of-a-kind food served up in a cafeteria isn't remarkable enough, the story of its owner, Lan Ha, is equally extraordinary.
In 1986, Ha's mother paid three ounces of gold to secure a spot for her 19-year-old daughter on a boat with others fleeing the Communist government in the era of Vietnamese "boat people."
"I wanted an education and a future," Ha says of her refugee flight. "I was alone, there was little to eat, and I was afraid of pirates."
Making her way to the United States, specifically to Tempe, in 1989, Ha fulfilled her dream of attending college, and she secured a job as an engineer. Unable to find the food of her hometown in the Valley, Ha began making the dishes she remembered from scratch, eventually selling some of them through the Internet. In 2010, she quit her corporate gig and opened Hue Gourmet.
"I never knew I was going to be a cook," she confesses, "but I knew I loved cooking."
Chances are you'll love her cooking, too.