A heavenly dish from Hue


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From Wire Reports


 


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.


 


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 such as 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.


 


 


Báo Người Việt hoan nghênh quý vị độc giả đóng góp và trao đổi ý kiến. Chúng tôi xin quý vị theo một số quy tắc sau đây:

Tôn trọng sự thật.
Tôn trọng các quan điểm bất đồng.
Dùng ngôn ngữ lễ độ, tương kính.
Không cổ võ độc tài phản dân chủ.
Không cổ động bạo lực và óc kỳ thị.
Không vi phạm đời tư, không mạ lỵ cá nhân cũng như tập thể.

Tòa soạn sẽ từ chối đăng tải các ý kiến không theo những quy tắc trên.

Xin quý vị dùng chữ Việt có đánh dấu đầy đủ. Những thư viết không dấu có thể bị từ chối vì dễ gây hiểu lầm cho người đọc. Tòa soạn có thể hiệu đính lời văn nhưng không thay đổi ý kiến của độc giả, và sẽ không đăng các bức thư chỉ lập lại ý kiến đã nhiều người viết. Việc đăng tải các bức thư không có nghĩa báo Người Việt đồng ý với tác giả.

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