Hue food decorating style
Update6/8/2021 3:01:07 PM
Nguyen Tuan wrote in his "Nho Hue" (missing Hue) poem, there must be more colors on the meal. People from the land of the Huong river and Ngu mountain prefer eating with their eyes than their mouth. Food placed on beautiful little bowls like drawings.
Hue dishes should be beautifully decorated (Photo: Hue modern cuisine)
Hue dishes should be beautifully decorated (Photo: Hue modern cuisine)

The idea of "Eating with the eyes" partly proves the importance of decoration in Hue cuisine. Right from preparation step, materials like vegetable, fish and meat are beautifully cut into pieces on purpose. These days, Hue locals cook spring rolls and Vietnamese sausages then make them in the shape of phoenix and peacock, which reminds people of popular royal dishes in the past. Gac fruit sticky rice served on wedding occasions come in heart shape. Multi-color congee, multi-color cake, ramie leaf glutinous rice cake and purple yam are carefully colored. Some visitors even find it hard to believe that the fruit-shaped mung bean cake placed on real trees is just a dish.

Having been cooked, food should be beautifully arranged. There are certain decorating rules when it comes to specific dishes. Boiled pork should be thinly sliced, placed at the middle of the dish and surrounded by pickled mung bean sprouts. Fishes should be neatly arranged in a line on the plate. Stewed or braised pork should be cut into bite-size square pieces. Fried stuffed squid should be thinly sliced and rearranged as a squid. Barbecued chicken or duck should be cut into pieces, then shaped like a chicken/duck. Barbecued pork should be placed at the middle of a dish and surrounded by steamed rice paper. A slice of pork then shrimp sauce are placed on top of bite-size pieces of Hue steamed rice paper.

A full dish of sticky rice (Photo: internet)

Hue's food decorating style is clearly shown in fresh vegetable. Various kinds of vegetable are cut into bite-size pieces and placed at the middle of the plate. Then slices of fig, young banana, star fruit, etc are put around. Tomato, carrot, onion and cucumber in side dishes served on important occasion such as banquet, death anniversary, etc are carefully made into the shapes of swan, rose, lotus, orchid, etc.

Salad, a common Hue appetizer is another dish that is full of colors. Commonly, a small bowl of sweet and sour fish sauce is surrounded by colorful ingredients namely, sliced pineapple, carrot, wood ear, herbs, banana flower, shrimp, noodle, Vietnamese sausage and meat.

In addition to banana and coconut leaves, multi-color paper can be used to wrap dumplings. They are required to have specific shapes. Fine ginger jam should not be curved but flattened. Hue food must match their names, for example "banh bong huong" (rose cake) should look like a real rose while banh sam (ginseng cake) is shaped as a ginseng. Similarly, "banh trai cay" (fruit-shaped mung bean cake) and real fruits share many things in common, for instance shape and color.

Wine should be poured into a wine gourd or bottle. Teased should come with teapot, lids, cups, saucers, etc

The importance of aesthetic aspect in Hue cuisine sometimes bring diners a chance to enjoy food and an artwork at the same time.
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