Hue and Fry: Dining in Vietnam's Former Capital

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Although Hue is famed for its courtly cuisine, visitors to Vietnam's old imperial capital are just as likely to be won over by the city's humbler fare. Here are three great places to try a style of everyday cooking esteemed as the country's most delicious.

BOI TRAN Local oil painter Boi Tran runs a fabulous home restaurant, tel: (84-54) 388 4453, whipping up the likes of grilled beef in wild betel leaves, rice balls with lagoon shrimps, com hen (clams and clam stock ladled over fluffy white rice and mixed with basil, coriander and crispy fried pork loin) and fig salad, using fruit from the artist's hillside garden.

HUYEN ANH Not far from the iconic Thien Mu Pagoda, this popular all-day joint, tel: (84-54) 352 5655, specializes in slices of flame-grilled pork chop, either loosely rolled in steamed rice pastry with cucumber, coriander, basil and ground peanuts, or served with leafy greens over vermicelli. Both versions are accompanied by sweetened fish sauce and whole garlic cloves.

MU DOI Nicknamed Madame Wait by hungry patrons kept hanging for their fresh banh canh noodle soup during peak periods, this family-run chain is a local favorite. In the soot-blackened kitchen of the branch nearest to Hue's famed citadel (71 Nguyen Trai Street, no phone), a lady in black pajamas ladles clear bubbling broth from huge tureens over long, fat, slippery rice noodles. These are then served with boiled shrimp and slices of pork. Greens, chili and quail eggs are added to taste at the table.