Com Hen Hue (Hue Mussel Rice) – The Quintessence Of Hue Cuisine

Along with Bun bo Hue (Hue beef noodle soup), “Com hen” is a dish that the people of the ancient capital city are proud to introduce to friends everywhere. Let’s read the article below to understand more about the origin of com hen Hue as well as interesting things surrounding this dish.

Introducing com hen Hue (Hue mussel rice)

Com hen Hue, also known as ” Hue mussel rice” in English, is a well -known dish in Hue, Vietnam. It is a perfect combination of simple ingredients, including “ com nguoi” – the cooked rice opens the lid to cool, vegetables (such as coriander, bean sprouts, banana flower, star fruit,…) fried mussels, crispy pork skin, peanuts, and shrimp paste.

Kiwi-Chef, an Australian chef, shared on his blog about his experience of tasting “com hen Hue”. He affirmed that this dish is a must-try when traveling to Hue.

The best Hue mussel rice can only be found in Hue, where it originated from, especially in Con Hen. Con Hen is located in Huong Luu commune, Vi Da ward, Hue city, located in the downstream of the romantic Huong River. For the people of Hue, the Huong River and Tam Giang Lagoon are two treasures that nature has bestowed upon them with a rich variety of seafood.

Com hen Hue
Com hen Hue (Hue mussel rice) – Photo:

The origin of com hen Hue (Hue mussel rice)

Com hen Hue is a distinctive dish in the cuisine of the ancient capital city, which no one can ignore whenever they visit here. Do you know the origin of this specialty?

Com hen is one of the popular dishes in Hue. However, few people know that this dish used to be served to the king and became a royal dish.

According to legend, over 200 years ago, a family named Huynh was so poor that they had to catch fish, shrimp, and mussel every day. One day, as they couldn’t catch any fish or shrimp, the couple had to eat “com nguoi” with mussels for dinner. The taste of this dish was so special that it became popular throughout Hue, especially the poor here.

Some time later, mussels were sold in the market areas of Hue capital and became a popular folk dish of all classes. During the reign of King Thai Thanh, people raked mussels to present to the king at Con Hen. The king tasted the dish and found it to be extremely unique and delicious, so he conferred it with a special name and established the Hến Ward. Since then, com hen Hue became a royal dish and served on special occasions.

Until now, “com hen” has become a national dish not only in Hue but also in many provinces throughout the country. Its recipe and flavor are unique to Hue, making it a specialty that tourists must try when visiting the city.

The secret to making com hen Hue (Hue mussel rice)

When it comes to rice dishes, we often prefer to eat them hot, but for com hen, the rice must be cold.

The best mussels are in Con Hen. The purchased mussels are soaked in water so that the mussels release all the soil and sand, then boiled. After that, the mussels are sieved to separate the meat, marinated with spices and stir-fried, the mussel broth must let the residue settle down to remove the sand again.

The mussel broth has a unique sweet and savory flavor that is hard to describe. Unlike bone broth, it has a gentle and naturally rich taste that cannot be missed when eating com hen.

When it comes to “com hen” shrimp paste is an indispensable ingredient, which is mashed with boiling water. The vegetables served with “com hen” include herbs, bean sprouts, celery, and thinly sliced sour starfruit…. “Com hen Hue ” bowls are also added with some crispy ingredients to enhance the taste such as peanuts, crispy pork skin. All these ingredients combined create a dish that you must try when visiting Hue.

com hen Hue
Ingredients of Com hen Hue – Photo:

There are two ways to enjoy “com hen Hue” which are dry and wet versions. The wet version involves pouring mussel broth into the “com hen” to eat, while the dry version involves eating the “com hen” first and then drinking the broth separately. It can be said that Hue people know how to flexibly change the way they eat in the same dish to help diversify, new tastes but eat it all the time without getting bored.

Over time, people have made variations of “com hen” that are even more unique, such as replacing the cold rice with fresh vermicelli or noodles. Each variation brings an irresistible taste.

Bun hen and Mi hen
Bun hen and Mi hen Hue

Interesting things about com hen Hue (Hue mussel rice)

The flavor of “cơm hến” is compared to the combination of the five elements (Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Saturn) in which we can taste the harmony of all these flavors in one dish. We can experience:

The spicy flavor of chili is compared to the Mars, which is a typical feature of the cuisine in the Central region.

Crispy pork fat is likened to the Venus because of its tough appearance but crispy texture inside, which enhances the taste for the diners.

Rice is compared to the Saturn as it is made from farmers who work hard to create high-quality rice grains.

Vegetables are compared to the Jupiter, which is an indispensable part of com hen Hue.

Mussel soup is compared to the Mercury.

Nowadays, it can be said that com hen Hue is a harmonious combination of the taste of a humble dish with the luxurious presentation of royal cuisine. In a addition, this dish is also harmonious in terms of yin and yang.

The coolness of the mussel and the spicy flavor of chili, garlic, ginger… are also harmoniously blended in terms of color and taste in the dish. The pungency of ginger, spiciness of chili, freshness of herbs, and sweetness of mussel all complement each other.

Experiencing the ups and downs and changes of history, it seems that mussel rice still plays an important position in the culinary treasure of Hue.

Com hen Hue dish contributes to making the culinary culture of this ancient capital even more unique. If you have the opportunity to visit Hue, don’t forget to stop by and enjoy this dish.

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