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Feast of salt and rice in Hue

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If a meal has only rice and salt, why we call it as a salt rice party (‘tiệc cơm muối’ in Vietnamese)? It has been a traditional party in Hue for a long time and it is considered as the soul of Hue cuisine.

           In Hue, salt rice party is listed in the category of luxury menu in restaurants or hotels. Each time, costumer orders salt rice meal, preparation processing is very busy and takes a long time because it is not easy to prepare a salt rice party. Only good chefs can do it. If anyone wants to do a salt rice party at home, housewives must be good at cooking.  In the past, only wealthy or royal families could enjoy this meal, they prepared a royal party for special days or when they welcomed special guests to show their respect to guests. Moreover, that is the way to show their cooking ability so that the guests can respect and honor the hosts.  

Therefore, noble women had to learn how to make salt rice and if they were clumsy, they could hire artisans to their house for cooking. Today, artisans knowing how to cook salt rice is sparser and sparser. Besides, most of young housewives cannot prepare a party like that at home.

            Like exactly the name, the party has only rice and salt. With most of Vietnamese, a meal like that is a spimle and poor meal but in Hue cuisine, salt rice party is a luxury party with careful preparation and experienced chefs. It doen’t spend too much money for a rice and salt, maybe from $10-$20 for one but it takes a long time preparation. A party consists of good rice like fragrant Nang Huong rice and up to 20 salt dishes processed with different flavors. Salt can be roasted, soaked,dried, after that it is mixed with grease, pepper, chilli, ginger, pork, beef, shrimp, etc.

            A salt and rice meal usually use valuable dishes and bowls, kinds of salt are put in small dishes, rice is put in small bowls, too. Joining in a salt rice party, both hosts and guests are attracted by the unique of the dishes, the ancient of dishes and bowls. People enjoy the meal slowly to feel the flavor inside each salt dishes. A meal seem to be simple but it includes a deep meaning. No one can live without salt. Rice and salt, two simple ingredients begin a series of different dishes. After a salt rice party, tourists will have a new experience about another side of Imperial Capital of Hue.

Up to now, cooks in many Hue restaurants have made all their effort to search and preserve recipes to make the dishes from salt and rice with the hope of preserving a culinary feature of Hue. Therefore, visitors to Hue will have a chance to enjoy this delicacy.

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