By Bui Thuy   November 25, 2023 | 10:00 am GMT+7

Discover the rich flavors of Hue’s culinary heritage with this recipe for Hue-style “hell rice,” a traditional and colorful dish originally only sold late at night to laborers.

“Hell rice,” a longstanding specialty of Hue, originated from late-night sales to overnight workers. It was sold during the late-night hours in thatched-roofed establishments illuminated by dim oil lamps. The dish was once known as “ghost rice” before being gradually renamed “hell rice.”

Modern versions of the dish in Hue have appeared, but the tradition of incorporating seven colors is consistently maintained.

This recipe serves about 4 to 5 people and takes approximately 60 minutes to prepare. It provides around 2,100 calories in total.


– 300 grams of collar pork

– 300 grams of pork belly

– 200 grams of fresh shrimp

– 100 grams of pork rolls

– 100 grams of fermented pork rolls

– 2 duck eggs

– 1-2 cucumbers

– Lettuce, coriander

– Spices: Fish sauce, salt, sugar, stock powder, pepper, nuoc mau (caramel sauce), lemongrass, garlic, chili

– Rice


1. Preparation

– Select fresh collar pork and pork belly with a natural pink color.

– Wash the meat with diluted salt water and cut the meat into thin slices.

– Marinate the meat with seasoning (minced lemongrass, fish sauce, salt, sugar, caramel sauce, pepper, stock powder, and a little cooking oil) for at least 30 minutes.

– For the shrimp: remove the black thread and wash them.

Selecting pork with a fresh pink hue and minimal fat is best for making Hell Rice. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy
A tray of pork and shrimp for making “hell rice.” Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

– Rinse the vegetables thoroughly and allow them to air dry.

2. Cooking process

a. The toppings

– Grill the marinated pork over charcoal until slightly browned, then cut it into thin slices.

– Boil the pork belly with crushed onion for about 20 minutes, then cut it into thin slices as well.

– Beat the eggs, spread them evenly on a large pan to achieve a thin omelette, and fry until golden. After the omelette has cooled, slice it into thin pieces.

– Cook the shrimp by steaming until they are fully done.

– Remove the outer shell from the steamed shrimp.

– Use a pestle or a similar tool to crush or pound the shrimp.

– Cook the pounded shrimp in a pan, stirring continuously until it turns a golden color. The final result is an ingredient known as shrimp floss.

– Cut pork rolls and fermented pork rolls into thin strips.

Hell Rice’s cooked toppings have a vibrant and colorful appearance. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy
Hell rice’s cooked toppings include slices of pork, strips of fried egg, pork rolls and shrimp floss. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

b. Pickled vegetables:

– Cut cucumber into bite-sized pieces and marinate with sugar to extract the juice. Sugar has the ability to pull moisture out of the cucumber through a process called osmosis. This results in the cucumber releasing its liquid, creating a sweet and flavorful juice. It’s a common technique used in recipes to enhance the taste and texture of the cucumber while creating a juicy and slightly sweetened effect.

– Marinate the cucumber with sugar, fried garlic, lime juice, and pepper.

– Optionally, slice cucumbers and serve them fresh.

– Cut lettuce and herbs into small pieces.

c. Sweet and sour fish sauce:

– Prepare fish sauce, sugar, vinegar/lime juice, and drinking water in a ratio of 1:1:1:4.

– Add water and sugar until dissolved, then add lime juice or vinegar, and then fish sauce.

– The mixed sauce can be served chilled, or you can heat it for a more aromatic fragrance of fish sauce.

– Season to taste with minced garlic and chili.

– You can prepare a substantial amount and store the sauce in a glass jar in the refrigerator for future use.

Enhance the sauce by incorporating chilis and garlic at the end, allowing them to float on the surface. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy
A bowl of fish sauce with minced chili and garlic is place alongside chopped lettuce and cucumber. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

d. Rice

– Rice takes center stage in this dish. The ancient Hue technique involves soaking washed rice in cold water for about 2 hours before steaming it like sticky rice, ensuring a soft and supple texture that remains moist.

– Once cooked, transfer the rice to a bowl and then onto a plate.

3. Presentation

– Arrange the accompanying ingredients, including grilled collar pork, boiled pork belly, omelet, pork rolls, fermented pork rolls, herbs, and mixed cucumber.

– Top it with shrimp floss, decorate with herb sprigs for an appealing presentation, and serve with a side bowl of sweet and sour fish sauce.

Arrange the ingredients around the rice to create a visually appealing presentation with seven eye-catching colors. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy
Arrange the ingredients around the rice to create a visually appealing presentation with seven eye-catching colors. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

Finished product

– An eye-catching plate of rice with soft white grains, grilled pork, tender boiled meat, and a rich omelet.

– The sweet and sour fish sauce enhances the flavor, creating a blend of sour, spicy, salty, and sweet tastes.

Source: vnExpress