Chao is a Vietnamese version of an Asian rice porridge that is usually served when someone is sick as it is believed to be a great source of nutrients and it is easy to digest. Chao was also the food when famine and shortage of rice struck the country most especially during the war.
Vietnamese though did not stop making this simple yet delicious dish even after the war and abundance of rice harvest in the country. Chao remained a simple common food for breakfast aside from pho, a famous Vietnamese noodle soup.
Chao has different versions depending on the city you are in. It could be from a simply porridge topped with spring onion or pickled vegetables or even fermented tofu. There is also the chao ga where chao is cooked with chicken, garlic and ginger. The chao vit which is the duck version of the porridge. Another one is the chao long wherein pig’s intestines is used.
In Hue city, being the country’s capital during the Nguyen dynasty, has a different version of chao. There is no denying how the city loves its beef and the kick of chilis, evident on their famous noodle soup – Bun Bo Hue. This is also why they have their very own chao bo or Beef Rice Porridge.
It is true that at first glance, it does not differ from the usual chao but this one is definitely from Hue with its spicy flavor topped with beef, pig intestines and blood curd. A total upgrade to the simple rice porridge served in a daily basis. The Hue cuisine really does say a lot about their culture and history.
For Westerners, chao does look like a food you only eat when you are sick but it is definitely worth a try. A great way to immerse yourself and learn more about the Vietnam’s old capital. If the blood curd scares you, you can always ask the lady serving the dish to take it out for you. Don’t worry, you are not alone as not all locals love blood curd either.