Everyone knows Hanoi has a lively street food culture but it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start and what to taste as you hit the back streets and alleyways armed with just a map and an empty stomach.
Hanoi - Vietnam's Culinary Capital
Street food is everywhere in the steamy capital’s cramped, chaotic web of alleys and traffic-jammed thoroughfares that all play host to around the clock feasts with an array of cheap and delicious tastes and flavours.
Joining the locals at communal tables, pulling up a plastic stool whilst listening to the background chatter with grills sizzling and aromas tantalising your taste buds will be some of your most memorable moments.
Here is a list of some of our favourites and where you can find them on the streets of Hanoi.
Ca phe trung (Vietnamese egg coffee)
It sounds really weird but this one of the best ‘wow’ experiences – a decadent caffeine hit which can be ordered both hot or cold. Giang Café is where it all began and no one does it better – a pillow of creamy egg white foam layered on top of a well of strong black Vietnamese coffee, it is kind of like Vietnam’s answer to the cappuccino or tiramisu. The custardy top is made with a mixture of condensed milk that instantly elevates this from a simple morning coffee to an unforgettable pint-sized dessert.
Our Favourite: Giang Cafe
Address: 39 Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Venture Far Insight: Nguyen Van Giang opened his café in 1946 and invented the first egg coffee as there was a shortage of fresh milk at that time so he decided to whisk in egg as a substitute.
Pho (Beef noodle soup)
The fragrant breakfast food of Vietnam is the country’s signature dish and there are hundreds of stalls dedicated each day to making large pots filled with simmering stock. Order your beef to taste, or add it raw to cook gently in the sweet broth flavoured with cassia and star anise, then add to taste sprouts, fresh herbs, a dash of lime and chilli.
Our Favourite: Pho Bat Dan
Address: 49 Bat Dan Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Venture Far Insight: It is self-service here, so come with an eating buddy so one of you can order and wait for the food while the other guards some seats.
Xoi (Sticky rice)
It doesn’t have the attention grabbing qualities of pho, but a plate of steamed sticky rice is a firm favourite with locals. Here the mouthwatering classic is mixed with fried shallots, mung bean paste, pork fat and a choice of meaty goodness. It comes with different toppings like beans, chicken, peanuts and coconut. If it sounds too much of a carb-fix for breakfast, it’s also popular as a snack.
Our Favourite: Xoi Yen
Address: 35b Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Venture Far Insight: Open from 5am to 1am makes this place one of the best options in the Old Quarter for an early breakfast or late night meal.
Banh cuon (Pork pancakes)
These thin, steamed and rolled rice flour pancakes are filled with minced pork and mushroom, topped with crispy shallots are loved for breakfast in Hanoi. Like many dishes they are served with nuoc cham, a fish-sauce based dip except this one is mixed with the essence of the Ca cuong giant water bug giving it a shrimp-like kick. Watch with fascination as a woman at the front makes the paper thin pancakes to order ready to melt in your mouth. There is a shrimp option as well, but it is the pork which keeps people coming back for more.
Our Favourite: Banh Cuon Gia Truyen
Address: 14 Pho Hang Ga, Old Quarter, Hanoi
Venture Far Insight: Make sure to include cha mo in your order, a pork sausage accompaniment to banh cuon which is a highlight of the dish.
Bun cha (Grilled pork and noodles)
This is the meal that President Barack Obama shared with Anthony Bourdain at a little plastic table over a couple of beers in Hanoi for an episode of Parts Unknown and is one of the best taste sensations you’ll have in Vietnam. The city’s second most loved dish and lunch specialty is a bowl of rice vermicelli noodles alongside pork patties and sizzling pork belly that have been grilled over hot coals served in a sauce type soup adding fragrant herbs, fresh vegetables, fried spring rolls, garlic and chilli creating an irresistible tasting soup.
Our Favourite: Bun Cha 34
Address: 34 Hang Than Ba Dinh, Hanoi
Venture Far Insight: Bun Cha 34 isn’t where Obama and Bourdain ate (that is Cha Huong Lien), but the word on the street is that this is the best place with its charcoal grill and smokey aromas.
Bun Bo Nam Bo (Beef Noodle Salad)
Eat fast, slurp loudly and don’t be shy sitting shoulder to shoulder with locals on long benches here. They do their Bun Bo Nam Bo so well they named the place after it, in fact it’s just about the only thing they make – rice noodles with marinated strips of tender beef stir fried with crushed peanuts and fried shallots. It’s a quick fix, incredibly cheap and extremely satisfying that will ensure you return for more.
Our Favourite: Bun Bo Nam Bo Restaurant
Address: 67 Hang Dieu, Hanoi
Venture Far Insight: Take a seat upstairs and watch the masters in action below cook up a storm in front of your eyes.
Bahn mi (Vietnamese roll)
Everyone knows Bahn Mi in Australia, but to try it in Hanoi takes it to a whole new level where the French influence of a perfectly baked crusty baguette is filled with a variety of flavour combinations. Crunch into a warm loaf filled with sliced pork, duck pate, pickled vegetables, coriander and chilli. Whatever the mix the aromatic bursts of flavour from each mouthful is a true revelation for anyone accustomed to the humble ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato sanga.
Our Favourite: Banh Mi 25
Address: 25 Hang Ca Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Venture Far Insight: Hanoians love to mix up their bahn mi from just the regular pork and pate with fillings like fried egg, sausage and skewered pork.
Nem Cua Be (Crab Spring Rolls)
These delicious deep-fried large spring rolls are square in shape and stuffed with a combination of fresh crab, pork mince and mushrooms and a specialty of the coastal town of Hai Phong. One order is more than enough to share between two as the spring rolls are accompanied with a bowl of Bun Cha. Eat like a local by wrapping the rolls with lettuce and fresh herbs before dipping it into some nuoc cham.
Our Favourite: Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim
Address: 67 Duong Thanh Street, Old Quarter, Hanoi
Venture Far Insight: There are two restaurants with the same name that are located next to each other – look for the one with the yellow sign board and you will be in the right place.
Lau (Hot pot)
Vietnam conjures images of hot, humid streets but temperatures in Hanoi during winter can drop below 10 degrees with biting cold winds. Groups gather around a simmering metal pot of stock at the centre of the table – the definition of comfort food. Beef, pork, frog, goat, chicken, duck, snail and crab are all bases for a heartwarming hot pot mixed with noodles and vegetables like bamboo and mushroom then topped, of course with sprouts, lime, chilli and coriander.
Our Favourite: New Day Restaurant
Address: 72 Ma May, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Venture Far Insight: Frog hot pot might sound adventurous but with its sour, pungent spicy aroma and flavour it is one of the most popular in Hanoi.
Che (Vietnamese Sweet Soup)
Looking for a satisfying sweet finish go no further than Che, a sweet dessert soup usually served in a glass over ice and eaten with a spoon. The soup is an assortment of ingredients like mung beans, black beans, ginger filled tapioca balls, fruit, yoghurt and coconut milk which you can pick from a display in front of you. A friendly mother and daughter team who speak English create beautiful concoctions here with durian, jackfruit and caramel some of the most popular. A bonus, they also give out free tea as well.
Our Favourite: Little Bowl
Address: 46 Lan Ong Street, Hanoi
Venture Far Insight: In summer cool down with an ice che but when the temperature drops, wrap your hands around a glass of heated che to keep warm.