A Mini Guide to Eating in Hanoi
Vietnamese cuisine offers an extraordinary cluster of gastronomic delights throughout a foodie adventure. It is an insight into an unforgettable concoction of a boundless variety of ingredients blended in the balance of sweet, salty, sour, hot and spicy flavors.
Hanoi is one of the most famous cities in the world for foodie connoisseurs. You will never go out hungry in this capital all day and night as you can definitely fill up on in different places from food street vendors, centuries old Vietnamese food stalls located in hidden corners, to unique Western-style restaurants. As a food lover, I always seek for the greatest gems in Hanoi, sticking to the list of the most distinct foods served in the best restaurants. Here are the must-try dishes I would highly recommend you dine on during your stay in this city.
Beef pho at Pho Thin. Photo by me +Maze Vietnam
A bowl of Pho is what Vietnamese people often breakfast on. Pho is the symbol of Vietnamese gastronomy, reflecting the unique Vietnamese cuisine in the harmony of broth, rice noodles, fresh herbs and meat (beef or chicken). There is always a hidden myth behind the broth that appeals to Vietnamese people.
If you want to try a bowl of genuine Pho, go to Phở Thìn (#61 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, at Old Quarter) offering beef Pho in a rustic alleyway with such local atmosphere, Phở Thìn Lò Đúc (#13 Lò Đúc) serving stir-fried beef Pho, Phở Vân Anh with chicken Pho (#45A Mai Hắc Đế)
#2 BÁNH CUỐN
Banh cuon at Bánh cuốn Gia an. Photo by me +Maze Vietnam
The process of making Banh cuon. Photos by Minh Nguyen +Maze Vietnam
Banh cuon is one of Hanoians’ favorite dishes for breakfast and lunch. The process of making Banh cuon is so interesting that no one could stop sticking their eyes on the masters of the rolls. The cooks stretched fermented rice batter with a ladle over the surface of the steamer, taking a lid to cover it for a couple of seconds. After that they meticulously placed the super thin and delicate sheets with a stick onto a tray and filled them with a mixture of cooked meat (mostly pork), minced mushrooms and shallots. When you eat this food, just pick the sheets up with your chopsticks, dip them into the fish sauce and take the first bite. I sometimes eat this in one of the restaurants of the chain Bánh cuốn Gia An ( http://www.banhcuongiaan.com.vn/cua-hang/) which offers a diversity of Banh Cuon flavors.
#3 BÚN CHẢ
Bun cha Photo by me +Maze Vietnam
Have you ever been through the sidewalks dotted with Bun Cha shops in Hanoi? Getting immersed in the aroma of Vietnamese BBQ grilled pork under the traditional charcoal will definitely urge you to stop at any food stalls you may find. Bun cha is served with a plate of rice noodles, grilled pork and a bowl of dipping sauce. What a tasty Hanoi’s food that you should not miss! Bun cha in almost all places share the same taste, so you can eat it anywhere you want. You can consider Bún chả Đắc Kim (#1 Hàng Mành) which is one of the most renowned Bun cha restaurants among Hanoians.
#4 CHẢ CÁ LÃ VỌNG
Chả cá Lã vọng. Photo by wikivietnam.net
Chả cá Lã vọng at #14 Chả cá. Photo by wikivietnam.net
It would be a real pity for any foodies if they missed out dining on Cha ca La Vong in a more than 100-year-old-restaurant (#14 Chả Cá) in the heart of downtown Hanoi. When you get to the ancient house in which this dish stem from, you don’t have to ponder what foods to pick out from the menu since there is only Cha ca La Vong offered. They will serve you a plate of rice noodles (Bun), fresh herbs, some peanuts, and a small bowl of shrimp paste (must try this once but you have to order the servers otherwise they will give you dipping fish sauce with chilies) and a little pan containing slices of hemibagrus fresh fish soaked in oil on a simple portable stove. Be careful at number 14 in Cha Ca street otherwise you will probably mistake the genuine restaurant for the fake one located right opposite. Plus watch out your head if you are told to go upstairs!
#5 BÚN ỐC THỊT
Bun oc at Bún ốc Hòe Nhai. Photo taken by Minh Nguyen +Maze Vietnam
Bun oc thit (snail noodle soup) is a great combination of ideal broth, snails, beef and tofu along with other ingredients and garnishes. Balancing on a little plastic chair while having a bowl of snail noodle soup to try the sourness and sweetness of the broth, the tenderness of the beef and the crunchiness of the snails is one of the most wonderful things you can do in this city. Bún ốc thịt Hòe Nhai (#13 Hoè Nhai) and Bún ốc phố Hàng Chai (#6 Hàng Chai) are the two Bunocs that I recommend.
#6 BÁNH GIÒ
Banh gio at #5 Thụy Khê. Photo by Tu Vu +Maze Vietnam
Banh gio (Vietnamese pork pyramid dumpling) is a Vietnamese cake wrapped in banana leaf and made by glutinous rice flour and tapioca starch with meat, onions, mushrooms and spices inside. This food can be eaten any time of the day. Bánh giò Kim Liên (#B16 Kim Liên, Đống Đa) and Bánh giò Thụy Khê (The largest pyramid dumpling offered in Hanoi according to Vietnamese people) (at #5 Thụy Khê) are where my friends and I usually stop by. To try out this food like a local, just take two plastic stools, getting one as a table and the other as a chair and enjoy.
#7 BÁNH MÌ
Grilled pork Banh Mi at Chua lang. Photo by Tung Pham +Maze Vietnam
Banh mi Photo by me +Maze Vietnam
Trust me, Banh mi must go to the top of the world’s sandwiches. It is a flawless combination of different fillings like pork pâté, fried eggs and vegetables all stuffed into a soft and crunchy baguette. The image of the Vietnamese having quick breakfast with Banh mi on the road is ubiquitous. It is never a challenge for people to get Banh mi since they actually appear almost everywhere in Hanoi.
Chao at Ngõ Huyện. Photo by me+Maze Vietnam
Chao is a perfect choice when it comes to winter. Chao is Vietnamese Rice Congee, which is often offered with fried breadsticks made with flour, baking soda, sugar and salt. Vietnamese people often eat Chao at the start of Ngõ Huyện, Hoàn Kiếm.
#9 CHÈ, BÁNH TRÔI TÀU
Banh troi tau at Lò Đúc street. Photo by me +Maze Vietnam
Che and Banh troi tau are undoubtedly ranked in the top list of Vietnamese sweet desserts. Che is an explicit example of Vietnamese food’s concoction. While Vietnamese cafe can be mixed with egg or yogurt, Che can go with an abundance of ingredients such as mung beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, jelly, fruit, lotus seeds, coconut cream and so on. Banh troi tau has two main parts: balls made from mung bean or black sesame paste wrapped in a shell made of glutinous rice flour and liquid made of water, sugar, and grated ginger root and coconut. Chè 4 Mùa (#4 Hàng Cân) is where the locals come to have these desserts.
Have you ever seen any street vendors with two big baskets suspended at the end of the two poles? Some of them put xoi into the baskets to sell. Xoi is another Vietnamese dish made from glutinous rice and other conventional ingredients: mung beans with fried shallots; peanuts; momordica; and hundreds of more. It is beautifully wrapped in banana leaf in the shape of a small hand. You can eat it with spoons or straight by hands.
#11 BÚN BÒ NAM BỘ
Bun bo Nam Bo Photo by me +Maze Vietnam
If you are in Northern Vietnam but want to give it a try with Southern Vietnam’s food, Bun bo Nam Bo is one of the right options available here. Bún bò Nam Bộ (Dry noodles with beef from the South of Vietnam) is the mixture of dry rice noodles and stir-fried beef with fresh vegetables, pickled papaya on top and sauces instead of broth like Pho. Bún bò Nam Bộ (#67 Hàng Điếu), which is said to serve the best and quick bowl of Bun bo Nam Bo in Hanoi, is where I always visit whenever my tummy needs some bun bo.
#12 NON-VIETNAMESE FOODS
Pasta Photo by me +Maze Vietnam
If you need a change after eating non-stop Vietnamese food, you had better dine out on other countries’ specialties. For a vegetarian or an Indian food lover, Namaste (#46 Thợ Nhuộm) is a great destination. It is owned by an Indian offering the most authentic Indian foods. For anyone who has a strong passion for Italian food, Mediterraneo (#23 Nhà Thờ) owned by a friendly Italian chef serving the real Italian food (Bruschetta, Costino, Pizza, Pastas and more) is always recommended by Italian tourists. For a Japanese food seeker, Asahi Sushi (at #288 Bà Triệu) is the most glittering Japanese restaurant in Hanoi. It is filled all over with Japanese atmosphere in the heart of Hanoi.
This post was originally posted on http://www.mazevietnam.com/2016/12/28/a-mini-guide-to-eating-in-hanoi/