I didn’t plan to do much on my recent trip to Hanoi. As a last minute getaway before starting my new job, the plan on this Vietnam trip was just to relax and eat, eat, and eat more of Hanoi’s awesome street food. I put together a list of what to eat in Hanoi, including some recs that I didn’t have time (or stomach space) to get to.
Hanoi street food culture
Hanoi’s street food ranges from a collection of slightly grotty roadside tables and low stools to nicer looking eateries with bathrooms. Most of the time, you grab any available seat and then order what you want to eat.
Even if you’re in the touristy Old Quarter, stall owners are unlikely to speak a lot of English if any at all, so just be prepared. If you speak zero Vietnamese like me, I usually point at the menu or in the worst case at someone else’s food.
Some stall owners will just default to giving you the special with everything in it, others will try their best to clarify what you want. My suggestion is just to go with the flow and not quibble too much – it definitely keeps things interesting!
Have some small change on hand as you’ll need to pay in cash at these street food stalls – break your huge notes at convenience stores like Circle K or the like if you need to beforehand.
And now, here’s what I ate in Hanoi and where to eat it. This list is a compilation of Google-fu – Travelfish’s Food and Drink list in Hanoi was very useful and recommendations I got from my WeCozy hotel food list, Crossing Vietnam motorcycle tour guide Ryan, friends who visited recently as well as some lovely Hanoians that I met along the way.
Phở Bò (rice noodle soup with beef)
You can’t say you have properly experienced Hanoi if you have not tucked into this quintessential Hanoi staple, a nice warm bowl of soupy phở (say ‘fur’). This is my favourite Vietnamese food of all time just because it’s so comforting. A bowl of beef broth with what feels like an endless supply of flat white rice noodles (pho refers to this particular noodle) topped with slices of beef and herb/chive garnish.
I had pho in 2 places on this trip – Phở Bò đường tàu was a short walk from my hotel and my first meal in Hanoi for this trip, exactly what I needed after the plane ride in. It’s especially nice to slurp up some pho in the cool winter evenings.
1 bowl of pho cost 50,000 VND (about S$2.70) – good pho places in Singapore charge around 3-4x that price!
Phở đường tàu (Train Street Pho) – 3 P. Trần Phú, Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm [Google maps]
I had pho again the next morning at the start of my motorcycle tour around Hanoi. My guide Ryan brought me to his favourite pho bo stall amidst the many pho and food stalls along the busy P. Phung Hung. I basically just sat down and tucked in.
There will usually be condiments like lime and chilli on the table for your to customise the pho soup to your taste. It’s useful being able to change up the palate a bit if you are starting to get bored (horrors) of the meaty broth.
Quán Phở Bò Đức Khôi (Duc Khoi beef pho restaurant) – 77 P. Phùng Hưng, Hàng Mã, Hoàn Kiếm [Google Maps]
Bún Chả (rice vermicelli dipped in soup with pork)
Bún chả is another classic Hanoi-style noodle which reminds me of Japanese somen, where you dip dry thick white vermicelli noodles (that’s Bún) into a warm fish-sauce based broth with assorted bits of yummy charcoal-grilled fatty pork slices and minced pork patties and sliced cucumber, along with a literal mountain of fresh vegetables on the side to add as needed.
Bun cha became famous because of Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama having this dish on TV. I didn’t visit the original restaurant that they went to (Bún chả Hương Liên – they’ve now encased the original table that the pair dine at.), but I went to this other place that was recommended by my guide.
Bún chả Đắc Kim is listed on the Michelin website as you can see from the signs all over. It has seats on the upper 2 levels as well. Because I was solo, I was seated with another solo traveller who I ended up making friends with and spending the afternoon with.
The soup was flavourful, but I liked the minced pork patties better because they were more tender than the fatty pork slices. Besides the standard Bun cha, I also ordered a nem cua bể or fried crab spring roll which was very yummy. Highly recommended!
1 bowl of bun cha cost 70,000 VND. The additional nem cua be was 25,000 VND.
Bún chả Đắc Kim – 1 P. Hàng Mành, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm [Google maps]
Bún Riêu (rice vermicelli crab-tomato soup)
Bún riêu was something new to me, but highly recommended by the young Hanoians I ran into while having supper near by hotel. They wrote me a list of food to check out, so off I went to find this little road side stall.
The lady in charge was really kinda grumpy, but she relented after a bit and after some awkward pointing and nodding, I ended up with a steaming bowl of tomato-based freshwater crab paste soup with thick white vermicelli, fried tofu cubes that really soaked up the soup and some beef? I honestly wasn’t quite sure what I was pointing so I must have ended up with bun rieu bo… My bowl of bun rieu cost 30,000 VND. If you get the one with everything in it it’s 40,000 VND.
Some customers requested for a teaspoon of this really strong smelling grey looking condiment which I think is Mắm Tôm, aka a fermented prawn paste – that smell was pretty pungent! There is a dish called Bún Đậu which is dry vermicelli eaten with fried tofu and usually topped of with the mam tom if you are feeling adventurous.
Bún Riêu Phố Cổ (Old Quarter Bun Rieu) – 17 Hàng Cót, Hàng Mã, Hoàn Kiếm [Google maps]
Another option you can check out is Bún riêu cua Hàng Bạc closer to Hoan Kiem Lake.
Chả Cá Lăng (fried turmeric fish in dill)
My last proper meal in Hanoi was a treat at a restaurant, a step up from the roadside stalls I’d been frequenting so far.
Chả Cá Lăng (or Chả Cá Lã Vọng because of where it was created) is fried turmeric fish cooked in dill. I’d never heard of this Vietnamese dish before so I was quite excited to try it and took a walk to a nearby restaurant called Chả Cá Thăng Long. Maybe because it was the weekend, but it only served this one dish and it’s a bit of a ‘Pepper Lunch’ experience where the fish is cooked directly at your table.
They obviously get enough tourists that their staff is able to explain the process in English, and since I visited quite early, the staff cooked for me and gave me a pretty good explanation on how to eat the dish. Basically you fry up the fish, and then you pop it in a bowl with a section of the bun noodles, season with the condiments, peanuts and fish sauce and eat that in a bite.
I do like the turmeric fried fish, though since I’m not a veggie lover all that dill/spring onions was a bit wasted on me. You do need to keep an eye on the fire and make sure you don’t burn your food. The set meal also comes with a fried fish spring roll or Nem cá Lăng that was also quite yummy.
Be prepared to fork out more than usual, my total bill for the standard set and 1x Hanoi beer was 220,000 VND – in the grand scheme of things that’s about S$12+ but comparatively to typical Hanoi street food it’s a lot more.
Bánh Mì Sốt Vang (beef stew in red wine sauce)
Red wine is definitely not a common Vietnamese ingredient, but the red wine beef stew known as sốt vang came from its colonial French time.
En route to visiting Van Mieu, I found my way to Bánh mì Trâm where I ordered a bowl of this delectable warn beef stew that came served with an excellent Bánh mì or baguette. Crispy outside and pillowy soft inside, it was the perfect vehicle to scoop that luscious stew into my mouth. The service here was also excellent and friendly which I appreciated.
You can apparently find phở bò sốt vang – pho noodles in red wine beef stew – in other shops around Hanoi as well if you’re not a fan of bread, but that bánh mì was a real highlight~
Another dish that looked fairly popular here is the Bít tết or beef steak, typically served on one of those black hot plates shaped like a cow.
Bánh mì Trâm – 30 P. Đình Ngang, Cửa Nam, Hoàn Kiếm [Google maps]
Cháo Sườn (pork rib congee)
Cháo sườn is basically rice porridge done Cantonese style where the rice is practically a paste in a bowl with sliced pork ribs. My bowl came heaped with fried dough fritters and what looked like fried pork floss It was the whole works but so yummy and warming on a cool morning squatting on a Hanoi street corner.
A bowl with everything in it from Cháo sườn cô Là cost me 30,000 VND.
Cháo sườn cô Là – 2A P. Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm [Google maps]
Nem Nướng (grilled pork sausage)
Another quintessential Vietnamese food is the fresh spring roll or gỏi cuốn which usually has prawns in it. But on my motorbike tour, my guide Ryan showed me a version that used Nem Nướng, a grilled pork spring roll that came from the southern Nha Trang region instead for its spring roll.
This spring roll is DIY – you are given the ingredients and it’s up to you to add however much condiments you want to the rice paper roll – pho, lettuce, green mango, cucumber, fried mung bean andmore – and top it up with a slice of grilled minced pork sausage. The kicker is dunking the roll into the nước chấm or dipping sauce which was served warm and savoury and absolutely delicious.
Nem Nướng Nha Trang Quế Hoa – 23 P. Hồ Hoàn Kiếm, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm [Google maps]
Things I missed out
The problem with being a solo traveller and a small eater is that I don’t usually get to try everything I want within a single trip! I thought I’d share some of the really good Hanoi food recs that I was given but didn’t get around to trying for myself:
- Miến Lươn: For noodles with a difference, give this dish of fried eel glass noodles a shot! Miến lươn Đông Thịnh is famous for this and you can have it both with soup or dry.
- Bánh Cuốn: essentially this is chee cheong fun and Bánh Cuốn Gia Truyền Thanh Vân is supposed to be pretty good. It’s down the street from Bun Rieu Pho Co but I was way too full for more food.
- Xôi chè: a sweet soup made from glutinous rice that’s eaten for dessert, Xôi chè Bà Thìn is one of the places recommended to try this and other desserts
Tours that include Hanoi street food
I loved the Ho Chi Minh vespa tour that I took when I visited some time back and was keen to see what Hanoi would be like from the back of a bike instead of as a pedestrian. One of the first things I did was embark on a half-day motorbike sightseeing tour that I booked on Klook (details below).
Book Hanoi sightseeing motorbike tour on Klook [affiliate link] or check out the Crossing Vietnam website for more. You can book for morning (start at 8am) or evening (start at 5pm) and make arrangements directly via whatsapp.
There is another Hanoi food and city motorbike tour on Klook which looks similar but probably run by another company, or you could just do a purely walking tour if Vietnam’s motorbikes and traffic freak you out.
This is what I ate in Hanoi on this short trip and I’m sure there are plenty of goodies I’ve not yet sampled – what are your Hanoi food recs? Drop them in the comments below, or check out my other Vietnam posts.