With the help of our trusty Lonely Planet Vietnam guide and the staff at Tu Linh Palace Hotel, we set about exploring Hanoi’s famous street food scene. Hanoi’s reputation is well-deserved and we sampled the best street food that we had tasted during our three months in Vietnam. These were our favourites:
Banh Goi 52 P Ly Quoc Su, Old Quarter
Serving only deep fried pastries, this place was a gem of a find and is a must-visit. We sat on small plastic stools amid the serviettes and greenery that littered the floor and ordered two bottles of Hanoi beer and a selection of pastries. Each choice is served with a mountain of fresh greens, including lettuce, mint and Thai basil (slight liquorice flavour) and a bowl of sweet dipping sauce. Our selection included;
- Banh Bao Thit (Meat Dumplings) for 7,000 VND,
- Nem Cua Be (Sea Crab Nem or Spring Rolls) for 11,000 VND and
- Banh Goi (a ‘pasty’ style meat in pastry) for 8,000 VND.
We enjoyed the food so much, that we ordered a second plate of everything and washed it down with two more beers. Just superb!
Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim 67 Duong Thanh, Old Quarter
According to the Lonely Planet guide to not eat Bun Cha whilst in Hanoi “should be classed as a capital offence”. This small and basic eatery serves great crab spring rolls and a delicious mix of pork patties, pork pieces, white noodles in a slightly sweet sauce and once again, a mountain of fresh herbs. Mixing it all together, the trick is to take a bit of each with your chopsticks (and a lot of herbs) and dip into the sweet broth. Be aware that the portions are rather large, so come with an appetite. This is another must-eat whilst in Hanoi.
Pho Gua Truyen 49 P Bat Dan, Old Quarter
Simply the best Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) you will taste in Vietnam. This place is filled day and night with locals and ex-pats (and perhaps a few adventurous tourists) crammed onto small plastic stools and trestle tables – this isn’t somewhere you go to relax. You queue to order your food at the small counter and watch as they dip ladlefuls of raw beef strips into a vat of boiling broth and add white noodles and a generous serving of diced spring onion. You then squeeze your way to a space (if there is any) and dig-in. On each table sits a jug of home-made chilli sauce, one spoonful is enough to spice up your Pho. I went overboard with the chilli sauce and fresh chillies the first time, but enjoyed the endorphin rush so much, I went even hotter when we returned for more Pho the following day. Once finished, you are expected to leave and free up the space for the endless supply of customers that stop here for their noodle soup fix.
New Day 72 P Ma May
Another recommendation from The Lonely Planet, New Day is more a traditional restaurant, with full-size chairs, menus and waiters, but it did start off as a much smaller and basic establishment. Although this place gets very busy, we were lucky to find a small space for the two of us at the back of the restaurant. We ordered a Mango and Chicken green salad, Hanoi Spring Rolls and a delicious Chicken Curry with steamed rice and two mango smoothies. The salad in my mind a winner with such fresh and juicy mango, but my partner preferred the spring rolls, served with a delicious sweet and spicy soy dipping sauce.
Street food in Hanoi just wouldn’t be complete without a stop for one (or ten) Bia Hoi. Bia Hoi is freshly brewed beer to be enjoyed on the same day. Served in generally small establishments, this is where you need to do-as-the-locals-do: Grab a tiny plastic seat, find a space on the pavement, order a 5,000VND glass of Bia Hoi and watch the chaos of Hanoi’s city life unfold. We particularly liked the Bia Hoi at 11 Luong Ngoc Nguyen – especially having to hide our beers and stools during the nightly police drive-by inspections.
Check out this blog for a bit more information on the Bia Hoi scence and its policing.