Hanoi is considered a street food mecca and home to some of Vietnam's most beloved dishes, such as Pho. After a week of eating everything in sight, I can personally attest that the city boasts some of the best Vietnamese food in the country.
A few tips for finding good food in Hanoi:
- Do your research: There are a million websites and blogs with write ups about great local food. Spending a bit of time googling places to eat will give you a better base of info than just relying on a guidebook or your hotel recommendations. Also as most of the menus are exclusively in Vietnamese it helps to learn a few food words. Beside food is the best part of trip planning isn't it?
- Forget the research: Well some of it, it's great to have a plan but new street food and restaurants pop up and change often, so if you see a huge crowd of people and the food smells good, give it a go. Also, keep in mind sites such as tripAdvisor (which I love and use a lot) are a bit skewed as these are reviews mostly by tourists and often don't include some of the best street food places which have no address, website etc.
- Worried about food safety? As a trained chef, I'm also concerned over food safety but there are a few things I look for when I pick a street food place 1) is the food cooked to order (fried, barbecued etc) or if you are having soup is it hot?, if it is then that reduces your risk 2) turnover - if a place is really packed then they are likely selling the food as fast as they can make it which means your food hasn't been sitting around at room temperature for ages 3) reviews - if a street vendor has been in tripAdvisor/guide book etc, it means a fair number of foreigners have dined there and lived to tell the tale. All that aside, I do usually look around at the cooks and go with my gut feel about the place (touch wood, I haven't had an issue yet)
- Plastic tables, stools and no walls = perfect! Hanoi is one of the few cities where the best food isn't in a restaurant, rather it is located in the sidewalks and alleyways of the city. If all else fails just head to the Old Quarter, pound the pavement and follow your noise to your next meal.
- Pack napkins/wet naps. Remember these are street vendors, it is dine and dash, so don't expect any cloth napkins, or actually any napkins at all.
Here's my list of my must eats in Hanoi, bon appetit! Promise to update with a full review of all of the below with some tips on what and how to order.
1. Banh Cuon – Steamed Rice Rolls Filled with Ground Pork and Wood Ear Mushrooms
Where: Banh Cuon Gia Truyen - 14 Hang Ga, Old Quarter
2. Barbecue Chicken Street - An entire street dedicated to barbecuing chicken (wings, drumsticks, thighs, feet)
*note - the whole street is full of barbecue chicken stands now, but don't be seduced by the ones that you encounter at the beginning. Walk all the way to the end, where the original chicken shop reigns king, these guys are definitely the busiest. Their patrons are all locals, so no tourists are usually here*
Where: Ly Van Phuc, Close to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the One Pillar Pagoda (40,000 duong/ $2 US cab ride from the Old Quarter)
3. Pappa Roti - Crispy Sweet Buns either with a coffee or butter filling
*full disclosure - these are not Vietnamese but are a big hit with the locals, make sure you elbow your way to the front and have your 14,000 duong in hand to trade for a warm bun. Oh yeah and if you become addicted, it's not my fault*
Where: 34 Hang Gai, Old Quarter
4. Pho Ga - Delicious rice noodle soup, featuring chicken.
Where: 1 Hang Dieu, Old Quarter or 49 Bat Dan Street (I didn't try this one as it never seemed to be open but the blogasphere says it amazing)
5. Nem Cua Be – Fried Crab Rice Paper Rolls
Where: Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim - 67 Duong Thanh, Old Quarter
6. Cha Ca Thang Long - Vietnamese fish with turmeric and dill
Where: 21- 31 Duong Thanh, Old Quarter
Of course there are a million other delicious things you should eat as well, I guess I'll have to come back for a few more weeks and eat the rest! If you find any hidden gems be sure to let me know.