The food scene in Hanoi
A foodies utopia, Hanoi serves as not only the capital of Vietnam but also a fierce contender for capital of cuisine. A city decorated with food vendors, hole-in-the-wall restaurants and upmarket dining choices, Hanoi will make you feel like royalty within a single day. Food is delicious but also as cheap as it gets. But don’t let the low prices fool you; these dishes may be perfect for the backpacker budget, but the concoction of unique flavours will leave you craving for more.
Do as the locals do and give your cutlery a quick wipe before tucking into your meal.
Eating out in Hanoi
It would be rude to write a cookbook of Hanoi specialities without first mentioning one thing, street food. This is the beating heart of Hanoi’s culinary magnificence and is your green card into life with the locals. Hidden Gem Coffee, The Lounge and Hong Hoai’s Restaurant are all highly recommended by locals and expats alike.
Fine dining is bounteous in the city centre, but for the real taste of Hanoi, look for the establishments with small plastic stools and tables outside. These family-run enterprises will concoct you a bowl of joy within a minute of sitting down, and such a treat will set you back about 30,000 VND (US$ 1.2). Slurping sounds of nearby diners casually imply the tongue is satisfied and may even contemplate a 2nd helping. Have a look at some of the local specialities below and decide on your personal preference.
Masterfully tossing together rice noodles, shrimp paste and freshwater paddy crab with a spellbinding tomato broth, Bun Rieu is a breakfast favourite among the locals. As with many dishes in Hanoi, a side serving of vegetables can often be expected too. One of the best joints in the city to tuck into this bowl of brilliance is 11 Hang Ba Street in the Old Quarter.
Bun Cha Ca
Almost impossible to acquire in the south, this dish is one of Hanoi’s most treasured gems. The shallow fried fish pieces maintain their crispy texture for the ten minutes it takes to consume this aromatic medley of ingredients, so don’t waste a mouthful. One of the best places to acquire this sultry treat is on the corner of Nguyen Ngoc Nai and Nguyen Viet Xuan.
A firm favourite with locals, Pho is a combination is rice noodles, thin beef slices and an array of vegetables, soaked in a hypnotising gamey broth. Many of the streets in the Old Quarter are named after this dish due to its popularity, so finding a charming eatery that serves it won’t be a struggle. Pho Thin on Lo Duc street is an excellent choice as it is renowned for replacing the traditional raw beef with stir-fried beef.
These crepes are out of this world and offer a realistic insight into the snacking habits of locals. Often made with shrimp, pork and bean sprouts, Banh Xeo is a proud addition to the Hanoi cookbook and must be tried at least once during your stay. Anh Beo at 160 Doi Can street has one of the best reputations in the city.
From the outside, these don’t look much different from any other sandwich. However, if you find a good food hawker, the additional ingredients thrown in will make a huge amount of difference. Banh Mi vendors are situated on the corner of almost every street in the city, especially in the tourist areas. But the best ones will also have a grilling machine with them, giving your sandwich a sultry toasted texture. Banh Mi 25 opens at 7 am and maintains outstanding ratings from customers.
Bars and pubs in Hanoi
After a long day of food ravaging, you may feel a little thirsty. Hanoi boasts an outstanding entourage of bars and clubs, but for another lapping of local customs, head to a Bia Hoi. These are the British equivalency of pubs, and they are everywhere. A glass of locally brewed beer will cost as little as 5,000 VND (US$ 0.21).