Hanoi is foodie heaven, not just for the great eats, but for the whole vibrant experience of street-side dining. Food vendors offer up a mouth-watering array of choices, while streetside dining can’t be beat for an authentic local experience. Pull up a plastic stool, gather around a stainless steel table with friends, opt for some ice-cold bia hoi and tuck into a fresh bowl of whatever’s on the menu while you watch the world go by. Or join a day or night street-food tour and go on a culinary crawl through the city.
Here are some classic Hanoi street foods and where to find them.
This famous noodle dish originated in Hanoi, and should be the highlight of any Hanoi street-food tour. There are two main pho camps: chicken (pho ga) and beef (pho bo), with vendors excelling at either one or the other. Refrain from adding any condiments before tasting and add extra flavour such as hoisin and sriracha sauce in a saucer on the side and dip beef or chicken morsels bite by bite with chopsticks. Garnish with basil and opt for added greens, like sprouts or green chilli, to taste.
- Pho Gia Truyen a hole in the wall at 49 Bat Dan in the Old Quarter
- Pho Lam, a nondescript shophouse in Nam Ngu alleyway
- Pho Tin, extremely popular mum-and-pop shophouse in the French Quarter
2) BANH MI
Banh mi might be a Saigon invention, but it’s still a must-eat while in Hanoi (or anywhere in Vietnam). While some restaurants are trying to innovate with their banh mi, purists know that a simple combination of pork-based deli meats, coriander, daikon, chilies and a light, flaky bun is all that is required.
- Madam Khanh, the ‘Queen of Banh Mi’
- Phi Banh Mi — a favourite with locals
- Kinh Do Cafe is an iconic Hanoi spot made famous by the movie Indochina
3) BUN CHA
Bun Cha is a famous lunch dish with vermicelli, grilled pork belly and pork patties served with a bowl of greens, crispy egg/crab rolls and dipping sauce. In the south, locals wrap the ingredients in a big leaf and dip it in the sauce like a roll, but in Hanoi, they mix everything together in a bowl and eat it. Famously, Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain dined this way in 2016 at Bun Cha Huong Lien.
- Bun Cha Huong Lien — the most famous street food shop in the world thanks to Obama
- Bun Cha Tuyet, a small, inexpensive local eatery
4) BUN RIEU CUA
This traditional breakfast noodle soup features rice-paddy crab ground into an umami paste and served in a tomato broth with greens, round vermicelli, sliced beef, tofu and banana flower. Hanoi also offers versions with sea snails for those adventurous of palate. Load up with spice and fresh greens and savour each sip watching the morning’s traffic stream by.
- 11 Hang Bac is a hole in the wall a few blocks from Hoan Kiem Lake.
- Bun Rieu 75 Hang Bong does tasty bowls with traditional low-table street dining.
5) BANH CUON
This ubiquitous breakfast dish comprises silky, steamed rice batter — sometimes called a pancake — served with a savoury mix of ground pork, mushrooms and shallots. It comes garnished with coriander and fish sauce for dipping, but for best results, eat it with cha mo, a type of pork sausage. Pork-free versions are also available starring chicken or beef.
- Bánh Cuốn 101 Bà Triệu is a small restaurant close to Hoan Kiem Lake
- Bánh Cuốn Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, for nighttime banh cuon, open from 5pm.