Thứ Hai, 6 tháng 6, 2011


Eating on the streets of Hanoi is a truly rewarding experience. Not only will your taste buds be jumping with joy but this pastime is archetypal of the cities culture and the daily lives of the people. Sit down at any of the countless street food stalls and you will be met with delicious food and friendly smiles.
Street food at Hanoi: Food stalls in the small alley ways of the Old Town of Hanoi
From the early hours of the morning ladies begin preparing their specialty dishes on their allotted street corners waiting for the sun to rise and the customers to start flowing… and flow they do: rich and poor, young and old… street food is for everyone and its principle fits perfectly into the pace of the city.
Approaching the small plastic tables and chairs filled with buoyant locals can be a daunting prospect especially as the menu, usually written on a large board at the front of the restaurant, is only in Vietnamese. The locals will usually speak little to no English as well which begs the question “What are they going to bring me”? Fear not, as with a small bit of preparation and a general understanding of the street food in Hanoi you will soon be ordering and eating like a local.
Despite the variety of street food available most places will serve only one or two dishes. If the person sitting next to you is eating something that looks appealing, just point at their meal and the job is done. Nonetheless, I still think that knowing the words of the dishes you want to try is invaluable while quite easy to learn.
Below is a list of some of the popular street foods offered in Hanoi. You may find that once you start your street food adventure you will not want to stop and will happily skip on the western seats and air conditioned rooms for quick and tasty meals served on the sides of busy roads.


If there is one dish that defines the culinary culture of this remarkable city it would have to be the flat noodle soup phở. This simple dish of noodles and either beef or chicken is forever popular with locals and foreigners alike and can be found throughout the city. Searching for the ultimate phở can be a never ending yet pleasurable activity and the small price of 20,000 VND per bowl allows for a great deal of comparison. I have had close to 100 bowls since arriving in Hanoi and I can’t see myself slowing down anytime soon. Don’t be put off by the size of the stall as some of the most delicious bowls I have had have come from a small little stand.
Phở bò – beef noodle soup (Phở bò tái: half cooked beef, Phở bò chin: well done beef).
Phở gà – chicken noodle soup


Bún is another admired noodle dish in Hanoi. Bún, a round rice noodle is used to make a variety of dishes. Sometimes the noodle is eaten cooked on its own and sometimes in broth with spices and vegetables, producing some amazing tastes. Some of the more popular bún dishes are with beef, pork, crab, snail, or tofu (although mind the tofu version as it is accompanied with mắm tôm, a fermented shrimp sauce with a taste and smell not for the faint hearted!). The cooked rice noodle dish is served with whichever meat you have picked (the most popular being chả: grilled pork) and a plate of herbs, mint and sliced green papaya.
Regarding bún dishes, you will be spoilt for choice in Hanoi and below are only some of the varieties you can choose from:
Bún chả – grilled pork noodle
Bún bò – beef noodle
Bún riêu – crab noodle
Bún ốc – snail noodle
Bún đậu – tofu noodle


Xôi is a traditional Vietnamese meal of sticky rice served with other ingredients depending on if you opt for the sweat or savoury option. One of my personal favourites is sticky rice served with chicken and is more often than not my breakfast of choice.
Xôi gà – sticky rice with chicken

Bánh cuốn

Bánh cuốn is a light but tasty Vietnamese meal that is filled with minced pork and mushrooms and wrapped in a delicate pancake type roll. The dish will typically be served with a side of Vietnamese pork sausage and some bean sprouts. Despite being a usual breakfast meal you can get bánh cuốn at various times throughout the day.
Lẩu is the Vietnamese hotpot and is another famous dish in Hanoi. Sharing a delicious hotpot with friends is a great way to spend an evening. There are meat, seafood and vegetarian options making this a great choice for all tastes. Once you have made your pick, a large cooking pot is brought to your table, filled with delicious boiling broth. You are given various plates of raw vegetables, noodles and your choice of meat. From then you are the chef, and you can throw in what you want when you want, and add all the spices or lemon you like into the broth. The hotpot experience will have you loosening your belt by meals end.
Having a BBQ may not have the same historical significance as some of the other dishes but cooking your meat and vegetables on a small cooker with burning oil splattering everywhere makes for an interesting evening. It might not be ideal for everyone as you often eat under dull lights but you definitely feel a part of the city. Some of the good BBQ stands are found in the Old Quarter and most hotels can point you in the right direction.
Bread and pâté
It may come as a shock to some to find pâté advertised on street food billboards, but the French influence is still found throughout Hanoi in a variety of places and themes; none so more simply than the ladies selling baguettes and pâté on the side of the road. It may not live up to the expectations of the bread loving French but you won’t pay much for a taste of home.


If you are looking for something on the sweat side then a glass of chè is my suggestion. You can mix and match your choice but in a nutshell chè is a sweat slurpy mess with coconut, crushed ice, jelly, beans and whatever else tickles your fancy. You can have it served hot to warm the belly in those colder months of the year.
Street food as a whole is extremely inexpensive. Most dishes will not cost more than a few dollars. The hotpot and BBQ can cost a little more however with a few friends you won’t be paying much at all.

Where to go

Half the fun is trying any random place you come across and with stalls on virtually every street you will not have to look far to find them. If you don’t want to take the risk and are looking for some proven performers have a look at the below two blogs as they have some great suggestions:
Savour Asia
Sticky Rice
How you decide to eat in Hanoi can shape your memories of the place so my suggestion is ignore any inhibitions you might have and embrace the street food experience. You won’t regret it.

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