Vietnam is a food-lover’s paradise. The fresh ingredients, full flavours and a fantastic diversity in cooking styles transport you to a kind of foodie Nirvana. Be it a crunchy banh mi baguette, a spicy honeyed chicked skewer, a bowl of chili-laden pho (pronounced “fer”), rice paper rolls or a deliciously light green papaya salad, Vietnamese food will delight any traveller’s taste-buds.
So, as a newly-arrived holiday maker in Hanoi, where do you go to find the best of this city’s culinary delights? How do you get on the Food Trail?
Given our limited time here on this trip, I organised a street food tour for us. What better way to discover Hanoi than to eat our way around it?
Our guide was Daniel, an American chef and food blogger with a passion for all things Vietnamese. He came to Hanoi a decade ago to write a cook book and never left. His knowledge of the local food trail is incredible. During our exploration of the French Quarter’s Hom Market, we were awed by the freshness and diversity of the produce, tried samples of herbs, snacks and fruit, and were wowed by unusual market sights and sounds.
From the market we were shown some local haunts – amazing Vietnamese coffee at Cafe Tho in the French Quarter, then to Cafe Xe Co for Bia Ha Noi (beer!) and the most unbelievable noodles I’ve ever eaten. The noodles (bun cha – literally “BBQ noodles”) are actually cooked on a stall on the street and were out-of-this-world. Do yourself a favour and make your way to the corner of Hang Bun and Pham Hong Thai and grab a bowl of bun cha. When they run out, they run out, so get in early!
By the time we had also had nem (deep fried spring rolls), popped corn, rice paper rolls made from pho and a pot full of clams, we were literally bursting, but oh my gosh it was worth it!
The great thing about having spent the morning with a foodie is he was more than happy to point out great street food places on the map so that we could make our own way to them for dinner (if we had any room of course)! Through his advice we found Ly Van Phuc – also known as “Chicken Street”. It’s stall after stall of, well, chicken! Wings, legs, feet (eek!) – all marinated and barbecued on hot coals right there in front of you. The smell is amazing and the atmosphere lively.
If you’re keen to try different styles of local fare but not quite game to tackle street stalls, then make your way to one of Hanoi’s “Quan An Ngon” food halls. Set up like hawker stalls surrounding a central dining area, this “restaurant” lets you try all sorts of local dishes but without the fear of not knowing what you’re ordering. We had a feast of rice paper rolls, Hoi An rice, grilled chicken, grilled beef, deep fried dumplings and green papaya salad for about US$25 all up.
Do you have any Hanoi street food tips? Share them here!
x Sonia x