Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, has gained renown for its abundant culture, historical significance, and, notably, its vibrant street cuisine. The city has solidified its status as a haven for food enthusiasts, with a plethora of street food vendors dispersed throughout its landscape.
Ranging from the iconic Pho and Banh Mi to the more obscure Banh Cuon and Bun Thang, Hanoi’s street food panorama encompasses an array of flavors that distinctly define the city. Within this blog, we shall spotlight the premier street food in Hanoi, tailored for first-time visitors, while also presenting valuable insights for navigating the bustling street food scene.
List must-try street food in Hanoi
Pho – Vietnam’s Signature Dish: Pho stands as the emblematic Hanoi street food and holds the esteemed title of Vietnam’s national culinary treasure. This beef noodle soup boasts a clear broth, rice noodles, and thin beef slices. Fresh herbs, raw vegetables, and zesty lime wedges accompany the dish, imparting a tantalizing flavor profile. Pho is a ubiquitous presence across Hanoi, an absolute must-try for any international traveler.
Banh Mi – Vietnamese Delight: Banh Mi, a well-recognized Vietnamese sandwich, has achieved global acclaim. A crunchy French baguette serves as the canvas for pickled vegetables, pate, egg, meat, or tofu, paired with fresh herbs. This culinary creation can be found gracing nearly every street corner in Hanoi, constituting a convenient and flavorsome option.
Bun Cha – Emblematic Grilled Pork and Noodles: Bun Cha emerges as an iconic Hanoi street food, featuring succulent grilled pork accompanied by vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and a dipping sauce. Marinated in a delightful blend of fish sauce, sugar, and garlic, the pork exudes a sweet and savory fusion. An esteemed lunchtime choice for locals, Bun Cha is widespread across Hanoi’s various districts.
At Bun Cha Huong Lien, affectionately dubbed “Obama Bun Cha” following a visit by former US President Barack Obama, patrons can savor the exquisite flavors of this dish. Meanwhile, Bun Cha Ta in the Old Quarter stands as another excellent option, offering an affordable rendition of this delectable meal. While traversing Hanoi, be certain to include Bun Cha in your culinary exploration.
Nem Ran – Crispy Spring Rolls: Nem Ran, the crispy fried spring roll, boasts a delectable filling of minced pork, mushrooms, and vermicelli noodles. Complemented by a tangy dipping sauce crafted from fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and chili, this street food’s irresistible crunch and flavorful interior make it an essential Hanoi snack.
Banh Cuon – Delightful Rice Rolls: Banh Cuon, a light breakfast or afternoon delight, combines ground beef (or other options like chicken, shrimp, or pork), chopped ear mushroom, onions, Vietnamese ham, steamed bean sprouts, and cucumbers wrapped in a steamed rice flour leaf.
Bun Dau Mam Tom – Adventurous Noodle Dish: Bun Dau Mam Tom, a celebrated yet daring dish, might intimidate some due to its potent shrimp sauce aroma. However, alternatives are available for those sensitive to the scent. Similar to durian, Bun Dau Mam Tom’s unique flavor can quickly captivate the palate. This dish consists of vermicelli noodles, fried tofu, and shrimp paste, often accompanied by various meat selections for dipping.
Pho Cuon – Rolled Pho: Pho Cuon is a Hanoi favorite that involves wrapping pho noodles around beef or pork, accompanied by herbs and a delectable sweet and savory dipping sauce. This street food gem is widely available throughout the city.
Xoi Xeo – Vibrant Sticky Rice: Xoi Xeo, a top-selling Hanoi breakfast delight, combines convenience, nutrition, and easy consumption. Each lustrous grain of sticky rice is coated with a layer of green beans, a touch of oil, and fragrant dried onions. Adaptable toppings such as boiled chicken, marinated pork belly, or preserved eggs enhance this dish’s allure.
Banh Goi – Savory Dumplings: Banh Goi, another cherished street food in Hanoi, showcases dumplings characterized by a crispy wheat flour crust. Stuffed with minced pork and vegetables, these dumplings are served hot alongside raw veggies, pickles, and a sweet-sour dipping sauce. Especially relished during cooler seasons, Banh Goi captures the essence of autumn and winter.
My Ga Tan – Hearty Chicken Stew: My Ga Tan, a dish with an intriguing presentation, features stewed chicken complete with its head—a culinary experience that might initially startle diners. The simmering process occurs within empty soda and beer cans infused with aromatic Chinese herbs, infusing the meat with flavor. Egg noodles are incorporated into the stew, and the locals vouch for its restorative qualities. Two options exist: the ‘regular’ chicken and a smaller, black-bone silky chicken, both offering a soul-warming encounter.
Banh Xeo and Nem Lui – Culinary Companions: Banh Xeo presents a delectable fusion of crepe and pancake, yielding a fully satisfying experience. Hanoi’s rendition of this savory rice-flour cake features prawns and bean sprouts, accompanied by an array of assorted greens, cucumber, sour mango or papaya. To assist in savoring the crispy Banh Xeo, scissors are often provided, allowing diners to slice it up before rolling it in rice paper alongside other toppings.
Bun Thang – Elegance in a Bowl: Bun Thang stands as a quintessential Hanoi specialty, renowned for its intricate and refined depiction of local cuisine. This soup encapsulates a medley of 20 ingredients, including rice vermicelli adorned with egg, pork, chicken, dried shrimp, shrimp paste, squid, coriander, spring onion, ginger, mushroom, beet, fish sauce, vinegar, and sugar candy. This complex amalgamation bestows a burst of flavors, exemplifying the sophistication and elegance that defines Hanoi’s culinary landscape.
Ca Phe Trung – Egg Coffee: Ca Phe Trung represents a traditional Vietnamese coffee delight, incorporating egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk, and coffee. The result is a creamy, sweet concoction that has captured the hearts of Hanoi locals. This distinctive coffee variation graces the menus of numerous cafes across Hanoi, making it an essential culinary adventure for foreign travelers.
Kem – Creamy Ice Cream: Kem is a Vietnamese ice cream distinguished by its luscious blend of coconut milk, fruits, and sugars. This creamy and delightful treat can be enjoyed at Hanoi’s cafes and street-side vendors alike.
Among the esteemed establishments, Kem Trang Tien, conveniently located near Hoan Kiem Lake, holds a prime position for indulging in exceptional and unique ice cream flavors. For almost six decades, this renowned ice cream parlor has delighted patrons with choices like green tea and black sesame. Fanny’s Ice Cream, situated in the Tay Ho area, adds to the tapestry of options, offering an extensive assortment of flavors crafted from premium ingredients.
Che – Sweet Culmination: For a delightful conclusion to your culinary journey, savor the delightful offering of che, often referred to as a ‘sweet soup.’ This treat boasts an intricate arrangement of layers, featuring red bean and mungo bean pastes, glutinous rice balls in starch, and herbal jelly cubes. A drizzle of syrup and a sprinkle of coconut shreds crown this exquisite creation. While this version represents the Hanoi style, che can be found throughout the nation, showcasing diverse variations.
For those venturing into Hanoi, embarking on a Hanoi street food tour is a delightful proposition. This immersive experience allows you to unravel the city’s culinary treasures in an engaging manner. Guided by an expert, you’ll be led to Hanoi’s finest street food havens, unveiling dishes that might have remained undiscovered on your solo journey. Beyond the culinary exploration, a knowledgeable guide will weave tales of Hanoi’s street food history and cultural significance, enhancing your understanding of this vibrant facet of the city.
>>> See more: Things to do in Ha Noi