Traveling is not only about fitting in every beautiful scene and landmark, but it’s also about experiencing the local food. To me, Hanoi doesn’t just represent the beauty of an old city, it also gives me a lens, a delicious lens at that, in which to view our rich Vietnamese culture…through its food.
Hanoi, The City of Traditional Food
Hanoi is the capital of present Vietnam and it’s also been the capital of the ancient kingdoms in northern Vietnam since the second millennium. The city has a deep history and there is no better way to understand this than to try the food. Our food shows the true color of Vietnamese tradition, as well as the many hues that make up each region. Different from food in central Vietnam, where the hot and spicy taste dominates; and different from food in southern Vietnam, where people love sweet and sour; food in Hanoi, as well as food in the North, is rich in flavor but not as sour, sweet, and spicy as other regions.
Read more: Regional Differences in Vietnamese Cuisine
Travel through the country with food and you won’t regret it, especially in Vietnam. Try new kinds of flavors, new kinds of tastes, new kinds of textures, and your trip will become colorful. When you reach Hanoi, why don’t you try out these ten dishes I recommend below and maybe comment to let me know what you think?
I expect that you’ve heard about this very famous rice noodle soup of Vietnam because its deliciousness has spread internationally. But in order to truly appreciate the broth and herbs, you need to try this bowl of soup and noodles in Vietnam, but start with Hanoi. No one knows exactly when pho was invented, they just know that this dish appeared a long time ago and is an indispensable dish of the capital citizen. Nowadays, pho has spread widely throughout the country and even abroad. Nevertheless, pho in Hanoi still retains those special characteristics that only the so-called “origin of the dish” possesses. Maybe you have tried pho a few times before visiting Vietnam, but you will discover why pho in the capital beats pho anywhere else.
Pho has three components: broth, rice noodles, and meat (usually beef or chicken). It is also accompanied by a plate of herbs.
Address: 24 Trung Yen street, Ward Dinh Liet, District Hoan Kiem.
Price: 40,000 – 50,000 VND
Address: 25 Hang Giay street, District Hoan Kiem.
Price: 30,000 – 60,000 VND
Pho Ly Quoc Su
Address: 10 Ly Quoc Su street, Ward Hang Trong, District Hoan Kiem.
Price: 50,000 – 80,000 VND
Pho Bat Dan
Address: 49 Bat Dan street, District Hoan Kiem.
Price: 30,000 – 60,000 VND
Pho Cuon of Ngu Xa – Pho Rolls
Pho cuon – pho rolls – is also a long-standing dish in Hanoi. I am sure you have noticed that the word “pho” appears in both dishes. And yes, they do have similar meanings! Pho cuonand pho have a common ingredient: banh pho, the rice cake that is cut into thin strips to make noodles. However, banh pho in pho rolls does not look like a noodle. Actually, banh pho is first cut into a circular or rectangular shape.
When people make regular pho, they slice banh pho into small strings, or noodles. To make pho rolls, they use the original shape of banh pho, then add in ingredients such as beef, cilantro, lettuce, mung bean sprouts, and endives. After the ingredients are added, the banh pho is rolled up and wrapped into stuffed cylindrical pieces. You will eat pho cuon with a dipping sauce made of fish sauce, garlic, chilies, and lime.
Address: there are many restaurants serving pho rolls in Ngu Xa Street, District Ba Dinh.
Price: 30,000 – 60,000 VND
Banh Duc – Steamed Rice Cake with Dipping Sauce
Banh duc is a series of steamed cake made of rice flour and molded into different shapes, usually a circle, rectangle, or triangle. You will eat this delicious type of rice cake with dipping sauces and it often has peanuts inside. Banh duc has two common varieties in Hanoi: savory banh duc and plain banh duc with peanut.
The savory banh duc is placed in a bowl and meat sauce is poured directly on top. The plain cake with peanut is cut into small pieces and it will be dipped into an accompanying sauce. Each dish brings different tastes; while the plain banh duc with peanut has a simple taste of rich rice flour, a bit brittle and slightly sweet of peanut, the savory one brings much more sophisticated flavors and appearance.
Banh Duc Ngoc Han
Address: at the beginning of Le Ngoc Han street
Price: 15,000 VND
Banh Duc Thuy Khue
Address: 1 Alley 29, Thuy Khue Street, District Tay Ho
Price: 10,000 VND
Banh Duc Minh Khai
Address: 296 Minh Khai Street, Ward Mai Dong, District Hai Ba Trung
Price: 15,000 – 30,000 VND
Bun Cha – Rice Vermicelli with Grilled Fatty Pork
Bun cha is a very typical dish of the capital. This kind of noodle dish is very easy to eat, it can be eaten in any season, and most importantly, it’s cheap but excellent. You will never believe that such a simple dish made of rice vermicelli, a bowl of grilled pork, and a bowl of sour-sweet sauce with papaya has fascinated many people, including Barack Obama when he visited Vietnam in 2016.
Bun cha has also spread all over the country. You can find a restaurant serving bun cha in many big cities of Vietnam, but bun cha in Hanoi has a special taste distinct from other places.
Bun Cha Tuyet
Address: 34 Hang Than Street, District Ba Dinh
Price: 35,000 VND
Bun Cha Cua Dong
Address: 41 Cua Dong Street, District Hoan Kiem
Price: 50,000 VND
Bun Cha Huong Lien (where Obama had bun cha)
Address: 24 Le Van Huu Street, District Hai Ba Trung
Price: 30,000 – 50,000 VND
Com (Green Rice) in Vong Village
According to the legend, in autumn thousands of years ago, when the harvest arrived, it started to rain heavily and eventually the downpour drowned all the paddy fields. People in Vong Village decided to harvest the immature heads of the grain to bring home and roast in order to fight against hunger. Incredibly, they discovered this roasted grain had a very special and wonderful taste. Since then, Vong villagers usually make this dish to eat in autumn. Many famous writers of Vietnam have written about com in Vong Village. Thach Lam – a famous revolutionary Vietnamese writer – said: “Com is a distinct presence of the country, a gift of the immensely green paddy fields; it carries all of the tastes of the simplicity and purity of Vietnamese countryside.” Do you wonder why this rice is green? The green color is from its lotus leaf packaging.
Address: Vong village, Ward Dich Vong Hau, District Cau Giay
Price: 200,000 – 300,000 VND per kilogram
Bun Thang (Noodle with Chicken Soup)
Bun thang is a special dish both in its name and in how it’s made. In the past, the Hanoian women cleverly used the remaining food from Tet (Vietnamese New Year) and combined the leftovers to make a new dish which was tasty and economical. The dish’s name is derived from this phrase: “Thang thuoc bo,” which means a package of rejuvenation. Bun thangconsists of many nutritious ingredients mixed together, just like the method used in Eastern medicine to mix herbs. This dish is made primarily of noodles and chicken soup; in addition, people can eat it with duck eggs, shrimp, squid, onions, garlic, or shiitake mushrooms. This combination makes bun thang not only a delicious food but also a very nutritious one.
Bun Thang Ba Duc
Address: 48 Cau Go street, District Dong Da
Price: 35,000 – 45,000 VND
Bun Thang Ngoc Tuyen
Address: 56-58 Dao Tan Street, District Ba Dinh
Price: 30,000 – 40,000 VND
Bun Thang Thuan Ly
Address: 33 Hang Hom, District Hoan Kiem
Price: 30,000 – 40,000 VND
Cha Ca La Vong (La Vong’s Grilled Fish)
Cha ca – fish cake has made an appearance all over Vietnam with different tastes, but cha ca La Vong has a very distinct flavor in comparison. The Doan family, who has pioneered the flavor of this dish, has a secret recipe and this secret has only been inherited by the oldest son of the Doan. In general, they slice fish into small pieces, then marinate and fry them before grilling. This food is so famous that the street where the Doan live and sell cha ca is now known as “Cha Ca Street.” In their restaurant, the Doan family have placed a statue of La Vong (a chef in the 11th century BC) which is why people call the dish “cha ca La Vong.”
Address: 14 Cha Ca Street, District Hoan Kiem
Price: 40,000 – 100,000 VND
Grilled Pig’s Tripe on Gam Cau Street
There are a few restaurants located on Gam Cau street which is hard to believe since the street name literally translates to “under the bridge.” And Gam Cau street, as its name suggests, is really under some bridges in Hanoi. Settling down at the restaurant, trying grilled pig’s tripe, and watching the train pass by on the bridge will be a memorable and peaceful moment of your trip. These restaurants have several grilled dishes: tripe, stomach, rectum, beef, and more. I guarantee the food safety of these restaurants because of their reputation, so you don’t have to worry. If there are many Vietnamese there, eat there!
Address: Gam Cau street, District Hoan Kiem.
Price: 70,000 – 100,000 VND
Xoi xeo (Sticky Rice with Mung Bean Topping)
Xoi xeo is a typical breakfast food of Hanoians. It’s made of steamed glutinous rice and other delicious ingredients. During the steaming process, the rice is mixed with chicken fat. This steamed rice is then paired with mung bean, which is steamed and ground, and topped with crispy fried shallot. This fresh yellow xoi xeo is packaged in lotus leaf. The smells of chicken fat, crispy fried shallot, and lotus leaf combine to make a nondescript yet delectable scent of xoi xeo.
Address: 45 Ly Thuong Kiet, District Hoan Kiem
Price: 15,000 – 20,000 VND
Xoi 622-Duy Tan
Address: C12 alley 76, Duy Tan Street, District Cau Giay
Price: 20,000 VND
Come to Hanoi, try its traditional food with the peaceful beauty of an old city, and your trip will be more poetic and colorful.