Vietnam is world-famous for its diverse, flavorful and balanced cuisine, and Hanoi food is especially interesting. Dishes such as pho and banh mi have become trendy in western countries, while Vietnamese coffee is a common flavor at hip cafes everywhere.
What many people may not realize, however, is that Vietnam is home to several distinct regional cuisines with different dishes and flavor profiles. Unsurprisingly, Hanoi food has its own legendary dishes as well, and the city is packed with places to eat.
For first-time visitors it can be daunting to figure out where to go and what to eat, so we’re here to help with an insider’s guide to the best food in Hanoi (including street food), divided into different dishes.
The majority of this good food in Hanoi is located in the Old Quarter, right in the middle of the action. Let’s go.
Pho is arguably the best-known Vietnamese dish, and it comes in two main varieties: pho bo, or beef pho; and pho ga, or chicken pho.
Hanoi is known more for pho ga, but both types are widely available in the city, especially for breakfast and lunch.
Two of the best spots for pho in the capital are Pho Gia Truyen (49 Bat Dan) and Pho Lam Nam Ngu (7 Nam Ngu). The former is justifiably famous for its pho bo (VND40-50,000), which it has been serving for over 60 years. Lines of customers often run out the door here, while sidewalk seats are placed in front of a giant, steaming pot of broth. The latter, meanwhile, specializes in pho ga, and serves a great rendition of this northern delicacy.
Pho Thin (13 Lo Duc) south of Hoan Kiem Lake is another favorite of pho traditionalists.
Bun cha may very well be Hanoi’s most famous dish. It can be found in southern Vietnam as well, but it just doesn’t taste the same. The best bun cha is served at 34 Hang Than, a small, very cheap eatery with plenty of flavor.
This dish became hugely famous earlier in the year when TV presenter Anthony Bourdain sat down for some bun cha with US President Barack Obama when the pair were in Hanoi. If you want to eat in the same room as they did, visit Bun Cha Huong Lien at 24 Le Van Huu and get the Obama Combo, which includes bun cha, a fried seafood roll and a bottle of Hanoi beer.
Another solid bun cha can be found at Nha Hang Thanh Hop (12 Dinh Liet), just a block north of Hoan Kiem Lake. Nha Hang Thanh Hop is usually filled with tourists, but plenty of locals stop by as well, and they serve excellent renditions of pho ga and other northern specialties too.
Head to 67 Hang Dieu for some of the best bun bo nam bo in town. The skinny restaurant runs deep into a building, so there is plenty of seating for diners to partake in their outstanding bowls of vermicelli noodles and beef.
Bun ca means fish noodle soup, and it is yet another popular Hanoian soup.
Try it at Bun Ca Sam Cay Si, 5 Ngo Trung Yen off Dinh Liet Street in the Old Quarter.
Com binh dan translates roughly to “commoner’s rice”, and it is the go-to lunch for many Hanoians. Come mid-day you will see stalls displaying plates of chicken, fish, pork chops, vegetables and much more in a glass case, along with a huge pot of steaming white rice. These are the signs of a com binh dan spot.
There are countless such stall throughout the city, but one excellent spot near Hoan Kiem Lake is Tiem Com Vinh Thu (14 Ly Thuong Kiet).
These eateries can get rowdy around lunchtime, so work your way in and simply point to the dishes you want served with your rice.
A truly unique Hanoi dish is cha ca, or sizzling plates of fish served with vermicelli noodles, peanuts, herbs and sauce.
Try this flavorful concoction at Cha Ca La Vong (14 Cha Ca), the city’s oldest restaurant restaurant.
There is another, larger outlet of this restaurant in the Old Quarter at 21-31 Duong Thanh.
Xoi is glutinous sticky rice, and at Xoi Yen (35b Nguyen Huu Huan) heaps of it are served with additions such as hard-boiled eggs, pork, chicken and more.
This hearty, savory dish is great for a chilly Hanoi day, though the fast-paced serving of the restaurant doesn’t allow for loitering.
One of the iconic street food dishes of the capital, this light treat is perfect for snacking as you eat your way through Hanoi. Especially in the morning, banh cuon can be found all over the Old Quarter, usually at small family-run shops or carts.
Take your pick, or visit 14 Hang Ga, where a family has been serving this specialty for generations.
There is also a good banh cuon stall on the corner of Hang Buom and Ta Hien in the Old Quarter. Grab one of the little stools and enjoy.
A dish that illustrates the French influence on Vietnamese food, bit tet, or beef steak features fried beef, fries, a runny egg and a spoonful of pate, usually served on a sizzling cow-shaped hot plate.
This comfort food is great for chilly weather or bia hoi-filled nights, especially when you mop up the tasty juices with a provided baguette.
Get your fill of this French-Vietnamese hybrid at Bit Tet Ngon (299 Giang Vo) outside of the city center or Bit Tet Ong Loi (51 Hang Buom) right in the Old Quarter.
Another old-school, classic Hanoi dish is fried eel noodles, served either with or without soup.
An excellent version is served at 87 Hang Dieu in the Old Quarter, and is perfect for one of those misty Hanoi days.
Though not as well-known as its culinary cousins such as pho and bun cha, bun dau mam tom is another classic street food dish in the capital.
The dish is served on a large tray and includes fried tofu, vermicelli noodles, pork, herbs to wrap the ingredients in and a bowl of pungent mam tom, or fish paste. The sauce is something of an acquired taste, but its unique flavor allows diners to enjoy a truly Hanoian dish.
There are several bun dau mam tom eateries down alley 27 on Hang Khay at the southern end of Hoan Kiem Lake. One of the best is Quan Bun Dau Viet.
Lau, or hot pot, is best enjoyed with a group and several beers, particularly on a cold winter night when the steamy dish will keep you warm.
Phung Hung, a street in the Old Quarter, is famous as a lau hotspot once the sun goes down, and restaurants serve well into the evening.
Take your pick and sit down to the wide variety of lau on offer, featuring a range of meat and seafood options. Highway 4 (5 Hang Tre), also in the Old Quarter, serves excellent lau as well, in air-conditioned comfort no less.
Literally translated as “yellow sauce”, sot vang is another example of French cuisine being adapted to Vietnamese tastes.
The dish, based on beef au vin or beef bourguignon, is similar to bo kho, found in southern Vietnam. It features a red wine base as well as spices such as cinnamon and star anise, as well as chunks of tender beef. This hearty soup is best enjoyed with at least one baguette, which allows you to soak up the delicious broth.
Tuck into an excellent sot vang at Qua Tang Thien Su (252 Hang Bong) in the Old Quarter. Or, try a creative combination of pho bo and sot vang at the stall at 3 Tran Phu, near the railway station.
It gets hot in Vietnam, and summers in Hanoi are particularly muggy. A great way to beat the heat is with Vietnamese ice cream, a light, cheap treat that will cool you down on a humid August day.
The capital is home to several unique varieties of ice cream that you won’t find elsewhere in Vietnam.
One is the coconut ice cream served at 29 Hang Than in Ba Dinh District. A coconut is filled with ice cream and then topped with coconut meat, peanuts, chocolate sauce and a tube of cinnamon. You can also find this delicacy near West Lake at 7 Thanh Nien.
Flan, or baked ice cream, is also popular in the city, no surprise given the French influence. This creamy delight can be found at 60 Hang Trong in the Old Quarter, along with many other locations throughout the neighborhood.
The most famous ice cream shop in Hanoi is Kem Trang Tien (35 Trang Tien), near Hoan Kiem Lake. Remarkably, it has been in the same location since 1958 and is a favorite of generations of Hanoians. While you can walk in and order your ice cream, for a true Hanoi experience it’s best to drive through and order your frozen dessert.
Vietnam is a major coffee-producing country, and a favorite pastime of Hanoians is sitting at a streetside cafe, enjoying a coffee while traffic whizzes by on the busy streets. The most famous type of coffee is the ca phe sua da, or iced milk coffee, but there are many other great varieties, and Hanoi is home to one especially unique version.
If you’re in need of a jolt of energy in between your street food feasting in Hanoi, satisfy your caffeine craving at Giang Cafe (39 Nguyen Huu Huan). This old cafe, located down a narrow walkway, specializes in cafe trung, or egg coffee. Though more expensive than your standard coffee in Vietnam, this delicious brew comes either hot or iced, and the combination of coffee and an egg works surprisingly well.
The Cong Caphe chain, with outlets throughout Hanoi, offers a retro-communist chic atmosphere popular with students and hip locals. These are great spots for a coffee, as many are well-placed near popular attractions.
Trieu Viet Vuong, or “coffee street,” will also meet your coffee needs, with countless cafes to choose from. D’Alice (89 Trieu Viet Vuong) and Cafe Thai (27 Trieu Viet Vuong) are recommended stops if you’re feeling indecisive.
Given the long French presence in Vietnam, it should come as no surprise that their influence impact bakeries in the country. While Hanoi’s banh mi aren’t as good as those found down south, there are still several eateries where you can enjoy quality baked goods.
Kinh Do Cafe (252 Hang Bong) is a Hanoi institution that has been around since 1990. Catherine Deneuve, the French actress, ate there while filming “Indochine”. Stop by for great French bread, pastries and coffee.
Arguably the best banh mi in town is served at Banh Mi Nguyen Sinh (17-19 Ly Quoc Su), where you can also get beefsteak, pate and Vietnamese-style cold cuts.
For a high-end experience, pay a visit to the elegant Sofitel Metropole (15 Ngo Quyen), one of the finest hotels in the country. This legendary institution has been serving French bread and other delicacies in the capital since 1901.
Now that your appetite is roaring, contact one of our local expert Travel Specialists for further insight into Hanoi food, or dining in other destinations within Vietnam. Happy eating!
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