If eating great street food in Hanoi isn’t one of the top reasons why you’re thinking about visiting Vietnam’s capital, you’re in for some mouthwatering surprises once you touch down in Vietnam.
A casual stroll down any of Hanoi’s bustling streets and alleyways will offer a number of titillating street food options, but the way to enjoy an authentic Vietnamese meal like a Hanoi city slicker is to know the best places to go.
To give you a definitive list of must-try dishes and where to get them is our very own Travel Specialist and self-professed foodie, Truong Thu Lan.
Bun – Obama’s favorite street food in Hanoi
Bun is a noodle dish served with meat, fish or even crab. There are more than ten kinds of bun: bun cha, bun rieu cua, bun bo nam bo, bun moc, bun thang, and the list goes on…Bun cha is my favorite lunch dish, and it’s popular among both locals and foreigners. You might even remember US President Obama and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain sitting down to a bun cha lunch while visiting Hanoi recently!
For the best bun cha in town, go to 34 Hang Thanh Street. Their pork patties and slices of pork belly are grilled over hot coals and served with fish sauce, tangy vinegar, sugar and lime, which, when combined, creates a kind of barbecue soup that is heaven to eat with rice vermicelli and fresh herbs.
Mien Luon Xoa – good street food for a lunch in Hanoi
Mien luon xao makes for a great, quick lunch or dinner. The fried eel with noodles (with or without soup) is best eaten at a street-side vendor. My favorite is at 87 Hàng Điếu, Hoàn Kiếm. They have great, quick service, as well as a tasty local ice tea to balance out the spiciness of the chili.
Bun ca – sweet and sour street food
Bun ca, a noodle soup with deep-fried pork and fish rolls, has a tomato base paired with a kind of garlic shoot. The bold, garlic flavor of the soup really sets it apart from other soup dishes you’ll encounter in the city. Depending on the restaurant, you may also find a piece of pineapple in the soup!
I’m not the biggest fan of fruit in my soup, but for bun ca I’m willing to make an exception. The sweet of the fruit and the sour of the soup perfectly pair with the star of the show—the crispy fish. You can find bun ca on many Hanoi alleys, however I think 105 Quan Thanh is the best.
Com binh dan – the working class street dish
Com binh dan, commonly known as “working class rice,” is also sometimes called cơm bụi, or “dust rice.” These terms refer to the unpretentious and inexpensive eateries that serve middle-class Vietnamese. The dishes served in any given place can vary wildly.
These are essentially the roadside diners of Vietnam. In fact, they are called “dust rice” for their ubiquity on busy roads with seats spilling over right onto the pavement. You can easily find com binh dan down any street in Hanoi.
Pho – the legendary street food in Hanoi
Pho is Vietnam’s most famous dish. A rice noodle soup served with fresh herbs, it’s become popular all over the world, but my favorite pho restaurants in Hanoi are located at 49 Bat Dan Street for beef and 7 Nam Ngu for chicken. Because pho is traditionally served at breakfast, you’ll find pho vendors all over town from before dawn to mid-morning.
The ingredients can vary, but we locals prefer two variations: pho ga (with chicken) and pho bo (with beef). Every bowl is customizable to your tastes with a side of bean sprouts, chilies, hoisin sauce and fresh Vietnamese herbs.
Xoi – the street food to get quickly stuffed
Xoi is a kind of sticky rice for people who want to get stuffed, fast. Ladies with giant baskets of warm sticky rice haunt many Hanoi alleys. Locals love it as a daily breakfast (like pho). The rice is topped with lotus root, roasted garlic and whatever meat or fish happens to be on hand.
A Hanoi ‘institution’ is Xoi Yen, located at 35N Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem.
Banh cuon – the famous Hanoi street food dish
Banh cuon is a famous Hanoi dish. These rice-flour rolls wrapped around minced mushrooms and pork are a warm, wonderful way to start the day. Skillful chefs always put on a big show to display how this scrumptious dish is prepared.
I love going to the beautiful Hanoi Old Quarter for some top-notch bahn cuon at 14 Hang Ga Street, which has been serving this dish for generations.
Street food in Hanoi on a map
So, ready to pound the pavement of Hanoi in search of scrumptious street food? Let our insiders show you where to go on our 5-day Hanoi Culture and Cuisine tour, which features a traditional Vietnamese opera or chamber music performance, a tai chi class in the botanical gardens, and a sumptuous dinner with the descendent of a famous Vietnamese cook of the 1930s!
Or, if you’d like to ask Thu Lan a question on Vietnamese cuisine, just contact her directly. Happy eating!