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Best Vietnamese Food in Hanoi: Top Eats in Vietnam’s Culinary Capital

  • 8 months ago
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Hanoi is both the political capital and culinary capital of Vietnam. Iconic Vietnamese dishes like Pho and Bun Cha both originated in Northern Vietnam. And while you can now find them all over the country (and the world), many people still believe that the best version of both dishes is still found in Hanoi.

We spent almost 2 months roaming the streets of Hanoi, asking locals for their favorite spots to eat and drink in the city. And we ate at all of them so we could bring you this list of all of our favorite Vietnamese foods to eat and where to eat them in Hanoi – enjoy!

1. Cha Ca

Many people consider Cha Ca (Vietnamese: Chả Cá) to be the one dish everyone must try in Hanoi.

The dish consists of grilled fish with turmeric and dill and the best Cha Ca is traditionally made from Hemibagrus (a species of catfish). These days, however, due to the rareness of Hemibagrus, you’ll likely wind up eating Snakehead fish or Mudfish.

To make Cha Ca the fish is deboned, cut into pieces, and seasoned with turmeric and other spices. It is then wrapped in banana leaves and grilled over a charcoal fire. When the fish is brought out to you it is cooked a second time at your table in a skillet full of green onions and dill.

You’ll also be brought plates of vermicelli rice noodles, chili peppers, cilantro, peanuts, and a bowl of fish sauce. Once the Cha Ca is ready you’ll fill your bowl with the grilled fish, green onions, noodles, and top it with everything else. The wide array of flavors compliment each other perfectly! If there is a single dish that is considered the food of Hanoi it is Cha Ca and you should absolutely try it while you’re in the capital of Vietnam.

The original Cha Ca restaurant is Chả Cá Lã Vọng, but most people agree that the restaurant has become too popular for its own good. The result is higher prices, poor quality, and long wait times. Best to skip this Hanoi institution and get your Cha Ca fix elsewhere.

Where to Eat Cha Ca in Hanoi

Chả Cá Thăng Long (Address: 19 – 21 – 31 Đường Thành)

Chả Cá Thăng Long is a Hanoi favorite and conveniently located on the western edge of the Old Quarter. As is typical with many Cha Ca restaurants, the menu just has 1 thing on it – Cha Ca – for $6 per person (~150k VND). The staff is super friendly and will cook the fish at your table and show you how to assemble it.

Chả cá Anh Vũ (Address: 120 K1 Giảng Võ)

If you don’t mind venturing out of the Old Quarter, you should try Chả Cá Anh Vũ. You’ll find a more local crowd here and you’ll get a generous helping of delicious Cha Ca for just 130k VND (~$5.60).

2. Pho Bo

Pho (Vietnamese: Phở ) is a dish that you’ll consume frequently during your trip to Vietnam. Pho Bo (Vietnamese: Phở Bò) is simply beef noodle soup and is the classic preparation of this ubiquitous dish. You can also get Pho Ga (Vietnamese: Phở Gà) which is made with chicken instead of beef.

Pho Bo starts with steaming beef broth that has been simmering on the stove since early in the morning. The broth is poured over a bowl full of rice noodles, onions, and scallions. It’s then topped with various cuts of beef and a pinch of cilantro. (Don’t like cilantro? Learn how to say “No Cilantro” in Vietnamese.)

Your Pho comes served with a plate of fresh bean sprouts, basil, mint, jalapeno slices, and a lime wedge so you can season your bowl to your own personal taste. You’ll also find pickled garlic, fish sauce, black pepper, and Hoisin sauce on the table at most Pho restaurants if you want to experiment with flavors.

You may be asked to choose what cuts of meat you would like in your Pho. If you’re a newbie you might want to stick with well-done brisket (chín) or rare round steak (tái) that is quickly cooked by the boiling broth. If you want to be more adventurous, try fatty brisket (gầu), tendon (gân) and tripe (sách).

Where to eat Pho Bo in Hanoi

Phở Gia Truyền Bát Đàn (Address: 49 Bát Đàn)

We first came across Phở Gia Truyền as we were walking back from an afternoon of drinking Bia Hoi and saw the massive queue of people lined up at this nondescript Pho shop. We later realized it was one of the best Pho restaurants in town! We returned a few days later and were not disappointed – it was definitely our favorite Pho restaurant in Hanoi.

Note: Phở Gia Truyền is only open from 6am-10am and 6pm-8:30pm daily so make sure you plan accordingly.

Phở 10 Lý Quốc Sư (Address: 10 Lý Quốc Sư)

Phở 10 Lý Quốc Sư may not be the best at coming up with an original name (they are located at 10 Lý Quốc Sư), but they are pretty damn good at making Pho. This is another Hanoi hot spot that’s easy to find due to the long line of customers you’ll find waiting out front.

Phở Thìn (Address: 13 Lò Đúc)

Phở Thìn sits several blocks south of the old city and for that reason, you’re unlikely to encounter many other foreigners here. It’s hard to find so just keep an eye out for the giant boiling pot of broth sitting in the window. The beef at Phở Thìn is stir-fried in garlic before being added to the broth giving their Pho a unique (and delicious) smoky flavor.

3. Bun Cha

While Pho is the most widely recognized dish internationally, Bun Cha (Vietnamese: Bún Chả) is maybe the most iconic dish in Vietnam, especially in the North.

Bun Cha is made of grilled fatty pork and pork meatballs served in a bowl of nước chấm – fish sauce mixed with garlic, chili, sugar, and lime juice. You’ll also typically find a few pickled vegetables floating in the bowl as well.

Alongside your bowl of pork and nước chấm you’ll be served a side of vermicelli noodles, a small bowl of sliced chili peppers, and a heaping plate of fresh herbs and lettuce leaves.

There are different ways of eating bun cha depending on whether you’re in Northern or Southern Vietnam. But since you’re in the North just throw everything in your bowl of nước chấm and dig in!

Where to eat Bun Cha in Hanoi

Bún Chả Hương Liên (Address: 24 Lê Văn Hưu)

Bún Chả Hương Liên is a long-standing institution in the Hanoi food scene but it achieved international fame when Barack Obama dined with Anthony Bourdain here in 2016 for an episode of “No Reservations”.

Now the table has been encased in fiberglass and the restaurant serves up the “Obama Combo” – a bowl of Bun Cha, a fried seafood roll (nem hải sản), and a bottle of Hanoi beer – all for the bargain price of 85k VND (~$3.60).

Bún Chả Hương Liên is constantly busy, but with 4 floors of tables, you’ll rarely waitfor more than a few minutes for a seat.

Bún Chả Ta (Address: 21 Nguyễn Hữu Huân)

For a more upscale Bun Cha experience, head to Bún Chả Ta on the eastern edge of the Old Quarter. You’ll pay a bit more for your meal, but the super friendly staff, fresh ingredients, and air conditioning make it one of the best Bun Cha dining experiences in the city!

4. Xoi Xeo (Sticky Rice with Mung Bean)

Xoi Xeo (Vietnamese: Xôi Xéo) is the equivalent of comfort food for Hanoi natives. It starts with glutinous rice cooked with mung bean and turmeric powder. The result is a dense, bright yellow sticky rice which is then topped off with a drizzle of liquid fat and a hand full of deep fried shallots. This forms the base of this delicious Vietnamese dish.

From here it is infinitely customizable with a wide range of toppings ranging from grilled chicken to pork belly to fermented hard-boiled eggs. Our favorite combination is caramelized pork (thịt kho)Chinese sausage (lạp sườn), and pork floss (ruốc). Boom! Heart attack in a bowl!

Where to eat Xôi Xéo in Hanoi

Xôi Yến (Address: 35B Nguyễn Hữu Huân)

This Xeo Xoi joint is on the coffee street in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. It’s very popular with locals and can be a bit confusing if you don’t speak or read Vietnamese. First, pick the sticky rice that you want – they all cost 15k VND. Then start adding all the topping you can handle.

Note: Xôi Yến has a second location at the corner of Trần Hưng Đạo and Phan Chu Trinh if you happen to be staying south of Hoàn Kiếm Lake.

Quán Xôi Cát Lâm (Address: 24B Đường Thành)

Quán Xôi Cát Lâm offers a bit more of a homemade feel, though it comes with a slightly higher price. They have an English menu complete with pictures so you’ll find ordering is a cinch!

5. Bun Bo Nam Bo

Bun Bo Nam Bo (Vietnamese: Bún Bò Nam Bộ) is a layered dish featuring vermicelli noodles topped with grilled marinated beef, bean sprouts, lettuce, pickled vegetables, fried onions, and chopped peanuts. The whole dish is soaking in a bowl of delicious nước chấm (fish sauce mixed with garlic, chili, sugar, and lime juice ).

The secret to great Bun Bo Nam Bo is, without a doubt, the marinating and grilling of the strips of beef that take center stage in this classic Vietnamese dish.

The name Bun Bo Nam Bo literally translates to “beef noodles from the South” which might make it a bit of an odd choice to eat while in Northern Vietnam. But here in Hanoi they have taken the dish and made it their own!

Where to eat Bún Bò Nam Bộ in Hanoi

Nha Hang Bach Phuong Bún Bò Nam Bộ (Address: 67 Hàng Điếu)

Nha Hang Bach Phuong is the undisputed Bun Bo Nam Bo champion of Hanoi. There really is no reason to eat this dish anywhere else. Make sure you pay close attention to the exact wording on the overhead sign and the address (67 Hàng Điếu) as there are a few copycat competitors next door with almost identical blue signs.

Ordering is easy as the waiter will almost certainly assume you’re there for the Bun Bo Nam Bo – just tell them how many bowls you want.

6. Phở Cuốn

Phở Cuốn is basically all the ingredients of Pho, but without the broth. It consists of strips of grilled beef and lots of herbs like cilantro, basil, and mint, all rolled up in a wide rice noodle. So instead of using a spoon and chopsticks, you just dip them in a bowl of nước chấm (sweet fish sauce) and enjoy!

Where to eat Phở Cuốn in Hanoi

There is actually a whole neighborhood in Hanoi dedicated to Pho Cuon. The Trúc Bạch neighborhood of Hanoi, to the east of West Lake, is full of restaurants serving up Pho Cuon and it’s sister dish Phở Chiên Phồng (more on that dish later).

Phở Cuốn Hưng Bền (Address: 35 Nguyễn Khắc Hiếu) is a popular option, as is Phở Cuốn Hương Mai (Address: 27 Ngũ Xã). You really can’t go wrong with any of the restaurants at this intersection. Just go to the one that is most popular with the locals!

7. Phở Chiên Phồng

Phở Chiên Phồng are squares of noodle that have been deep fried so they puff up into little donuts. They are then covered in beef, gravy, and sauteed vegetables. It’s sort of like Vietnamese nachos but with no chips or cheese!

You’ll generally find Pho Chien Phong served alongside Pho Cuon.

Where to eat Phở Chiên Phồng in Hanoi

As with Pho Cuon, you’ll find numerous restaurants in the Trúc Bạch neighborhood. You’ll almost always find them served in the same restaurant so try one of each!

8. Nộm Bò Khô (Green Papaya Salad with Dried Beef)

Nộm Bò Khô is simply green papaya salad topped with dried beef that is quite similar to the beef jerky you’ll find in the USA.

The long, thin strips of beef that form the centerpiece of this dish are first soaked in a mixture of salt, sugar, garlic, oil, ginger, and chili to give it a spicy but sweet flavor. It soaks overnight and then the beef strips are dried in an oven.

The papaya salad is soaked in fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, chili, and soy sauce then tossed with fresh herbs like mint, parsley, and coriander. Top with dried beef and a few peanuts and you’ve got 
Nom Bo Kho!

Where to eat Nộm Bò Khô in Hanoi

Nộm Long Vi Dung (Address: 23 Hồ Hoàn Kiếm)

Just a half block off the Northeastern corner of Hoan Kiem Lake you’ll find the mecca of Nom Bo Kho. Nom Long Vi Dong serves up endless plates of dried beef salad. On weekends when the area around Hoan Kiem is a pedestrian area, their tables spill out of the shop and cover most of the street.

Downtown Cafe and Restaurant (Address: 17-19 Phõ Gia Ngư)

If you want a more high-end experience tasting Nom Bo Kho, try it out at Downtown Cafe and Restaurant. You’ll pay more but the quality and serving size make it worth it. This spot also offers a large menu of delicious dishes, a great wine list, and craft beers. When we wanted to splurge in Hanoi this was our restaurant of choice.

9. Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm (Noodle and Tofu with Shrimp Sauce)

Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm consists of 3 main parts. First you have vermicelli rice noodles (“Bún”) that have been stuck together in a big flat pancake and then cut into bite-sized pieces (called “bun mieng”). Second are squares of tofu (“Đậu”) fired to a golden brown so it’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The final piece of this dish is the signature item – an extremely stinky bowl of fermented shrimp sauce (“Mắm Tôm”) to dip everything in.

While the shrimp paste doesn’t necessarily taste bad, the smell is pretty overpowering. Luckily, most restaurants will also bring you a bowl of fish sauce that you can use for dipping instead.

Where to eat Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm in Hanoi

Just at the south end of Hoan Kiem Lake you’ll find the tiny alleyway of Hang Khay Street. It seems dark and intimidating but if you venture in you’ll find several small shops serving up Bun Dau Mam Tom to hungry locals. We picked Bún Đậu Việt (Address: 27/31 Hàng Khay) and loved it!

10. Barbecue Chicken

On “Chicken Street” you’ll have your pick of chicken breast, chicken wings, and various other less appetizing chicken parts including liver, and feet. You should also try the barbecue sweet potatoes and the “honey bread” (french baguettes brushed with honey and then toasted on the grill).

It all comes with chili sauce and cucumber slices pickled in sweet vinegar that are light and refreshing.

Where to eat Barbecue Chicken in Hanoi

There is an entire street devoted to this dish – Lý Văn Phức (known as “Chicken Street”). All of the various street stalls and restaurants essentially offer the same thing, but we recommend Viet Ha Ga Nuong (Address: 18 Lý Văn Phức ) and Thinh Vuong Ga Nuong (Address: 9 Lý Văn Phức). Pull up a tiny plastic stool and order a heap of chicken. Don’t forget the honey bread!

Note: Many of the street stands and restaurants don’t have English menus or prices clearly marked. You may want to confirm prices before ordering and you can expect to pay the following per item:

  • Whole Chicken Leg: 60k VND
  • Chicken Wing: 20k VND
  • Chicken Foot: 10k VND
  • Chicken Breast: 40k VND 
  • Chicken Gizzards: 10k VND
  • Barbeque Pork Ribs: 60k VND
  • Potato Wedges: 10k VND
  • Honey Bread: 10k VND

11. Bánh Mì

Ah the Bánh Mì… everyone’s favorite snack! The term Banh Mi literally just means “bread” in Vietnamese. So any type of sandwich prepared in the country is referred to by the same name.

You will find, however, that most Banh Mi’s share a few common ingredients. These include a toasted French baguette, pate, mayonnaise, pickled vegetables, and coriander (cilantro). For your main ingredient you’ll generally have the choice of fried egg, barbeque pork, pork floss, and a variety of mystery meats lined up in their cart.

If you’re feeling adventurous just tell them you want a Banh Mi and you’ll get a mix of everything they have on hand.

If you want to order it without coriander make sure you memorize the phrase “không có rau mùi“!

Where to eat a Bánh Mì in Hanoi

Banh Mi 25 (Address: 25 Hàng Cá)

Banh Mi 25 is incredibly popular with foreigners and for good reason. Here you’ll find high quality ingredients, an English speaking staff, and a wide variety of Banh Mi options.

At Banh Mi 25 you can also customize your sandwich which is difficult to do at other Banh Mi stands due to the language barrier. No coriander? No Problem. Want to add cheese or avocado? The world is your oyster!

Due to the popularity of Banh Mi 25, patrons often spill out onto the street on the ubiquitous tiny plastic stools of Vietnam. It’s all part of the fun so order a Banh Mi, a fresh squeezed juice, and pull up a stool!

12. Egg Coffee

Egg coffee (called Cà Phê Trứng in Vietnamese) was first invented by Nguyen Giang in 1946. There was a shortage of milk in Hanoi due to the French War. Mr. Giang got creative and began adding whisked eggs to his coffee instead.

The original version was a bit, well, eggy. But over time the recipe was modified with the addition of sugar, condensed milk, and even Laughing Cow cheese (no one knows for sure, it’s a secret recipe). These days Egg Coffee is a staple of Hanoi coffee culture and a must-try while in Hanoi!

What does it taste like? Well, it’s incredibly thick and rich and creamy. Closer to a dessert than a beverage. Liquid tiramisu is the most accurate description we’ve heard.

Nguyen Giang still has a cafe where you can try his famous recipe, or you can grab a cup of Egg Coffee at dozens of coffee shops all over Hanoi. And if you’re heading to Southern Vietnam there is also a burgeoning egg coffee scene in Saigon!

Where to drink Egg Coffee in Hanoi

Giang Cafe (Address: 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân)

Owned by the inventor himself, Mr. Nguyen Giang. Giang Cafe is hidden down an alleyway on Nguyễn Hữu Huân street. And if you’re only going to drink one cup of Egg Coffee in Hanoi, you should do it here. It comes out resting in a bowl of hot water to keep the decadent mixture warm while you sip.

If you’re not a coffee fan then opt for the egg beer! We tried it but neither of us could make it through the whole glass. It’s incredibly filling and a very strange flavor combination.

Cafe Đinh (Address: 13 Đinh Tiên Hoàng)

Cafe Dinh is not the original Egg Coffee shop but many people think it’s the best. It’s hidden between the Old Quarter and Hoa Kim Lake, down an alleyway, and up a flight of stairs. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat on the balcony you can enjoy your cup of Egg Coffee while watching the madness of the street below.

13. Bánh Rán (Vietnamese Donuts)

Bánh Rán are scrumptious little balls of fried glutinous rice flour. They are traditionally filled with mung bean paste and covered with sesame seeds. You’ll find a wide variety of these little donuts for sale by women wandering around the Old Quarter of Hanoi. Banh Ran roughly translates to “fried pastry” so it encompasses a lot of different versions of this treat including some savory options.

Where to eat Bánh Rán in Hanoi

If you walk around Hanoi’s Old Quarter or Hoa Kim Lake you’ll certainly encounter numerous ladies selling Banh Ran. They are easy to spot. In fact you really don’t need to worry about spotting them at all – they will undoubtedly approach you first and insist that you try (and then buy) their donuts.

We were always quoted the price of 50k VND for 10 donuts. The real price is closer to 2k-4k VND per donut if you go directly to the source. But these Banh Ran ladies are quite friendly and it’s hard to say no to a bag of these delicious treats. So don’t feel bad about paying a little extra for the convenience.

If you want some real legit Banh Ran, head to Quán Gốc Đa (Address: 52 Lý Quốc Sư). It’s a little streetside stall near the St. Joseph’s Cathedral that specializes in deep fried snacks.

14. Bia Hoi

Bia Hoi is beer that is brewed fresh each day and allowed to ferment for only a short period of time. This results in a light, crisp beer than typically is just around 3% alcohol. It is then delivered daily to local Bia Hoi joints in metal kegs that are ready to be tapped and served.

You’ll find Bia Hoi down some of Hanoi’s alleyways and backstreets for as little as 6,000 VND for a glass. Expect to pay closer to 11,000 VND at more popular Bia Hoi joints around town.

Drinking Bia Hoi on a tiny plastic stool is a right-of-passage for anyone visiting Vietnam. And while the craft beer scene has been taking hold in Vietnam, most locals still prefer a cheap glass of cold Bia Hoi.

A lot of people will tell you to head straight to Beer Corner (sometimes also called Bia Hoi Junction) in the Old Quarter to get your Bia Hoi fix – makes sense, right? But sadly, none of the bars on Beer Corner actually serve Bia Hoi any longer due to narrow profit margins. Instead, they all serve plain old cans or bottles of Bia Ha Noi, Heineken, and Tiger. Regardless, you should spend an evening hanging out on Beer Corner, even if you can’t get Bia Hoi as it’s always a good time!

Where to drink Bia Hoi in Hanoi

You’ll find Bia Hoi joints all over Hanoi, it’s hard to miss their big banners advertising draft beer. Our favorite drinking spot was on the West side of the Old Quarter at the intersection of Bát Đàn Street and Đường Thành Street. You can pick from either of the Bia Hoi spots located at this intersection: Bia Hơi Hà  Nội(Address: 50 Bát Đàn) or Bia Hơi Ngọc Linh (Address: 71 Bát Đàn).

This area is also near Chả Cá Thăng Long and Pho Gia Truyen so you can grab dinner after a lazy afternoon of sipping on Bia Hoi and people watching.

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