Hanoi food guide, eating like a local.

Hanoi Food Guide: 11 Must-Try Street Food Picked By Locals

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Tripadvisor recently recognized Hanoi, the charming capital of Vietnam as one of the top three Best Food Destinations in the world in 2023 , trailing only behind Rome (Italy) and Crete (Greece).

I’ve got your back with a full list of must-try Hanoi dishes, personally chosen by the locals. Trust me, it’ll be your go-to guide if Hanoi and Vietnam are on your travel radar.

Hanoi food guide from a local.

Why you will love Hanoi Cuisine !!

In Vietnam, there exists a well-known folk saying called “Ăn Bắc, mặc Nam” which can be translated as “Eating like Northern people, dressing like Southern people“.

It conveys the idea that the food in Northern Vietnam is delicious, while the people in the Southern region are known for their fashion sense.

The origin of this folk saying can be traced back to the historical and cultural differences between the North and South of Vietnam.

Tháp Rùa (Tortoise Tower), a historic monument in Hanoi, Vietnam, standing tall beside Hoan Kiem Lake. The tower resembles a tortoise, with a pagoda-style structure on its back, surrounded by lush greenery and a tranquil lake.

The North, being the oldest region with a rich history, is home to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. Hanoi is often regarded as the center of a millennium of civilization.

As a result, the cuisine of Northern Vietnam tends to be refined and intricate, while the cuisine in the South is more down-to-earth and rustic.

A sumptuous Tet Holiday feast in Hanoi, Vietnam, featuring a wide array of traditional delicacies.
A sumptuous Tet Holiday feast in Hanoi

Hanoi cuisine is characterized by its savory and mild flavors. Local chefs in Hanoi strive to delicately balance various tastes in their dishes without overpowering any one flavor.

As a result, Hanoi dishes are often not excessively salty, sweet, sour, spicy, or bitter. This balance makes Hanoi cuisine suitable for a wide range of palates, particularly welcoming to foreign tourists.

Despite being born and raised in the central region of Vietnam (Nha Trang), and having spent a decade working and studying in Saigon, Hanoi cuisine still holds a special place in my heart.

Hanoi is a food lover’s paradise, offering an abundance of delicious choices from cozy cafes to vibrant street food stalls. It’s no wonder both locals and tourists find themselves spoiled for choice! Even Vietnamese people sometimes struggle to decide what to eat in Hanoi.

But don’t worry, my comprehensive Hanoi food guide is here to give you an overview of the best food in the city and provide tips on how to enjoy the food like a local.

Note:

Some street food stalls may charge you a bit more than locals if you are not Vietnamese. It’s not much, just around 0.5 USD. I’ve heard some complaints, and I know it’s not a significant amount, but it can affect your overall experience.

Restaurants and food stalls catering to tourists usually don’t have this issue, but, of course, they are generally pricier than places for locals. So, the decision is yours to make.

1. PHỞ

This beloved Vietnamese national dish undoubtedly holds the top spot on my list. Hanoi is home of Phở in Vietnam, and a visit there wouldn’t be complete without indulging in at least one steaming bowl of this iconic soup.

Traditionally, Phở is a bowl of noodle soup with rice noodles, a flavorful broth, and a choice of beef or chicken.

Hanoi-style Phở is simpler compared to Saigon-style Phở, which is more popular in Western countries. It features a more subtle flavor and is typically not served with herbs or mung bean sprouts.

Where to eat:

Phở Bò (Beef Pho):

A delicious bowl of Pho Bo, Vietnamese beef noodle soup with tender beef, rice noodles, and flavorful broth, garnished with thinly sliced onion and chopped scallions.

Phở Gà (Chicken Pho):

a bowl of Pho Ga (Chicken Pho)

But here in Hanoi, Phở goes beyond its humble origins with a delightful selection of Pho variations that are absolutely worth trying:

1. Phở Bò Sốt Vang: This rendition combines Pho rice noodles with a Vietnamese-style red wine beef stew, resulting in a tantalizing blend of flavors.

My easy recipe for Phở Bò Sốt Vang (Red Wine Beef Stew Pho) at home (much easier than the traditional phở)

A bowl of Pho Bo Sot Vang, Vietnamese beef stew infused with red wine and aromatic spices.

Where to eat:

2. Phở Trộn: A delightful twist on Pho, this version presents a Pho noodle salad that harmonizes fresh herbs, vegetables, protein like beef or chicken and a tangy dressing.

Where to eat:

  • Phở Hạnh (65A Lãn Ông Street, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hanoi)
  • Phở Gà Nguyệt (5b Phủ Doãn Street, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hanoi)

3. Phở Chiên Phồng: Inflated fried Pho noodles are paired with stir-fried beef. It resembles the appearance of Italian Gnocco fritto while boasting Vietnamese flavors.

A delectable plate of Pho Chien Phong, a Vietnamese dish with a unique twist. The photo captures a delightful arrangement of crispy fried noodles topped with tender slices of beef, vibrant vegetables, and aromatic herbs.

Where to eat:

4. Phở Cuốn: Similar to Gỏi Cuốn (Vietnamese Summer Rolls), this variation replaces the traditional rice paper wrap with delicate Pho noodle sheets, offering a fresh and delightful alternative.

Where to eat:

5. Phở Xào Giòn / Phở Áp Chảo: this dish feature a platter of crunchy fried Pho noodles topped with delicious stir-fried beef and veggies. Affectionately nicknamed “Phở Pizza” for its distinctive appearance.

My recipe for Phở Xào Giòn / Phở Áp Chảo (less than 30 minutes)

a plate of Pho Xao Gion, a Vietnamese dish featuring crispy fried Pho noodles topped with stir-fried beef and a medley of fresh herbs and vegetables

Where to eat:

2. BÚN CHẢ HÀ NỘI

Bún Chả (Hanoi rice noodles with grilled pork) earned its spot in culinary history after a memorable encounter between President Barack Obama and the legendary Chef Anthony Bourdain.

This delightful dish features grilled pork (meatballs and slices) served with vermicelli rice noodles and a tasty sweet and sour fish sauce sauce.

A tempting photo of Bun Cha, featuring grilled pork patties, pork belly, vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and dipping sauce.

Down in the South, Bún Chả has a sister named “Bún Thịt Nướng,” sharing some similarities but flaunting its own unique flavors and charm.

Where to eat:

  • Tuyết Bún Chả 34 (34 Hàng Than Street, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hanoi)
  • Bún chả Hàng Quạt (74 Hàng Quạt Street, Hàng Gai, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi)
  • Bún chả Hàng Bồ (31 Hàng Bồ Street, Hàng Đào, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi)
  • Bún chả Bình Sự (69 Bạch Đằng Street, Chương Dương Độ, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi)
  • Bún chả nem (1 Nguyễn Văn Tố Street, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi). It is run by a deaf-mute couple.
  • Bún chả Hương Liên or Bún chả Obama (24 Lê Văn Hưu street, Phan Chu Trinh, Hai Bà Trưng, Hanoi). They are pretty well-known but more among tourists than locals.

3. CHẢ CÁ LÃ VỌNG

Chả Cá Lã Vọng (Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill) is another signature Hanoi dish. It includes freshwater fish fillets marinated in shrimp paste, galangal and turmeric, then fried with a lot of green onions and dill.

The fish is served with vermicelli noodles, a variety of herbs, roasted peanuts, and funky shrimp paste sauce (mắm tôm) or dipping fish sauce for those who hesitate to try the shrimp paste.

A mouthwatering photo of Cha Ca La Vong, featuring grilled fish fillets seasoned with turmeric and spices, garnished with dill, peanuts, and crispy shallots. Served with vermicelli noodles, herbs, and dipping sauce.

Where to eat:

4. NEM RÁN HÀ NỘI

Nem Hà Nội (Hanoi Fried Spring Rolls) is a much-loved street food in Hanoi. These rolls are crispy, bursting with flavor, and filled with ground pork, shrimp, Vietnamese aromatic herbs, and spices.

My recipe for authentic Nem Rán (Hanoi Spring Rolls)

A platter of Hanoi spring rolls, showcasing their crispy golden exterior and flavorful filling, served with a side of dipping sauce

They are usually served with fresh lettuce and dipping fish sauce. Another well-known type of spring rolls in Hanoi is Nem Cua Bể (Square Crab Spring Rolls), which originally comes from the coastal city of Hải Phòng in Northern Vietnam.

Down south, you’ll find their sister, “Chả Giò” with some local twists.

Where to eat:

  • Huyền nem rán (21 Hàng Bè street, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hanoi)
  • Any places that sell Bún Chả
  • Nem Vuông (37 Đào Duy Từ Street, Hàng Buồm, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hanoi) for Nem Cua Bể (Square Crab Spring Rolls)

5. BÁNH CUỐN

In my book, Bánh Cuốn (Vietnamese Steamed Rice Rolls) is like the Vietnamese version of Dimsum, with a special nod to the resemblance to Cantonese Cheong Fun. This delightful dish is an excellent pick for breakfast, boasting delicate sheets of steamed fermented rice batter.

These sheets are generously filled with seasoned ground pork, wood ear mushrooms, and sometimes even a delightful runny egg.

What’s fascinating is how the local cooks prepare bánh cuốn by spreading a thin layer of rice batter on a cloth, similar to making a crepe, and then steaming it.

The rolls are garnished with crispy fried shallots and typically served with fresh herbs, chả lụa (Vietnamese pork sausage), chả quế (Vietnamese cinnamon pork sausage), sliced cucumber, bean sprouts, herbs, and nuoc cham dipping sauce .

Where to eat:

6. BÚN RIÊU CUA

A unique and tangy crab noodle soup, Bún Riêu Cua (Vietnamese Crab Noodles) is made with a tomato-based broth, vermicelli noodles, and a variety of toppings such as fried tofu, minced paddy crabs, pork, and maybe freshwater snails.

It’s a delicious blend of sweet, sour, and savory flavors which is perfect for summer time.

A captivating image featuring a bowl of Bun Rieu Cua, a delightful Vietnamese noodle soup. The bowl is filled with thin rice vermicelli noodles swimming in a vibrant red broth made from crab paste and tomatoes. Floating in the broth are small, tender crab meat and sliced beef, along with pieces of tofu and sliced tomatoes.

Where to eat: 

Note:

The traditional Bún riêu only includes tomatoes, minced paddy crab, and fried tofu, which may not be a full meal for many people. So when ordering, you should ask for ‘thịt bò‘ (beef), ‘sườn sụn‘ (pork ribs), ‘giò tai‘ (pork sausage) to enjoy a good experience. “Google Translate” will help well in this case.

7. BÚN BÒ NAM BỘ

Bún Bò Nam Bộ (Stir-fried Beef Noodle Salad) is a delightful dish that combines stir-fried beef, fresh herbs, bean sprouts, and vermicelli noodles, all tossed in sweet and sour fish sauce . In the southern regions, a similar dish called Bún Thịt Xào features beef or pork with subtle variations.

My recipe for Bún Bò Nam Bộ / Bún Thịt Xào (Stir-fried Beef Noodle Salad)

Delicious Vietnamese Bun Bo Xao - A flavorful noodle salad dish with tender stir-fried beef, fresh herbs, and rice noodles, topped with peanuts and served with Vietnamese dipping sauce.
My Bún Bò Nam Bộ / Bún Bò Xào in Germany

Bún Bò Nam Bộ has become incredibly popular in Germany for its light and healthy flavors. However, I am confident that experiencing this dish in Hanoi would elevate the culinary journey to a whole new level.

Where to eat:

8. XÔI XÉO

Xôi Xéo, known as Sticky Rice with Hand-Cut Mung Bean Paste, is a beloved breakfast dish among Hanoians (and even non-locals like myself).

This delightful dish features sticky rice cooked with turmeric and chicken fat, topped with mung bean paste and crispy fried shallots.

A tempting photo of Xoi Xeo, featuring yellow sticky rice with steamed mung bean paste, crispy fried shallots, pork floss, and cha que (Vietnamese cinnamon pork sausage).

Xôi Xéo may appear simple, but it surprises with its rich flavors. Nowadays, people love to add extra toppings such as Ruốc / Chà Bông (pork floss), Thịt Kho (caramelized pork belly), Chả Quế (cinnamon pork sausage) or Pate Gan (Vietnamese liver pâté).

Where to eat:

  • Xôi Mây (31 Lý Thường Kiệt street, Hàng Bài, Hoàn Kiếm District, Hanoi)

Try these recipes if you are a fan of sticky rice:

9. BÚN CÁ

Bún Cá (Fish noodle soup) isn’t just Hanoi’s exclusive delight. You’ll find delightful variations of Fish Noodle soup all across Vietnam – like Bún Cá Đà Nẵng, Bún Cá Nha Trang (my hometown), or Bún Cá Kiên Giang.

Hanoi fish noodle soup takes the spotlight with its crispy deep-fried freshwater fish fillets and dill fish cake. It is accompanied by a flavorful broth made from fish bones and abundant dill with the addition of fresh herbs and rice vermicelli noodles.

An enticing photograph capturing the essence of Bun Ca Ha Noi, a delectable Vietnamese dish. A bowl is filled with delicate vermicelli noodles, topped with golden and crispy fried fish fillets.

Where to eat:

10. CHÁO SƯỜN SỤN

In Hanoi, Cháo Sườn Sụn (Pork Ribs Porridge) is cooked in a pretty unique way. Instead of using whole rice grains, it is prepared using rice powder and glutinous rice powder.

This results in a smooth and velvety “flour porridge” consistency, reminiscent of baby food. However, don’t let its appearance deceive you, as it bursts with incredible flavors.

A delicious bowl of Chao Suon Sun, featuring creamy rice porridge topped with tender pork, crispy pork floss, and golden fried bread sticks (Quay).

The combination of the flavorful pork ribs broth, creamy rice porridge, tender pork, savory pork floss, and crispy Fried Bread Stick (Youtiao, Dầu Cháo Quẩy) creates a harmonious blend of textures and tastes.

I have fond memories of enjoying a bowl of Cháo Sườn Sụn on a chilly evening, as it warmed me up and provided comfort in the winter weather.

Where to eat:

11. BÚN ĐẬU MẮM TÔM

Bún đậu mắm tôm (rice noodles with fried tofu and fermented shrimp paste) tastes fantastic, but it is not for those with a timid palate. However, it has recently been featured in the New York Times as one of the new trending Vietnamese foods.

Anyway, there is always the regular dipping fish sauce for those who can’t handle the funky Mắm Tôm, so no worries here.

My recipe for the simplified version of Bún Đậu Mắm Tôm.

A plate of Bun Dau Mam Tom

Where to eat:

Flavors are a personal thing, but I’m crossing my fingers that this post makes your Hanoi trip planning a bit smoother. Don’t forget to save or pin this nifty guide so you can always track it down when you need it.

If you’re gearing up for a trip to Vietnam or simply fascinated by our cuisine and culture, just give a look into “Beyond the Pho” for additional insights. I’m a Vietnamese native, born and raised, currently calling Germany home, and I’d love to share more with you.

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