You must be familiar with our slogan “Vietnam is a maze that amazes us to explore”. It is, to say, literally meant. Spreading through the three parts of Vietnam are variable but distinct geographical areas which are an amazing blend of culture, history, architecture and sceneries seeming endowed only to this small “lightning shaped land”. And lying in the fertile northern plain of its head is the ancient Hanoi with the most brilliant hideouts but also mouth watering cuisines waiting to be explored, just like the mysterious “Pandora box” waiting to be opened!
The answer to why we have such unmapped places hidden in every single corner of Hanoi lies in a city’s own distinct feature. Many lots of Hanoi houses, especially in the old quarter, now still keep the old-fashioned architecture – the tube houses. They are usually three small blocks sharing a centre yard, with each block being built up to two or three floors, making them look narrow in width but tall in height. To reach these residences, you can go through tiny lanes and mounting winding staircases, and sometimes it’s quite an adventure. But, don’t worry, the quaint aroma of street food will help you well!
As you all know, you can’t say you’ve been to Hanoi without trying “Pho”. There are, however, loads of Pho stores in Hanoi today that make you confused in choosing the best one. Personally, I really really love the one in Hàng Đồng called “Tiệm ăn Việt Hòa”, an over 30-year-old family Pho store. Situated in the intersection of Hàng Đồng and Hàng Vải, it is a quite small store with about 3 big and 2 small tables, specializes in beef only. What makes I prefer it more than any others is its broth and the beef itself. “Tiệm ăn Việt Hòa”’s broth is not too condensed (maybe because here they don’t overuse beef bones) which makes people feel oily; the beef is perfectly cooked: if “bò chín” including “nạm bò” – the greasy meat - are amazingly thin beef slices that seem to melt in your mouth, “bò tái” or “gân bò” – the part of meat with many muscles – is tender but creates a small sound of explosion as eating. Another choice for Pho bo is Thìn store in Đinh Tiên Hoàng St, facing the Sword Lake. This store is somewhat more popular than the one mentioned above. And for chicken noodle if you feel like, I highly recommend Lâm in Nam Ngư St, a small and quiet spot. Give yourself an absolutely fresh experience by ordering “tiết” for a perfect bowl of Phở gà by the way!
- “Tiệm ăn Việt Hòa”: 48 Hàng Đồng, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi
Open – close: 6.00/8.00 – 22.00
Price: 30.000VND – 60.000VND
2. Nem chua
The traditional Nem chua is the mixture of ground pork, pork skin, “thính gạo” – the roasted ground rice, seasonings like salt, pepper, sugar, garlic... It is wrapped in the banana leaf together with guava leaf or fig leaf to culture in between 3 and 5 days to be served. You can eat Nem chua directly with red paste and garlic or green mango, guava and a cup of beer will do it well!
Almost all Nem chua distributed in Hanoi comes from this nearly 30-year-old family home-made store, situated in a long quiet street of Hanoi. Come by and give it a try.
Address: 8 Trần Xuân Soạn, Hai Bà Trưng district, Hanoi
Open – close: 6.00 - 22.00
Price: 20.000 - 25.000 VND
We have another version of Nem chua called Nem chua rán, which is made of ground pork and pork skin only without being cultured at all. It is kept in the food wrap for a few days and then coated with breadcrumb and deep fried in oil until turning golden. Nem chua rán is lovely popular street food to people of all ages. You can eat it all the year round especially in the winter. A well-known destination for this cuisine is “Ngõ Tạm Thương”, a small lane on Hàng Bông. If you learn Vietnamese, you’ll find this name a bit strange: “Tạm” is contemporary, “Thương” is trade. It was one the barn keeping taxed rice of people before transporting to the palace, and the call came from this. The oldest store in this lane is that of The old lady – “Quán Bà già”. Just head to this one so that you could have the best quality Nem chua and you won’t be charged double.
Open – close: 13:30 - 22:00
The 2 kinds of Nem chua mentioned are still not all, though, as Vietnamese people find one more way to serve Nem chua- Nem chua nướng. Instead of frying, the locals grill Nem chua over charcoal and serve it with mango, lime tea. The best place to try this dish is the tiny Ấu Triệu lane, facing the St Joseph’s Cathedral. Sitting on small plastic chairs in a lane of just about 1 metre wide, enjoying the hot delicious Nem chua nướng while admiring the beauty of the church is one-of-a-kind experience.
Open – close: 13:30 - 22:00
3. Hu tieu – My van than
This Chinese dish has been one of my favourite since I was a small child. If you are so familiar with Dimsum or black noodles, here is a perfect change to make. Frankly, there isn’t much to talk about this cuisine itself; and the only reason I mention it is that Hanoi serves you Hu tieu – My van than in a very special place: a hidden store in the middle of the old quarter. Situated on Hàng Điếu, this store is housed in a small lane leading to a small yard of the very owner’s house. You can choose to sit along the tiny lane or in the yard inside. Watch out if a pet cat suddenly appears and takes you aback!
Address: 21 Hàng Điếu , Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi
Open – close: 16.00 - 22:30
4. Thit xien nuong
Another lovely food in Hanoi, Thit xien nuong is what you can’t miss. It is quite usual to find along almost all the alleys or traditional markets or street stands the picture of Vietnamese women quickly turn dozens sticks of meat over hot coals while flapping a piece of card or a hand fan to maintain the fire. Their sweat falls, their faces seem to fade behind the dense smoke, and the perfectly seasoned meat on sticks gradually turn golden, ready to be served and topped with a bit of chili sauce. A baguette will also go well with it!
Address: 31 Quang Trung street , Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi
Open – close: 11.00 - 21:00
Price: 10.000 – 30.000VND
5. Quay nong
A soft snack for you on the way! Drop by the small counter on the pavement of Hàng Bông, you’ll find crullers being deep fried on pan. To make cruller which is quite similar to doughnut, you need to roll dough out on a floured surface, then cut into sticks. Let stand for about 10 minutes and fry. Quay is served on its own or dumped in the sweet sauce of fish sauce, sugar, vinegar and sliced carrots and kohlrabi. Don’t eat too many as it can make you feel really full!
Address: 73 Hàng Bông , Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi
Open – close: 17.00 - 21:30
Price: 2.000 – 20.00VND
6. Trung chen nuong
How many ways of making eggs can you think of at once? Fried– scrambled– poached – boiled or maybe salted? The young crowd of Hanoi has added to the list a whole new recipe: the roasted egg. But it’s still to be talked about. It is not the oven but the hot coals, it is not any other kinds but the quail eggs, and it is nothing other than the tiny porcelain dishes that are used to make this lovely specialty. Each dish includes about 4 quail eggs together with sausages, scallions, fried shallots and “ruốc”; and it is grilled for about 10-15 minutes, which is quite a long time for us hungry guys. But before adding all the ingredients, a slice of butter is put in the dish to make sure that the eggs won’t get stuck. You can order a cup of lime or peach tea and about 2 or 4 servings for a light but full dinner.
Address: 24 Nguyễn Quang Bích St, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi
Open – close: 16.00 – 22.00
Price: 10.000 – 50.00VND
7. Tao pho
“Phớ đâyyyyy, ai tào phớ đâyyy” /fɜː dei/ /ai tao fɜː dei/ is a familiar street cry to many Hanoians for generations. The traditional silky tofu pudding with sugar syrup, tender small white and black jelly, and of course lots of crushed ice stands firmly no 1 in any list of summer deserts. Thanks to many creations in the cooking field, the bean curd now is served with more toppings than ever, such as white and black pearls, red beans, lotus seeds, taro...; while the sugar syrup is replaced by chocolate or coffee one. But if you’re looking for the old-fashioned value of the very old city like Hanoi, it’s best to walk all around the streets and happen to catch sight of a vendor riding a bike, selling tofu in a sunny noon, stop by, watch him quickly slice the tofu pudding with a big shell or the very lid of a canned milk, pour sugar syrup seasoned with jasmine (which is a tradition not many sellers keep today) and finally add jelly but also ice. It’s hard to say for sure where you can find such vendors, but I do come across them quite often along Hàng Bông and Đường Thành – mostly by hearing the loud distinct cry; or if you fail to meet them, well, turn to the last resort that come to chains of tofu stores, and order the very traditional serving!
Open – close: 8.30 - 22:00
Price: 10.000 – 30.000VND
8. Banh ran
The round golden fried cake called “Banh ran” is just a small full moon in the world of food. Made of glutinous rice, stuffed with an array of ingredients from green bean, sugar and shredded coconut for the sweet version to minced pork, dried woodear mushroom, and glass noodle for the other. The cake is perfectly shaped by hand, topped with sesame before being deep fried in a large pan. If the former version is severed on its own, the other has a sauce to go with, just like the one of “Quay nong” mentioned above. “Banh ran” enchants people by the lovely aroma, by the crispy coat, by the tender taste of the cake itself. An amazing delicacy but costs almost for next to nothing, just 2.000 VND for the sweet cake and 3.000 VND for the meat one. So, hurry up, head to the following address immediately as it sells like hot cakes!
Address: 5 Lương Ngọc Quyến St, Hoàn Kiếm district, Hanoi
Open – close: 7.00 – 22.00
Price: 2.000 – 20.00VND