Feasting in the Streets of Hanoi: Tips for Where to Find the Best Food
Hanoi is world-renowned for anyone looking to enjoy the diverse and delicious pleasures of street food; in fact, you can eat very well in this city without ever having to set foot inside a restaurant. Hanoi street cuisine is fresh, exciting and wonderfully cheap. Hanoi is the birthplace of some of the most famous Vietnamese dishes, including pho and bun cha, and there is so much to try in this street-food paradise that you will want to eat more than three meals a day!
Street food is very important to the culture of Hanoi, as it defines the culture, the rhythm of the city and how people eat. If you are new to street dining, but eager to try some of the amazing flavours of this great city, read on for some helpful tips for enjoying the culinary offerings.
What Is Vietnamese Cuisine Like?
Vietnamese cuisine is known for its fragrant freshness and its use of zesty ingredients such as cilantro, lemongrass, chilies and fish sauce. Vietnamese cooking is actually very good for you, as it uses fresh fish, very little oil and plenty of herbs and vegetables. Other common meats used are chicken, pork and beef. It is also very easy to find vegetarian food due to traditional Buddhist values. Hanoi cuisine also has a very interesting French influence, owing to its colonial past.
There are so many different variations to sample that you are sure to find something you love. Once you have arrived at your hotel, just follow your nose to one of the street vendors and sit down at one of the small plastic tables that line the sidewalk.
Delicious Vietnamese Dishes to Try During Your Visit
Here are a few of the dishes that you should try during your visit to Hanoi:
- Pho. Of course, an exploration of Hanoi street food would not be complete without sampling the most famous dish in the city. Pho, pronounced “fuh,” is a fragrant, filling beef noodle soup. This dish is served all over the old quarter of Hanoi, and you will smell the hot steam coming from the huge vats of bubbling soup stock. You can season your pho with chili, bean sprouts and lime to get the full effect.
- Banh xeo. This is a type of crepe made with rice flour and seasoned with turmeric. It is filled with shrimp, slivers of fatty pork, button mushrooms and sliced onions. This tasty treat is often served with lettuce and dipped in fermented peanut butter sauce.
- Bun cha. This is a common lunch in Vietnam as it is warm, comforting, spicy and filling. Pork patties are grilled with slices of pork belly over steaming hot coals and served with a tangy combination of vinegar, sugar, lime and fish sauce. This makes a spicy barbeque soup that is eaten with fresh vermicelli noodles and herbs. There is usually a bowl of garlic and chilies served on the side if you want to make things even hotter.
- Che chuoi. No meal is complete without dessert, and Hanoi certainly has many great choices for indulgent treats. This sticky-sweet soup will make you fall in love with its creamy, coconut flavour. It is made with hot coconut milk and fried peanuts and topped with chunks of banana. The banana is grilled with rice and banana leaf until it turns gooey.
These are just a few of the dishes that you can look forward to when you embark on an exploration of Hanoi street food. Look for street food stalls that are frequented by lots of locals, as this is a good sign of quality. And, trust your instincts — if it looks and smells good, don’t be afraid to try it. You might discover your new favourite dish.
Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons
About the Author: Laura Dean is a guest blogger and world traveller from Melbourne. She loves sampling new foods, and her favourite Vietnamese dish is spicy bun cha. Laura suggests booking your stay in Hanoi well in advance of your trip to get the best rates.