Planning a trip to Hanoi?
If so, you’re in luck, because this vibrant city is famous for being the culinary capital of Vietnam. Whether you’re in Hanoi for a weekend, a week, or longer, here are the X dishes that you need to try before you leave.
You have probably already heard of pho, and have likely tried it too. However, did you know that pho was reputedly invented in Hanoi?
This is why the bowls of pho from the north of Vietnam taste quite different to those served up in the south.
Wondering what the differences are?
Pho from the north is all about simplicity, delicacy and purity. It is always made from an unsweetened stock, with the vegetables added into the dish beforehand. In contrast, pho from the south comes with vegetables on the side, along with a variety of bold spices and garnishes that often compete with each other.
What exactly is in a bowl of pho?
Three main elements:
Rice noodles (with the word “pho” actually referring to a type of noodle)
Meat (usually chicken or beef)
A plate of herbs is usually served up too, so that you can add some extra flavor into your bowl.
Where can you find the best pho in Hanoi?
Here’s where to go:
Pho Gia Truyen
Bun cha is another dish that is said to have originated in Hanoi. In fact, it made headlines recently after President Obama fell in love with it during a visit to Vietnam.
What is bun cha?
It consists of a few different elements:
Grilled or roasted pork, served in a bowl of sweet but tangy broth
Vietnamese bun (this isn’t a bread, but a type of noodle)
A plate of fresh greens
Wondering how you would eat it?
In Hanoi, the traditional way to eat bun cha would be to mix everything together in your bowl and then eat it in the same way you would pho.
However, be sure to try the southern way of eating bun cha too…
Take a large lettuce leaf and then wrap this around the noodles, pork and herbs. Then, dip into the broth before taking a big and satisfying bite. This method is great for when you are on-the-go, which is why bun cha has evolved to become such a popular street food.
Where can you find the best bun cha in Hanoi?
Here are a few places to try:
Bun Cha Huong Lien (which is now known as Bun Cha Obama)
Bun Cha Binh Chung
Bun Cha Dac Kim
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Are you a seafood fan?
Although, even if you aren’t, cha ca is a dish that you will still likely love. This grilled fish dish was invented in Hanoi, and first became popular over a hundred years ago when it was served to the troops during the French colonial rule.
The dish was created by the family who ran the Cha Ca La Vong Restaurant, with the dish becoming so famous that they named their restaurant after it.
What exactly is cha ca?
It consists of slices of fish that have been marinated and then grilled to perfection. This is then fried up table-side, which provides such an exciting dining experience. The chef will usually place a hot pot onto your table, into which the fish, along with herbs and spices, is placed. You will also be presented with a number of accompaniments for the dish, including:
A dipping fish sauce
As you can imagine, this all results in a magnificent combination of tantalizing flavors, making it no surprise that cha ca quickly becomes a culinary favorite among first-time visitors to Hanoi.
Where can you find the best cha ca in Hanoi?
Well, while many tourists still flock to the Cha Ca La Vong restaurant, where the dish was first invented, the restaurant has gone downhill over the years.
If you really want to taste the best cha ca in the city, the place to go is the Cha Ca Thang Long restaurant.
Although banh mi has French origins, it has now become a distinct Vietnamese dish. This is a dish that is famous all over the country, and the rest of the world, but some of the best sandwiches can definitely be found in Hanoi.
What is banh mi?
It consists of a light and fluffy baguette. Unlike French baguettes, the Vietnamese version is made with a mixture of rice and wheat flour, giving it a very crispy and thin crust.
Wondering what goes into the baguette?
A variety of different fillings, such as:
Local vegetables, including carrot, radish and cucumber
Coriander and other local herbs
If you would prefer something a little heartier, you could opt for the local dish Banh Mi Thit Xien Nuong instead. This includes the addition of grilled pork skewers. The marinade for the pork is usually made from caramel, fish and sugar, which gives the finished dish a beautiful sweetness.
Where can you find the best banh mi in Hanoi?
Here are a few local spots to head to:
Banh Mi Ngon
Banh My Pate Lan Ong (where the duck pate is made fresh each morning)
Quan Ba Nga (if you want to try banh mi thit xien nuong)
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a famous signature dish in Northen Vietnam. Xôi Xéo – Turmeric Glutinous Rice link in bio, turn on cc . . . . #northenvietnamesefood #vietnamesecuisine🇻🇳 #xoixeo #rynacooking #rynalogy #vietfood #vietnamesefood #honeygrilledchicken #hanoifood #turmericglutinousrice #greenbeanpaste
Wondering what Hanoians eat for breakfast?
One popular dish is xoi xeo, which is a popular street food usually served up wrapped in a banana leaf. Of course, the restaurant version is presented differently, in a bowl filled with xoi xeo and all of its many accompaniments.
What exactly is xoi xeo?
It is a sticky rice dish. This may sound simple, but the way in which it is prepared is very special…
The glutinous rice is steamed, and chicken fat is mixed through it at the same time. This is then combined with steamed mung beans that have been peeled and ground.
The dish is always topped with fried crispy shallots. The other toppings depend on where you purchase the dish from, but common additions include:
Chinese or Vietnamese sausage
Roast pork or chicken
A traditional cucumber salad side dish is always served up with xoi xeo too.
Where can you find the best xoi xeo in Hanoi?
These are the places you need to go:
Xoi Yen (reputed to have the best xoi xeo in the city)
Xoi 622-Duy Tan
Ca Phe Trung
If you love a good coffee, then ca phe trung is not to be missed. Many would call it the Vietnamese version of the cappuccino, and there are certainly some similarities when it comes to texture and flavor.
Ca phe trung was actually invented way back in 1925, when a local barista could not source enough fresh milk for a cappuccino. So, he made a ca phe trung instead…
Wondering what is in a ca phe trung?
Well, you’ve got the hot coffee, of course. But the cappuccino-esque part comes from:
Whipped egg yolks
The three ingredients are mixed with the coffee, creating a frothy, foamy, creamy beverage that tastes surprisingly like a cappuccino.
There are two main versions of this drink; hot and cold. The hot is served in a small dish of hot water to help the coffee retain its heat, while the cold version is usually served up in a small glass, along with a spoon. In a way, it is more like an ice cream than a beverage.
Do you prefer your coffee less frothy?
If so, give the coconut coffee a try instead.
It has the same level of sweetness as ca phe trung, but without the froth, and is made with coconut instead of egg.
Where can you find the best ca phe trung in Hanoi?
Cafe Giang (where the drink is said to have been invented)
Cafe Phuong Linh
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Bún Thang – one of the best noodle soup dishes from Hanoi. "Thang" means "ladder" and also "precription". Back in the day medication was prescribed in a bag/dose of mixed herbs or "một thang thuốc". It's said that this dish was named after that because after the new year, people would repurpose their new year meals, taking the left over proteins comprising of ham, chicken, egg, shrimp and mushrooms and created a noodle soup dish filled with a "mix of things". Although the other definition, "ladder" some say… the way the proteins are cut resemble a ladder, hence the name Bún Thang. While we don't know where the true origin of the name comes from, we do know it's light and delicious and that we're serving it tonight from 4pm-9pm @boysdontcrynyc. Get you your prescription ladder soup. 💁🏻♀️🍜 . . . . . . . . . . . . #bunthang #hanoi #vietnamese #chicken #noodlesoup #vietnameseeats #vietnamesecuisine #vietnamesefood #vietfood #comfortfood #hanoieats #nyceats #eaterny #infatuationnyc #eatingnyc #les #SaigonSocialNYC
While pho is the most famous of Vietnamese noodle dishes, make sure that you do not leave Hanoi without trying bun thang.
What exactly is bun thang?
It is a chicken noodle soup that usually contains around 20 ingredients. It may sound simple at first, but this dish is actually incredibly complex yet delicate, with each element being showcased beautifully.
Here are just a few of the ingredients that are used in a traditional bun thang:
Chicken broth, sometimes with pork too
Shredded chicken, with the birds used for this dish being of a very specific age
Rice vermicelli noodles
Green onions and chillies
If you are lucky enough to sample a truly authentic bun thang, then there is one more ingredient that you should be aware of…
It is known as ca cuong, and is a pheromone that comes from the male belostomatid beetle.
This is added into the dish at extremely minute quantities. In fact, restaurants that use this special ingredient will dip the tip of a toothpick into it, adding just that tiny amount into the dish.
What does the beetle extract do for the dish?
It adds a very exotic fragrance, but does not have any effect at all of the actual taste of the dish.
Where can you find the best bun thang in Hanoi?
It isn’t actually easy to find an authentic bun thang in Hanoi, but there are a few key restaurants around the city that are known for this dish:
Bun Thang Ba Duc
Thuan Ly Bun Thang
Bun Thang Ngoc Tuyen
Banh cuon is another dish that is extremely popular in the mornings, but you will find it being served as a snack throughout the day.
What exactly is banh cuon?
It is a steamed rice noodle roll. It looks a little like a white crepe, except that it is a savory dish, rather than a sweet one.
Wondering what the roll is filled with?
Usually a combination of ground mushrooms and pork. The rolls are then served up on a plate, topped with fresh cilantro and crispy fried shallots.
This may not sound very exciting, but the magic comes with the dish’s dipping sauce…
The sauce has a fish sauce base, but also contains a small drop of ca cuong (the beetle extract that was mentioned earlier).
When these unique flavors are combined with the soft and slippery texture of the rolls, the result is absolutely divine.
Where can you find the best banh cuon in Hanoi?
Just about every local restaurant and street food stall serves this dish up.
However, if you want to taste a more upmarket, but equally authentic, version of this dish, head to Banh Cuon Gia An. Unlike many of the other restaurants in the city, this is one that does not use any preservatives when creating their dishes.
Once you are done with your meal, take a stroll over to the nearby Vincom Center, where you will find the OROGOLD Hanoi Store. This is the perfect place for some rest and relaxation, where you can enjoy everything from VIP facials to product demonstrations to customized skincare advice.
The food scene in Hanoi is one of the best in the world. The dishes are wonderfully authentic, while being full of flavor, spice and freshness. While the dishes and restaurants mentioned above are definitely worth trying, there is amazing food to be found all over the city, so be sure to sample as much as you can!