THE 7 MOUTHWATERING HANOI STREET FOOD
We have a saying in Vietnam: “The way to a man’s heart is going through his stomach”. Meaning if a woman wants to win her man’s love, just cook him delicious food. (And maybe let him do some other “important” stuff too). Yes men are blind. They need nothing but the food that their women cook. But you have no time for cooking or your cooking skill is not second after Gordon Ramsay and you still want to please your man? No worry ladies! Just ask him to take you to one of these 7 streets in Hanoi Old Quarter and let the food amaze him, and yourself too. The 7 Hanoi street food that sing!
Hanoi street food is also considered to be one of the must-dos when in Vietnam. It is famous for the freshness, mouthwatering delicious of course, colorful, unique and many more. When you sitting there on low plastic chair tucking in the many different dishes of Hanoi street food, you are eating also the culture of Hanoi. For tourists that are new to this city, there 7 Hanoi street food are good recommendations for you to feel Hanoi through your stomachs.
1. “Pho” rolls in Ngu Xa street
Pho has been Hanoi’s special dish since forever. So popular that there is a pho restaurant has the name “Pho-get about it” right next to another pho restaurant named “What the pho?”. But when you want to try pho in a totally different way: pho rolls then you have to go to Ngu Xa. These people here invented a new pho: thick steamed rice leaves wrapping beef, onions, and herbs dipping with sweet and sour sauce.
At first everyone doubted this food as it was against the traditional pho which is the king of Hanoi street food. But after a while it was well accepted and now becomes one of the favorite Hanoi street food among locals. This dish is perfectly suitable for summer days when hot food makes you sweat like having a shower. It is eaten cool with lots of fresh herbs which should be the best alternative for the traditional pho. Ngu Xa street is a about 20 minutes walking from the Old Quarter. There in Ngu Xa you can also find other kinds of Hanoi street food related to pho like ‘Fried pho” and other delicious things.
Rolled beef noodle in Ngu Xa Street
2. Steamed snails around the Westlake.
Yes you read it correctly! Snails! Here in Vietnam we eat everything. Everything that flies except airplanes, everything runs except cars, and everything swims except China’s Prime Minister swimming in our Vietnam’s East Sea. Snails were actually introduced to Hanoi by the French and we took that snail-eating up to a whole new level of art: make it the special Hanoi street food. Snails can be steamed (the most popular) charcoal grilled with spring onions, boiled with ginger and lemongrass, stir fried with coconut milk… or they even make salad out of snails! (I don’t confidently recommend you this).
Strolling around the West Lake you be seeing lots of snail restaurants that serve snails freshly taken from the water of West lake as well as other Hanoi street food. For food adventurers you really have to check this out. West Lake is about 15 minutes by taxi from Hanoi center.
Steamed snails in West Lake area
3. Banh mi in Hoe Nhai street
Vietnamese stuffed baguettes now become so popular and delicious that the world calls it the original Vietnamese name “banh mi”. Like tacos in Mexico, sandwich in England, burger in The United States… banh mi is the best full-meal snack for everyone in Hanoi. A freshly baked baguette stuffed with any kind of meat you like: grilled pork, stir-fried chicken, beef…and fresh herbs and salad, your meal is ready. Other than that you can have baguette served in a hot tray with beef, eggs, onions and other ingredients. Hoe Nhai Street in the Old Quarter is famous for its banh mi restaurants. If you come here the first time you be confused with many of them, all smell really good. No worry just walk in any of them. They serve only one dish: banh mi on a hot tray.
Hoe Nhai Street is no more than 15 minute walking from the Hoan Kiem Lake.
Banh mi served in a hot tray in Hoa Nhai Street
4. Grilled chicken legs in Ly Van Phuc Street.
In the evening if you by chance walk along Nguyen Thai Hoc Street you will notice a small alleys with many plastic chairs and lots of smoke coming from BBQ stalls. And the good smell will drag you in uncontrollably to discover what’s in there. And you’ll see this:
Grilled chicken legs
Yes, those are chicken legs marinated with honey, hot chili, fish sauce…grilled on charcoal until they are crispy, brownish and smell like heaven. Not much meat there you can find but the whole leg can be chawed and flavors from the dipping sauce with make your conversations between friends last until midnight. These grilled chicken legs are really popular among Hanoi street food lover.
Ly Van Phuc Street is 3 minutes walking from the Temple of Literature. And only opens in the evening.
5. Hotpots in Phung Hung streets.
If you come here in the fall season or in the chill of Hanoi’s winter you’ll love this street. Phung Hung was the first street of Hanoi specialized in hotpots. Here you can find many types of hotpots that you can imagine: beef, black chicken, organs and intestine, mushrooms, seafood…or all of them together.
Best recommend to go with a group of friends when the chill weather makes you want to sit close. Having hotpot with some moon shine ( rice wine ) will cheer you friendship. Prices are as reasonable as about 20 US$ for a hotpot for 4. Those are the seasons why Phung Hung is always a good “meeting point” for Hanoi street food youngsters in the nights.
Hotpot in Phung Hung Street
6. Draft local beer in Ta Hien Street
This is not really Hanoi street food but is a place you should not miss. Although it is only 100 meter long, Ta Hien Street is considered to be the “international corner” in Hanoi. There you’ll find hundreds of young people sitting on low colorful plastic chair having holding in their hands the old style beer glasses. Backpackers like this places as they can sit there drinking the cheap draft beer chatting with new friends watching Hanoi’s life passing by. Local young boys and girls like this place as it it amusingly bustle with foreigners from all over the world. Draft beer there is real cheap. With 1 USD you can have up to 4 glasses of beer! But don’t drown that kind of beer.
I strongly recommend local beer in bottles or can like Hanoi beer, Saigon beer, 333, Larue or you can even find imported beer here. The beer shouldn’t be the hard part for you choosing them as beer is beer- all good. But the atmosphere of people chatting and having fun there is the highlight. As a beer lover I highly recommend this place for a late summer afternoon chilling out with friends. Beer on everyone! I love beer so much that sometimes I drink water to surprise my livers.
Draft beer served in old style glasses
Youngsters hanging around on Ta Hien street
7. To Tich- the macerated fruit street
Had you hotpot in Phung Hung street and some beer (or a lot) in Ta Hien street, now you want something nice and sweet as desert to cool you down? Then To Tich Street all the way you go. To Tich has been long known for its marinated/macerated fruits. A portion consists of many types of fresh fruits: jackfruit, mango, pear, apple, watermelon, longan, dragon fruit … chopped added with condense milk and coconut milk, stirred together with crushed ice. Best fresh and healthy desert to reduce all protein and alcohol you just had.
To Tich is 1 minute walking from Hoan Kiem Lake, just right at the beginning of Hang Bong, well known by many Hanoi street food enthusiasts.
Selling fruits in cups in To Tich Street
Those above a just 7 out of many many interesting Hanoi street food dishes you can discover. You can easily do it with your friends or beloveds. So get ready, gear up (I mean your eating spirit) and note down those places to surprise your friends and yourself!
By Pham Tuyen