Ever since I first visited Vietnam back in 2003, I have enjoyed a blossoming love affair with Vietnamese food. From a spicy tangy bowl of Pho, to the charred smoky pork in a bowl of Bun Cha, Vietnamese food totally rocks – and I don’t believe you can get a better spring roll anywhere in the world.
So when we recently visited Hanoi, top of my to-do list was to take a street food tour, to see if we could track down some hidden gems, and sample some new Vietnamese street food treats.
Our tour took us around the crazy busy streets of Hanoi’s old town, weaving around the motorbikes and pushing through the crowds, pulling up small plastic stools on the pavements, and sampling a wide range of delicious Hanoi street food.
Below are some of our highlights of our Hanoi Street Food Tour.
We kicked off our Hanoi street food tour with a bang – tucking into the most delicious Bun Cha, one of Hanoi’s most famous street food dishes. Slices of fatty pork and pork patties (cha) are grilled over a smoking barbecue (you usually can see this outside the front of a bun cha restaurant) and served in a tangy soup, accompanied by a plate of white rice noodles (bun), and fresh herbs, lettuce and chillies.
The pork in the Bun Cha is insanely delicious – they grill it over hot coals until it is almost caramelized and the resulting sweet smoky flavour is incredible. Vinegar from pickled vegetables in the soup help to cut through fattiness of the pork, while the lettuce and herbs add freshness to the dish. I could happily have sat in this restaurant all day eating Bun Cha, but we had a whole street food tour to get through yet!
Find it at: 34 Hang Than, 33A Gia Ngu or 1 Hang Manh
Next it was time to indulge in some Banh Cuon – steamed rice rolls filled with seasoned minced pork, wood ear mushrooms and shallots, and topped with crispy shallots. As with most Vietnamese food, these are served up with fresh herbs, sliced chillies and the famous Nuoc Cham dipping sauce. Fresh, light and delicious!
This was the most fun stop for the kids, as we were allowed to get involved with making the rice rolls. These are made by scooping rice batter onto a steamer, then using a bamboo stick to gently lift the wafer-thin sheet off, once cooked. Definitely an acquired skill – and one that the kids loved trying to learn.
Find it at: 14 Hang Ga or 49 Hang Dieu
While wandering along to our next restaurant, we grabbed a snack that’s about as ‘street’ food as they come – made on the back of a bike on a street corner of a busy intersection! This sweet Bo Bia was a new food experience for me: fresh spring rolls filled with shredded coconut, dried crunchy sugar cane and black sesame seeds. It was surprisingly tasty – although I’m a sucker for anything with coconut in it.
Find it at: look out for the cycling peddlers as you wander the streets
Banh Goi and Nem Cua Be
Our next stop was all about the fried food – Banh Goi (Fried Pillow Cake) and Nem Cua Be (Crab Spring Rolls). The restaurant we went to at 52 Ly Quoc Su is the most famous place in Hanoi to sample Banh Goi, and its street side kitchen was churning out piles of these fried morsels.
Banh Goi is a bit like a deep fried Cornish pasty – filled with seasoned minced pork and wood ear mushrooms. A tasty treat dipped in the spicy dipping sauce. But our favourite here was the Nem Cua Be – crispy, crunchy crab spring rolls. Delicious.
Find it at: 52 Ly Quoc Su
Bun Rieu Cua
You can imagine we were pretty full by now, but we still had more Hanoi street food to sample! We were led to our next restaurant at 11 Hang Bac, where we found our restaurateur sitting at the entrance to the restaurant with an amazing array of dishes full of intriguing ingredients displayed around her.
It was fascinating to watch her hands swiftly dipping into each bowl, liberally sprinkling our soup bowls with various spices and embellishments. The resulting dish was a piping hot bowl of Bun Rieu Cua – a tomato noodle soup topped with crabmeat.
Find it at: 11 Hang Bac or 7 Ly Quoc Su
Sua Chua Mit
Finally something my kids were enthusiastic about! For dessert, we pulled up a few small plastic stools on the pavement and tucked into some Sua Chua Mit – jackfruit with Yoghurt and black rice. This came with a bowl of crushed ice for mixing into the bowl – the result being sticky, sweet and strangely moreish!
Find it at: 93 Hang Bac
Ca Phe Trung
I’m a bit of a coffee fiend, and I do enjoy the odd glass of Vietnamese coffee, in all its sickly sweet condensed milk glory. But I had never come across Ca Phe Trung – or Egg Coffee before.
Say what? They put egg in your coffee?!
I know, right? But it works! Ca Phe Trung still has the sweetness of the condensed milk, but they also mix in whisked egg yolks to give it a more creamy and frothy texture – a bit like a liquid tiramisu. Try it for yourself next time you’re in Hanoi!
Find it at: 7 Cho Gao Street
We did our Hanoi Street Food Tour with Hanoi Street Food Tour.
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Mum on the Move did the street food tour ‘undercover’ – we paid for our own street food tour, were not paid for this review and all opinions are honest and our own.