Hanoi is a street food paradise. The mazelike alleys of the tourist-heavy Old Quarter and the more traditional Truc Bach lake area are crammed with stalls and makeshift storefronts, all bearing toy-sized plastic stools and advertising what they sell with bold signs out front. Many vendors sell only one or two dishes, and since Vietnamese uses a Roman script, it’s easy to tell what they are, provided you know the some basic street food vocabulary.
As the birthplace of pho, Hanoi is ground zero for the fragrant rice noodle soup served with fresh herbs that has become popular all over the world. It’s no surprise, then, that Hanoi’s pho is outstanding. Two variations are most popular: pho ga (with chicken) and pho bo (with beef). Pho is traditionally served as a breakfast food, so you’ll find pho sellers all over town from before dawn to mid-morning.
Try it at:
- Pho Bat Dan: 49 Bat Dan Street, Hoan Kiem Disitrct
- Pho Thin: 13 Lo Duc Street, Hai Ba Trung District
- Pho Ly Quoc Su: at the end of Nha Chung Street, opposite #33 Nha Chung
Next to Pho, Bun Cha Hanoi, is the second headline as the quintessential northern noodle dish. It consists of grilled pork soaked in luke warm dipping sauce/ lightly fish sauce/ broth, which adds a wonderful acidity to the BBQ meat which is prepared both thinly sliced and ground into seasoned patties. It is also served with rice vermicelli (bun) and an assortment of greens and pickled vegetables (green papaya/ carrot…).
Try it at:
- Bun Cha Hang Manh: 1 Hang Manh Street
- Bun Cha 34: 34 Hang Than Street
- Bun Cha Hang Khoai: 2 Hang Khoai
The original, century-old Cha Ca La Vong is at #14 on Pho Cha Ca, in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. With an unassuming external appearance – that is no fluorescent signage – it would be easy to miss, but for the throngs of customers found near the entrance at busy lunch and dinner periods.
The antiquated atmosphere here is legendary, and its rickety floors, overcrowded tables and gruff wait staff live up to the billing. Head straight upstairs for the full-on experience, and leave behind all expectations of a relaxed midday repast. It’s a one-dish sweatshop, specialising in cha ca (fish grilled on your table with turmeric and dill, served with cold noodles and peanuts).
Try it at:
- Original Cha Ca La Vong: 14 on Pho Cha Ca
- 107 Nguyen Truong To Street
- Cha ca Thang Long: 21-31 Duong Thanh Street