If you’re looking for a guilt-free destination to pig out, look no further than Hanoi, Vietnam. Regarded as one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide, Vietnamese cooking is commended for its fresh ingredients, complementary textures, reliance on herbs and vegetables, and minimal use of oil. Greens and meats are balanced with spices to achieve such deliciousness, It’s hard not to stuff your face in this country. With most restaurants specializing in just one dish and employing cafeteria style seating, eating is Hanoi is an both an experience and an opportunity.
This was my second trip to Vietnam and since I had seen most of the main sites in Hanoi last time, I decided to focus on food this trip. Deciphering and navigating Hanoi’s vast street food scene can be confusing, but is more than worth it. With a great deal of help from my friends at the Elegance Ruby Hotel in Hanoi, which I cannot recommend highly enough by the way, I was able to taste the best food that Hanoi has to offer. The staff of the Elegance Ruby was amazing enough to put together a cheat sheet guide to Vietnamese dishes in Hanoi that some of post is inspired by. Here’s my list of must-try dishes as recommended by locals and tested by myself in the busy and scenic Old Quarter of Vietnam.
1. Bun Bo Nam Bo
Traditionally from South Vietnam, bun bo nam bo is designed for the heat of a South East Asian Summer. Grilled Lemograss Beef sits atop a bed of pickled and fresh veggies and vermicelli rice noodles. It’s served with a tangy vinaigrette. This was probably my favorite dish this summer!
Try it at: Bun Bo Nam Bo, 67 Hang Dieu | 11am- 10pm
2. Bun Cha
“Visiting Hanoi and not eating bun cha should be classified as a capital offence” reads the Elegance Ruby’s Food Cheat Sheet, and I have to agree. Grilled pork patties and rice noodles in a light broth are accompanied of heaps of veggies and chili, so you can customize every bite of this delicious dish.
Try it at: Bun Cha Dac Kim, 1 Hang Manh | 9:30 am- 8pm
3. Suon Heo Nuong Sa
Suon Heo Nuong Sa is how Vietnam does barbeque. Pork ribs are marinated in sauce of black soy sauce, lemongrass, and spices, then char-grilled to perfection. This dish is tender, tasty, and hearty.
Try it at: Mr. Bay Mien Tay, 79 Hang Dieu | 24 hours
4. Pho Bo
While pho is probably the most common Vietnamese dish to find abroad, there’s nothing like tasting it in its home country. Rice vermicelli noodles float in a broth that’s nothing short of perfection. Top it with bean sprouts, basil, chili slices, or add dark soy sauce to the mixture, and this soup is a meal in itself.
Try it at: Pho 10, 10 Ly Quoc Su | 6 am–2 pm, 5:30 – 10 pm
5. Bahn Mi
A nod to Vietnam’s past as a French colony, bahn mi is the sandwich colonialism made. Vietnamese marinated meat, pickled veggies, cilantro, and sauce is served inside a mini-baguette. It is simply lunchtime perfection.
Try it at: Banh Mi 25, 25 Hang Ca Street | 7 am – 7 pm
6. Bahn Xeo
Proving that crepes don’t just belong at the breakfast table, Bahn Xeo is a savory crepe made of rice flour and turmeric batter and stuffed with meats, green onion and veggies.
Try it at: Quan An Ngon, 18 Phan Boi Chau Street | 6:45 am – 10 pm
7. Goi Cuon and Nem Ran
You might know them as summer rolls and spring rolls respectively. Goi cuon includes pickled veggies, green onion, cilantro, and a protein all wrapped up in a rice paper roll. It’s like a salad all neatly packaged for delivery into your belly. Nem ran is minced meat and herbs wrapped up in rice paper and fried to golden goodness. Both are served with delicious sauces for dipping.
Try at: Orchid Restaurant and Cooking Class, 25 Hang Bac Street
8. Bun Reiu Cua
This soup is locally considered Hanoi’s best breakfast food. Small freshwater rice paddy crabs accompany rice noodles in a hearty tomato broth. It has all the ingredients for a balanced start to the day.
Try at: Bun Reiu Cha, 40 P Hang Tre Street | 7 am – 9 am
9. Bahn Cuon
Originally from Northern Vietnam, bahn cuon is an extremely thin and delicate steamed rice based crepe stuffed with minced pork mushrooms and ground shrimp.
Try at: Banh Cuon Gia Truyen, 14 Hang Ga Street | 10 am – 9 pm
Vietnam does dessert right, in addition to the traditional vietnamese che (sweet mung bean pudding), mousses, cakes, tarts, chocolates, and truffles are all plentiful all over Hanoi.
Try at: Nguyen Son Bakery, 17A Phan Boi Chau Street | 7 am – 10:30 pm