Hanoi is a culinary paradise with many delicious and cheap dishes. Warmer and a sign of cooler temperatures in the north, the bold flavors of Hanoi’s cuisine can be a welcome relief to its tempered cousin to the south. Nowhere is there more of this sign than in the Old Town. The labyrinth-like streets are packed with makeshift stalls and storefronts offering a dish or two passed down from generation to generation. They’ve spent years perfecting these dishes so when you sit down on that little blue plastic chair, take whatever they give you. You won’t be disappointed.
We have listed five must-eat dishes while in Hanoi.
Bun cha Hanoi
You will probably smell this dish before you see it. Sliced pork along with seasoned pork rolls are grilled over hot coals and served with sweet and savory sauces. It is served with some fresh herbs, noodles, minced chili and garlic. Beware, once you ingest this dish, it will haunt your dreams. Local info: Pick up a portion of Nem Cua Be, crab spring rolls are traditionally served with this dish.
Pho Bac (Northern Pho)
You can’t mention Vietnamese food without mentioning the country’s national dish, pho. Pho Hanoi is very different from Pho in the South. Northern Pho is richer and tends to have a lighter taste than Southern Pho.
Local insight: Less is more with Pho Bac, so don’t dilute the flavor of the broth with extra spices.
Traditionally, this crepe is served as breakfast with minced pork filling, wood ear, and chopped onion. Garnish can include fried shallots, fresh basil, bean sprouts and steamed pork pate. Served with a special dipping sauce of fish sauce.
Local Insights: Although traditionally served for breakfast, it’s also a popular late-night snack.
Cha Ca La Vong
Served in a pan, this fish dish combines turmeric, generous amounts of cumin, fish sauce and shrimp paste to create a flavorful yet rich dish. Typical of Vietnamese cuisine, fish is only one part of the equation with vermicelli, fresh herbs and fish sauce rounding out the dish.
Local knowledge: The shrimp paste can be a bit too strong and most restaurants will skip it if you don’t mind it.
This dish combines glutinous rice with yellow flowers with ground green beans and fried onions. Traditionally served for breakfast and lunch, some stalls in Hanoi serve it as an afternoon snack.