Hanoi is a foodie heaven, not just for the great eats, but for the whole vibrant experience of street food dining. Not only did President Barack Obama sample some of Vietnam’s finest local eats in Hanoi, but his guide was none other than “Parts Unknown” host Anthony Bourdain.
“There is no better place to entertain the leader of the free world, in my opinion, than one of these classic, funky family-run noodle shops you find all over Hanoi” says Bourdain. “Dinner and a beer costs about $6. I’m guessing the President doesn’t get a lot of state dinners like this.”
Since a trip to Hanoi is not complete without sampling its traditional delicacies, here are some top Hanoi street food dishes and where to find them.
Hanoi Street Food: The best dishes to try
1.Pho (beef/chicken noodle soup)
This famous noodle dish originated in Hanoi, and should be the highlight of any Hanoi street food tour. A rice noodle soup made with herbs and either beef (pho bo) or chicken (pho ga), pho can be eaten at any time and is particularly popular for breakfast or lunch.
Where to eat Pho in Hanoi:
- Pho Gia Truyen – locals form a long queue every morning at Pho Gia Truyen, a classic “hole in the wall” pho stall & the most famous place in the old quarter for a delicious bowl of Pho Bo. Please note that it’s only open from 6am-10am and 6pm-8:30pm daily!
- Pho Thin – beef at Pho Thin is stir-fried in garlic before being added to the broth giving their Pho a unique (and delicious) smoky flavor!
2. Cha Ca (grilled fish)
A distinctive Hanoi delicacy, Cha Ca can be considered one of the sympols of the capital city and famous Hanoi street food. It is white fish seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric, and dill served on sizzling pan. Diners also get a bowl of rice noodles, peanuts, chopped spring onions, parsley, pungent mam tom (fermented shrimp) sauce or fish sauce, and red chili slices, all of which are meant to be mixed together with the turmeric fish.
The original Cha Ca restaurant is Cha Ca La Vong at number 14 Cha Ca Street, but most people agree that the restaurant has become too popular. This results in higher prices, poor quality, and long waiting. It’s advisable to skip this well-known place and enjoy Cha Ca elsewhere.
Where to eat Cha Ca in Hanoi:
- Cha Ca Thang Long – in the Old Quarter
- Cha Ca Anh Vu – a little out of town where you can find more local crowd here but worth it
3. Bun Cha (grilled pork with noodles)
While Pho is the most widely recognized dish internationally, Bun Cha is popular in the Northern region of Vietnam. Bun Cha is recommended as one of top ten Hanoi street food. It is a dish with vermicelli, grilled pork belly and pork patties served with a bowl of greens, crispy egg/crab rolls and dipping sauce. Famously, Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain dined this way in 2016 at Bun Cha Huong Lien.
Where to eat Bun Cha in Hanoi:
- Bun Cha Huong Lien– achieved international fame when Barack Obama dined with Anthony Bourdain in 2016. Now the table has been encased in fiberglass and the restaurant serves up the “Obama Combo” – a bowl of Bun Cha, a fried seafood roll (nem hải sản), and a bottle of Hanoi beer – all for the bargain price of 85k VND (~$3.60).
- Bun Cha Ta – affordable, friendly, traditional
4. Banh Cuon (steamed rice rolls)
Banh cuon is one of the city’s favourite breakfast or midday snack and essential to any list of must-try Hanoi street foods. It comprises silky, steamed rice batter – sometimes called a pancake – served with a savoury mix of ground pork, mushrooms and shallots. Flavor and texture come from a filling of seasoned ground pork, mushrooms, and shallots. The rice noodle roll is served with a separate bowl of clear amber dipping sauce, nuoc cham, which is essentially fish sauce.
Where to eat Banh Cuon in Hanoi:
- Banh Cuon Gia Truyen Thanh Van – banh cuon here is spread so thin and its scent is so sweet. The traditional minced pork can be replaced by chicken or shrimp as per eater’s preference.
- Banh Cuon Nong Kim Thoa – a famous dish recommended by Anthony Bourdain “Oh, that’s very good!”
5. Banh Mi (bread)
Banh Mi is a typical Hanoi street food for locals. The delectable sandwich is made from buttery paté, pickled daikon and carrots, cold cuts, cucumbers, and cilantro nestled in a freshly baked baguette. While some restaurants are trying to innovate with their banh mi, purists know that a simple combination of pork-based deli meats, coriander, daikon, chilies and a light, flaky bun is all that is required.
Where to eat Banh Mi in Hanoi:
- Banh Mi 25 – incredibly popular with foreigners and for good reason. Here you’ll find high quality ingredients, an English speaking staff, and a wide variety of Banh Mi options.
- Banh Mi Minh Nhat – achieved widespread recognition after owner Minh Nhat won Vietnamese MasterChef in 2014, and it has been thriving ever since. Located just opposite the Hoan Kiem Lake, Banh Mi Minh Nhat is the perfect place to enjoy a sandwich with a view.