Highlights of Hanoi street food

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year my readers!
I’ve just spent several wonderful days in Hanoi and thought I should share my eating experience there with you all. I have been to Hanoi countless times before and needless to say, Hanoi cuisine is one major thing that keeps me going back. This time I was hosted by a true Hanoi girl who took me to amazing food places, some even unknown to the local. Therefore I think this entry is gonna be useful to not only tourists like me but also to those who call Ha Noi home.
Generally, food in the north is mild, while it is hot and spicy in the central, and sweet in the south. I’ve noticed that the best food shops in Hanoi are located in very small places, or on really narrow pavements. I thought that the way to banh xeo Ba Duong in Da Nang was extremely small, but really it’s nothing compared to some food shops in Hanoi. It is a common thing to see gentlemen dressed formally sitting in low chairs, in dark and seemingly unclean places to have a bowl of pho for breakfast. A very interesting, very Hanoi style of eating.

You’ve probably heard of Hanoi’s famous dishes such as bun cha, bun oc, bun dau mam tom, nem cua be… Well, you can find them all (I mean, all 60+ of them) in this incredibly small road in front of Dong Xuan market (opposite 87 Hang Chieu). This place mainly caters for people working in/visiting the market, thus has the same age, opening and closing time as the market (30+ years old, open 7am to about 5pm). Most of the food stands here only have capacity for less than 5 people. We tried 4 Hanoi classic dishes: bun oc, bun cha, nem cua be and bun dau mam tom which were all very delicious.

Bún chả – the black stuff on top is bò lá lốt (mince beef rolled in betel leaves)

Nem cua bể – fried crab spring rolls

Bún ốc – Snail noodle soup

My most favourite was bun dau mam tom which slightly reminded me of Danang’s bun mam. The main ingredients of the dish are rice vermicelli, fried tofu, fried nem chua, perilla leaves and a special shrimp paste called “mắm tôm”. At first I was afraid of mam tom’s smell almost as much as how any foreigner would be terrified of Danang’s mam nem. But to my surprise it didn’t smell bad at all, and had a rather mild taste. That was thanks to the shop’s secret recipe, including the 2 kumquats mixed very well with the sauce before eating. See the video to know how to eat.

My favourite – bún đậu mắm tôm

After that we went to the next food stand which sold all kinds of che (Viet sweet dessert/pudding). I was automatically drawn to “che troi nuoc”, the little white sticky rice cake with green pea paste fillings in ginger sirup. When I was still in high school in Da nang, there was this shop next to my school selling “che troi nuoc”, so amazing that after it was closed, I had tried but failed to find an equally good che troi nuoc in Danang or anywhere else. Until that day in Ha Noi, finally I found the exact thing, even better. Heaven! 

Chè trôi nước – sticky rice cake with green pea paste fillings in ginger sirup
Point and ‘customise’ your bowl of che

My host’s ‘customised’ che (chè thập cẩm, or how the local call it: caramen suka)
All in all, everything in that hidden place was so amazing that we had to go back there the day after. However, as that place is extremely small, untidy and very local, it may take tourists/foreigners some courage to enter. I saw a couple of Westerners wandering in and out the road for half an hour, looking at all the food stands but finally gave up and left without eating anything. 
Another Hanoi dish that you can’t miss is sticky rice at 35B Nguyen Huu Huan, my definite must-have every time I visit the capital. According to my Hanoi friends, this is the best and most popular “xoi” shop in Hanoi, open all day. Don’t mistake it with the shop next to it though; the ‘real’ shop has a yellow and black sign, while the ‘fake’one is in orange.

Just like pizza, you got to choose the ‘base’ – type of sticky rice (“Ngô” – sticky rice with corn, “Xéo” – sticky rice with green pea paste on top, “Trắng” – plain white sticky rice)’ and ‘toppings’ – type of protein. My favourite combination is “Xéo” with “thịt kho tầu” (Viet braised pork).

Xôi xéo thịt kho tầu – Sticky rice with green pea paste and braised pork

Xôi xéo gà luộc trứng ốp – Sticky rice with green pea paste, boiled chicken and fried egg


Of course I can’t leave Hanoi without eating some “nem chua ran” (deep fried fermented pork finger snack). This quick snack immediately won me over the very first time I tried it several years ago. Good nem chua ran should be crispy on the outside and soft inside. Nem chua ran is especially popular among teenagers who usually don’t care much about the oily nature of the dish. I do care though, but well, it’s not like I visit Hanoi every month hehe. 10 nem chua for one person should be enough (each costs 4000). One very popular nem chua ran address is at the very narrow Tạm Thương street (phố Hàng Bông). However, I felt like their nem chua was not as good as it had been several years ago. You can also buy the raw ones and then deep fry at home for cheaper price (and probably better quality). I bought 70 nem chua to bring back to Danang at 11 Lê Đại Hành for 175,000VND.
Nem chua rán – Deep fried fermented pork finger snack

After ticking quite a few traditional dishes off my list, I happily agreed to try a new modern dish: banh mi  thit xien. Nothing fancy, just banh mi with grilled pork and chilli sauce, but my god was it good. The pork was marinated to perfection, eaten with hot crispy banh mi and some chilli sauce, accompanied with a cup of hot tea… a winter night in Hanoi couldn’t get any better. I found it interesting that in Hanoi people actually sat down at the shop to eat banh mi, because in Danang banh mi is for takeaway only.

Bánh mì thịt xiên – Banh mi with grilled pork
Some amazing Hanoi desserts and drinks I would highly recommend to anyone:
Chè khoai môn – Hot taro sweet dessert, not sweet. Love it! 
Hanoi’s signature lemon tea (trà chanh). You can try this at the left side of Hanoi church, or 31 Đào Duy Từ
Chè chuối nướng – Grilled banana and tapioca pearls in coconut milk. Eat cool or with ice.  

Chè xoài – Mango pudding at 02 Nguyễn Trường Tộ

Very fragrant, strong coffee at 26 Hàng Giầy. Sit on the pavement.

Hanoi cuisine certainly lives up to its reputation, I never feel like my stay is long enough to satisfy my craving. Will have to go back soon!

  • Update (Oct 2012): Want more? => Read Part 2 

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Where

1. Ngõ chợ Đồng Xuân – opposite 87 Hàng Chiếu
– Bún ốc 25,000
– Bún chả 25,000
– Nem cua bể
– Bún đậu mắm tôm 20,000
– Chè 7-20,000
2. Xôi Yến – 35B Nguyễn Hữu Huân
3. 31 Quang Trung  
Bánh mì thịt xiên, 10,000 per pork stick, 2000 per banh mi
4. 31 Đào Duy Từ
– Chè chuối nướng 12,000
– Chè khoai môn 12,000
– Trà chanh 8,000
5. 02 Nguyễn Trường Tộ
Chè xoài 9,000
6. Ngõ Tạm Thương -Deep fried nem chua, 4000 per finger
11 Lê Đại Hành – raw nem chua, 2500 per finger

7. Cafe Huệ – 26 Hàng Giầy

Post By Summer Le (138 Posts)

Summer created Danangcuisine.com in 2010 to share her eating experience in her hometown Da Nang. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Youtube @danangcuisine for daily updates. If you're in Danang, sign up for her popular street food tours www.summer.com/foodtour

Website: → Summer's Danang Food Tour

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  • Jjbren

    Amazing photography, very educational and well written!

  • bumble bee

    wow, love all the pics!!!
    please keep posting !!!

  • thanks guys, you too please keep supporting 😀

  • HL

    hic, can I hire your tour guide for my next trip to Hanoi 😛

  • I wish you could hehe

  • Hoa

    Xoi Yen is definitely the best!