This blog post is all about street food in Hanoi, one of my favourite foodie cities on Planet Earth.Vietnamese food is one of my all-time favourites. I love the sweet and sharp balance, the taste of fish sauce, the chaotic street eateries, and the prices. I very much love the prices!
Even if you have just 2 weeks in Vietnam, that’s enough time for 43 delicious meals. Use them wisely!
HANOI ESSENTIALSE-sim data planCopy of Lonely Planet VietnamGetting there: flight (Kayak) / train / bus 12GoAsiaPre-book your Hanoi airport to city transferAccommodation: Booking.com // HostelworldTours: GetYourGuide
Essential reading: 101 Southeast Asia travel tips
Some travellers are ‘meh’ about Vietnamese food and I think they’re as mad as a bag of snakes. Unless they’re vegetarian and then I understand why (side note: get ready for a meat-heavy Hanoi food guide). Vietnamese food may not be as in-your-face as Thai or Indian but the subtle, smoky flavours make it a winner for me.
Hanoi street food is totally unique and won’t be found anywhere else. If you’ve read my Saigon food guide and Hoi An street food, you’ll know that Vietnamese food is highly regional. Although some of the Vietnamese food in Hanoi may also be found in other cities, many dishes are unique to Hanoi.
Street food in Hanoi
So here we go, everything to eat in Hanoi. I’ll focus on mainly street food but throw in the odd restaurant here and there. Dig in!
Bun cha is a typical Hanoi food
Bun cha is the most famous Hanoi food and for good reason!I’m not saying my second trip to Vietnam was a direct result of trying bun cha during my first… But let’s just say it was probably a factor! There are few better experiences in Southeast Asia than perching on a red stall slurping up a hearty bowl of bun cha.
This smoky, succulent dish is made from slow-cooked pork in a flavoursome broth. It’s usually teamed with a portion of ‘nem’ (fried spring rolls), rice noodles and a basket of herbs and leaves. Add them to the broth with a healthy dose to chilli if you dare!
Bun cha sprung to fame when the late Anthony Bourdain (whilst filming Parts Unknown) and President Obama tucked into a steaming bowl perched on plastic stools.
The locals looked on gobsmacked and the modest eaterie has never been mentioned in a sentence without the word ‘Obama’ since. True story (probably).
Where to try bun cha: if you don’t fancy the now-touristy Bún Chả Hương Liên 2 Obama (yes, they added Obama to the name), I recently ate an amazing portion in the Old Quarter for 60k VND. It was at a restaurant named after the dish, Bun Cha Nem at 6 Ngõ Trạm Street (search by address as the name isn’t listed on Google).
Other highly recommended bun cha spots include:
Bun ca (fish noodles)
Bun cha and bun ca only differ by one letter but are two totally separate dishes.
The latter means fish noodles. The fish is fried meaning it’s salty, flavoursome and perfectly suited to a fresh, tangy broth.Where to try bun ca: I tried bun ca in Trung Yen Alley which is a bit of a Hanoi hidden gem. This Hanoi street food alley famed by locals is little known to tourists but it’s well worth checking out.
The street eateries there aren’t mapped online but you can easily pull up a stool and order a steaming bowl of bun ca. Show them this photo if you get stuck.
Banh cuon is an iconic Hanoi street food you shouldn’t miss. Soft rice batter is stuffed with a pork and mushroom filling and topped with crispy fried onions.
It isn’t tangy or spicy like many other Vietnamese dishes but you can always add chilli or lime. Banh cuon is traditionally a breakfast dish.Where to try bahn cuon: One of the best places to try banh cuon is in Hanoi is Bánh Cuốn Nóng Kim Thoa located at 49 Hàm Tử Quan. What I like about this place is that it serves bahn cuon as late as 10pm so you can try it for dinner as well as breakfast.The other reason to visit is Anthony Bourdain’s rave review “Oh, that’s very good”. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me! Don’t expect any frills but do pull up a plastic stool and share a beer with the locals.
Another place to eat banh cuon is Ky Dong Restaurant on Tong Duy Tan. This outdoor eatery serves all your Vietnamese staples so it’s a good place to sample other dishes, too. Both places charge 20-30k VND for banh cuon.
Nem cua be (crab spring rolls)
This version of ‘nem’ (fried spring rolls) looks similar to the meaty ones that come with bun cha. However, they have a different filling: rich, moreish crab.
Where to try nem cua be: I had a fantastic and very cheap serving at Noodle and Roll in the Old Quarter. This is a restaurant rather than a street food joint so it’s a good spot for newbies easing into the cuisine.
Ca cuon thit
Translating as ‘fish roll meat’, these fried goodies are similar to crab rolls but with fish rather than crab and an added layer of pork.
Interestingly, this dish isn’t just native to Hanoi, it’s also unique to the particular alleyway it’s served in, Trung Yen, where I also ate bun ca. As above, I’d recommend showing them this photo and text because Vietnamese pronunciations can be tough (I wouldn’t trust myself to get it even close!).
Bun bo nam bo
You’ll see bun bo nam bo everywhere. It’s a Hanoi street food staple made with Vietnam’s favourite ingredients: beef, noodles, bean sprouts, peanuts and herbs.Honestly? It wasn’t my favourite meal in Hanoi. It’s tasty, cheap and filling but just not as exciting or flavoursome as some other dishes. Maybe have it as a first meal to ease yourself in!Where to try bun bo nam bo: I tried it at Noodle and Roll, my favourite Old Quarter restaurant mentioned above.
I’ve also spied a restaurant called Bun Bo Nam Bo on Hang Dieu that serve it exclusively. According to Trip Advisor, they’re the best in the biz!
The ultimate Hanoi street food
Well, it wouldn’t be a Hanoi food guide without a banh mi, would it?
If you’re looking for the best street food in Hanoi, take yourself down to your nearest banh mi stall. In case you don’t know, banh mis are fresh crusty baguettes packed with meat, veggies and flavoursome sauces. They’re a million times more delicious than can be described so it’s best you gorge on them for yourself! I’d recommend:
- Maison de Lien, 6 Nam Ngo – head here for high-quality deli ingredients and tasty, elegant banh mis
- Banh Mi 25, 25 Hàng Cá, – this Western-style joint didn’t wow me but everyone else seems to love it so I thought I’d give it a mention (it’s a great option for vegetarians, though I’m not sure they’re still reading!)
- Tram Banh My, 252 Cửa Nam – a cheap, local variation with lots of oozy, messy sauce.
Never pay more than 35k for a banh mi. They’re truly one of the best Vietnamese foods in Hanoi so get stuck in!
Pho (bo or ga)
I find it bizarre how popular pho is in the West while tons of equally delicious Vietnamese dishes don’t get recognised.I don’t eat pho as often as some dishes but when I’m in the right mood, it’s tasty, tangy and warming. Opt for ‘bo’ (beef) or ‘ga’ (chicken). Beef is way nicer in my opinion.Tip for ordering pho: don’t be that Westerner who pronounces it wrong! Saying the ‘o’ sound translates as prostitute. Say ‘fuh’.Where to try pho: eat pho at Pho Gia Truyen Bat Dan (49 Bát Đàn Street) for 50k VND. This serving (pictured) was incredible – so much juicy beef! The variety served here is ‘pho tai nam’ which I believe includes various cuts of meat. Expect round steak, flank and brisket.
The other place I see enormous queues for is Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su. I’ve yet to eat here but people don’t wait that long for no good reason! Both these Old Quarter eateries are bound to be a great intro to pho or a solid repeat portion.
Bún riêu (crab noodles)
I didn’t realise there was so much seafood around until my street food tour in Hanoi. I also didn’t realise how many types of noodle dishes exist in Vietnam – it’s insane!Bún riêu noodles are thick, juicy and round, unlike the flat pho ones. Crab noodles generally are a real treat. My generous portion was piled with fresh white meat, succulent greens and a powerful kick of chilli.
Where to try bún riêu: Nguyen Seui restaurant serves delicious crab noodles for lunch only – later on, it becomes a pork restaurant. Visit 23 Nguyen Sieu Street between 10am and 2pm. Dining here was a real experience because the stools were the smallest I’ve ever witnessed – I was about 10cm off the floor!
‘Pho’ can refer to either the dish or the noodles themselves, while ‘cuon’ means roll. So what does that make pho cuon? Rolled rice batter served like spring rolls (rather than cut up into noodles).This popular Hanoi food is stuffed with beef and herbs. Sadly for me, I hate coriander and had to pick out giant sprigs. If you like it, you’ll probably love pho cuon!Where to try pho: Some of the tastiest food in Hanoi can be found in the Truc Bach district of Hanoi. Phở Cuốn Hương Mai is an authentic, busy restaurant shouldn’t be missed.
If you’d rather stay near the Old Quarter, Ky Dong Restaurant at 11 Tong Duy Tan is another spot to tuck into soft, tasty pho cuon for 60k VND.
Pho chien phong
Now you’re familiar with banh cuon and pho cuon, you’ll know how much the Vietnamese love their soft rice batter. So why not deep fry it? It’s not the dish for health benefits but oh well!
The fried cubes are piled high with beef, greens and tomato (the second two make it healthy, right?).
Where to try pho chien phong: Phở Cuốn Hương Mai in Truc Bach serve pho chien phong as well as pho cuon. My serving was messy, meaty, cheap and huge – a great meal by Vietnamese standards!
Lau (Vietnamese hot pot)
Don’t leave Hanoi without stuffing yourself with a hot pot – preferably an unlimited one.Hot pots (known in Vietnamese as ‘lau’) are cooked at your table and include noodles, meat, veggies, tofu and just about anything else you fancy throwing in.They’re also a really sociable way of dining. One hot pot can feed a large group of people and you’ll often see huge families bonding over their shared meal.I went to Buffet Khan with my Vietnamese friend where we paid 100k VND each for an unlimited hot pot feast including sides of prawn crackers, sweet dim sum and salad. A random mix but very tasty.
Where to try lau: Buffet Khan at 56 Khâm Thiên is an all-you-can-eat restaurant (now there’s a challenge!) but you’ll find this food in Hanoi from the Old Quarter to the outskirts. You can guarantee everything’s fresh since it’s literally cooked before your eyes!
On my last night in Hanoi, my local friend suggested we go out for cha ca. I’d never heard of this Hanoi food before but I knew that ca meant fish.
Cha translates as ‘grilled’ which meant our dinner was grilled fish. This turned out to be a feast! A big pot of fish and greens was placed over a flame on our table and topped up whenever it was empty.
We were served side portions of noodles, peanuts, chilli, coriander and cucumber, plus an endless supply of fish sauce (this is Vietnam after all!).
Where to try cha ca: Head to Chả cá Anh Vũ. The address is 120-k1 Giảng Võ – a little out of town but worth the $1 Grab ride!
It’s not exactly street food but I’d argue that egg coffee is creamy enough to count as a dessert. While perched on a street stall outside one of the many cafes in Hanoi, I watched the world go by while sipping rich and creamy egg coffee.
It sounds odd but I love the combination of bitter black coffee with sweet whisked egg and condensed milk. Drinking egg coffee in Hanoi is a right of passage for foodies!
Where to eat street food in Hanoi
Now we’ve covered the famous Hanoi foods, let’s discuss where to eat it. Next up, some eating areas I’d highly recommend…
Tong Duy Tan
Tong Duy Tan is a top spot for Hanoi street food just a few minutes from the Old Quarter. Here you’ll find locals and foreigners dining on many of the best traditional foods in Hanoi. My favourite restaurant is Ky Dong where I ate the banh cuon and pho cuon pictured above.
Trung Yen Alley
The little alley where I ate bun ca and ca cuon thit isn’t known by many tourists. Go in with an adventurous attitude! There won’t be any menus and English may be limited so show them the bun ca and ca cuon photos in this blog.
Noodle and Roll Restaurant
I love the restaurants that only serve one dish because you know it’s their speciality. However, one Old Quarter restaurant that serves every Hanoian dish in existence and do them all well is Noodle and Roll.Not only is this restaurant affordable, but it’s the best place I know for vegetarian food. I’ve been just to get some healthy veggies when I’ve been in need (don’t worry, unhealthy dishes are also served in abundance!).
Recommended Hanoi food tours:
Keyword: Hanoi Food Guide: 16 Dishes & Street Food Locations!