When former President Barack Obama traveled to Hanoi in 2016, he famously joined the late Anthony Bourdain for a meal of bun cha, a beloved local specialty made up of bits of marinated, charcoal-grilled pork patties and pork slices in a dipping sauce with rice noodles and herb garnishes.
And then of course there’s the world-famous pho. Made with rice noodles, this beef noodle soup is a must-try on the streets of Hanoi – not to mention readily available overseas. But there’s much more to the city’s diverse food scene and here are five dishes every Hanoi visitor – not just global leaders – should try.
Banh my – Vietnamese sandwich
Described as “the savory and satisfying Vietnamese street-food sandwich”, “a smorgasbord of flavors that represents a true melting pot of cultures and ingredients alike,” Banh mi is a typical baguette split lengthwise before stuffed with a wide variety of delicious ingredients.
The most basic and popular banh mi in Vietnam is a fusion of cold cuts and vegetables like coriander, cucumber, pickled carrots, and daikon combined with condiments from French cuisine such as pâté, along with chili and mayonnaise.
However, a wide variety of popular fillings are used, including fried eggs, grilled pork, meatballs, and even ice cream. Find out more about this dish here: Vietnamese Baguette Banh My
Cha ca La Vong – Hanoi tumeric grilled fish with dill
Cha ca La Vong claims to be the oldest restaurant in Vietnam and the dish was first made by the family Doan in Hanoi in 1871. The restaurant has been open for five consecutive generations and had its street location renamed after its famous fish dish.
This is how to describe Cha ca La Vong: a visit to the family home, an invitation to sit at a family-style table, and a chance to see the marinated white fish cooked right at your table. It is marinated in turmeric, oil, and other spices and then gently cooked over a medium flame and finally covered in fresh dill and onion which softens and is placed on vermicelli noodles and covered in peanuts!
It’s the sole dish and is most often accompanied by beer or wine. The servers make certain to replenish the frying pan with more fish when you’re ready. It’s a fine meal — with a generous helping of Hanoi history and a chance to commune with the locals and other visitors on the side.
Ca phe trung – Egg coffee
Unlike Western regular coffee, Hanoi locals have created a new way to enjoy coffee for decades: mixing eggs into coffee to form a perfect match. Egg coffee is a Vietnamese drink traditionally prepared with egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk, and robusta coffee. It might sound weird and hard to imagine. But how strange, the taste is surprisingly good, if not to say amazing!
The egg yolks are creamy soft, and meringue-like perching on the dense Vietnamese signature coffee. Somehow it just works and comes with the taste of pleasure! Egg coffee can be ordered hot or cold and both of them seem to be quite different experiences of paralleled delight.
The best time to enjoy a cup of coffee in Hanoi is right after your breakfast with local foods such as Banh mi, Sticky rice, and Bun thang. As coffee culture remains an adhesive element of Vietnamese culture and society, more and more cafes will have a go at whipping up their own version. Here are some high-ranked stores serving the best “egg-cellent” egg coffee in Hanoi:
- Giang coffee – 30 Nguyen Huu Huan
- S’Patisserie – 17 Hang Khay
- Cafe Dinh – 13 Dinh Tien Hoang
Bun rieu cua – Small crab noodle soup
Vietnamese gastronomy showcases a wide range of “bun”, each with a distinctive taste. Of all the types of this specialty food, “bun rieu cua” (vermicelli and sour crab soup) is famous for its uniqueness. The scrumptiousness of this dish is mainly attributed to its secret recipe as well as the meticulous selection of seasoning to have a nice red color with the sweet taste of crab.
While people may think that its broth is seafood-based, the traditional broth is actually from pork bone (pork bone is boiled for many hours so that the broth is naturally sweet). The ‘hero’ of this dish is crab mixture (riêu), which is sautéed with tomatoes, contributing to the slight tart and sweetness of this soup noodle. That crab paste immediately melts once it touches your tongue, yet the crab flavor would remain until you finish the portion.
Depending on the region, bun rieu might also come topped with beef, pork, snails or fish. Vermicelli noodles swim in the soup, adding balance to a dish that’s both colorful and light. Add to that the requisite plateful of lime wedges, chili, and greens – like banana blossoms and mint – and you have a perfect meal.
Banh tom – Fried shrimp fritter
One of the specialties in the city of Hanoi is Bánh Tôm Hồ Tây (fried shrimp fritter in West Lake). Its way of processing is rather simple. Fresh shrimp is covered with wheat flour, and then deep-fried in oil. It is eaten with sweet, sour, and spicy fish sauce, and vegetable pickles for the best taste. The cake is brittle, soft, and sweet-smelling; therefore, it is an appropriate dish for drinking beer.
It is a coordinated mix of three colors: yellow, red, and green. The red brick of cooked shrimp stands out from the golden dough. The color of green comes from fresh vegetables such as lettuce, basil, etc. A famous restaurant of this delicious dish is on Thanh Nien Street, a familiar address for any Hanoian as well as tourists. You can try not only Bánh Tôm Hồ Tây here but also many more Vietnamese dishes.
Once you come to the capital of Vietnam, you should not miss these tasty dishes. With our prime location, Silk Path Hotel Hanoi and Silk Path Boutique Hanoi will be the ideal place for you to discover the bustling life of the capital & enjoy the delicious street food of Hanoi.