Hanoi street food - Top 10 must try food in Hanoi, Viet Nam

Vietnamese cuisine varies by region. Each city, even each village, has its own list of unique local specialties. Hanoi is no exception. Many of the popular Vietnamese dishes originated here. Namely, the famous Vietnamese noodle soup pho is a Hanoi food known as one of the most iconic Vietnamese foods.

Situated near the Chinese border, northern Vietnamese and specifically Hanoi cuisine reflects Chinese influences. 

With the cooler northern climate and wide availability of freshwater fish and seafood, the food in Hanoi has its own distinctive flavor. 

Prawns, shrimp, crab, clams, and more seafood can be found in some of the best Hanoi food.

Hanoi, as we discovered, is also famous for its street food culture. Street food stalls are popular and make up for the vast majority of Hanoi food. 

Some of the best and surprising local food experiences in Hanoi are made on the sidewalks with locals and not in restaurants.

In this guide, we highlight 10 of the best authentic and local food in Hanoi you must eat.

1. Bun Cha or Bún Chả  – Barbecued Pork with Rice Vermicelli

Bun cha is one northern Vietnamese food that quickly became our favorite. It is one of the best Hanoi food specialties not to be missed.

Bun Cha consists of grilled pork strips and balls or chả served over a bed of steaming rice vermicelli noodles or bún. The vermicelli noodles served on the side are thin, soft and slightly chewy. 

It typically comes with a plate of fresh Vietnamese herbs and a bowl of dipping sauce.  Pickled vegetables, like cabbage, carrots, onion or green papaya are served with additional meatballs on the side. 

The sauce is made of the famous Vietnamese fish sauce or Nuoc Mam combined with vinegar, lime, sugar, garlic and chili.

We learned quickly how to eat bun cha from mimicking locals around us. Slide the vermicelli in the meatballs broth and mix all the ingredients together. 

Then, you just have to find the right dexterity with the chopsticks to dive into it.

While the origin of bun cha is unclear, it is known as a Hanoi food staple. 

In Saigon, you will find bun cha sweeter cousin called Bun Thit Nuong. This rice noodles dish is made with grilled meat and served directly in the same bowl.

2. Nem Cua Be or Nem cua bể – Crab Spring Rolls

Nem Cua Be or crab spring rolls are the perfect complement to bun cha. It is a fried roll filled with sea crab and vermicelli noodles. 

While Nem Cua Be is native from Haiphong, a city on the coastline of northeast Vietnam, it is common to see it served with bun cha in Hanoi.

These crab spring rolls are sold by roll, where one roll is cut into three smaller pieces. They are eaten as an appetizer while waiting for the bun cha meal or dipped into the savory bun cha soup.

Fresh and lightly fried, these nem cua be spring rolls melt in the mouth and are to be savored. 

3. Cha Ca or Chả Cá Lã Vọng  – Grilled Fish with Dill and Turmeric

Cha Ca is one of the unique specialties of the Hanoi people and definitely a must eat food in Hanoi. 

So important is this local speciality, that it even has a street named after it – Cha Ca street.

The special ingredient in cha ca is grilled fish, typically mudfish or snake-head fish. According to the restaurant, the best fish to use is Hemibragus. This southeast asian fish has fewer bones and a tasty flesh.

This Hanoi food is made table side and the experience of preparing the dish is almost as much fun as eating it.

A  server will set up a hot pot on your table and will bring everything you need to accompany your meal. 

Fresh herbs, vermicelli rice noodles, a bowl of roasted peanuts and a dipping fish sauce with sliced chilies. In the pot is the fish grilling with mounds of dill and turmeric.

4. Bun Ca or Bún Cả – Fish Noodles Soup


Fish soup is a common Vietnamese dish across Vietnam. The type of fish used is based on where you are in Vietnam.

In Northern Vietnam, freshwater fish is widely used in dishes. This Hanoi food, bun ca, is no exception.

It is a light broth made from fish bones with golden fresh white fish lightly fried. At the bottom of the soup you will find a bed of rice vermicelli. 

This fish soup is very fragrant and heartwarming, a hanoi food to savor on the street.

5. Banh Cuon or Bánh Cuốn – Steamed Rice Rolls

Banh cuon is another local Hanoi food that originated in Northern Vietnam that you don’t want to miss. 

It is a delicate and light dish usually eaten for breakfast in Vietnam. However, you can find it all day long.

Banh cuon is made of a thin rice sheet rolled and filled with ground pork meat and minced mushrooms. It is served with fried shallots and cilantro herbs on top.

The flavor of the dish resides in its side dipping sauce. It is made with Nuoc Mam a typical fish sauce and a drop of cà cuống which is a giant water bug essence common in Southeast Asia. 

This drop in the sauce adds an extra flavor which tastes like scallop or shrimp. This natural essence is becoming scarce and a lot of restaurants are using imitation essence.

e most fascinating is the process to make banh cuon. The rice sheet is made by steaming a fermented rice batter on a cloth stretched over a pot of boiling water. 

Best is to watch the ladies in the front making this “must eat food in Hanoi” on the spot. It is quite fascinating!

6. Pho or Phở – Vietnamese Noodle Soup


Pho is the classic dish of Hanoi, and one that you cannot miss.  Pho, while known as the national dish of Vietnam, originated in the North. 

It became popular as a hearty soup eaten by the rice field workers for breakfast.

Pho is a flat rice noodle soup made of a fragrant meat broth, most commonly beef and sometimes chicken. 

This aromatic soup is filled with slices of meat and a plateful of fresh herbs. The fresh herbs used in the soup typically include green onions, ginger, and coriander.

The meat, primarily beef, consists of thin cuts added into the soup. In Hanoi, we found Pho served most commonly prepared with three types of meat.

Pho Tai is made with slices of rare beef steak, Pho Nam served with beef flank pieces. And finally, Pho Gau which has slices of brisket. 

Hearty but not heavy, this flavorful soup and Hanoi street food is commonly found at breakfast. 

7. Lau or Lẩu – Vietnamese Hot Pot


In the cooler months, Lau is one of the most popular dishes and street food to eat in Hanoi. 

Sitting on the sidewalks, in the evenings, you will see groups of locals huddled together over a large simmering pot.

Ingredients are then cooked on the table when plunged into the hot pot of stock. Typical ingredients cooked in this hot broth are beef, chicken or pork, fish or seafood, noodles, fresh vegetables and more.

Next to the tables, vendors have on display large trays filled with different vegetables and protein to be added to the hot pot.

There are many different kinds of hot pots. Frog is one of the most popular ones that we saw followed by chicken and seafood. 

This is a large dish that is meant to be shared. Cuts of vegetables and meats are dipped into the common hot broth which gets more flavorful as the meal goes on.

The cooked ingredients are then dipped into a sauce, traditionally made with chili, garlic, lime and cilantro.

8.  Banh Mi or Bánh Mì – Vietnamese Sandwich

The banh mi sandwich is truly the best Vietnamese sandwich to fall in love with. While its origins are French, the Vietnamese have made it distinctively their own. 

Generally speaking it is an airy Vietnamese baguette made with a combination of wheat and rice flours with a thin crispy crust. 

Banh mi is stuffed with pork, pâté, cured ham, a mélange of Vietnamese herbs and vegetables. Coriander, cucumber, carrot, slices, radish, and more make up for the banh mi vegetables depending on where you are in Vietnam.

A wealth of textures and flavors, you will savor spicy, salty, savory, sweet, and aromatic tastes in each bite. 

9. Che or Chè – Vietnamese Sweet Soup

Che or Chè in Vietnamese, literally means desserts. It is the word for traditional Vietnamese desserts and also Vietnamese sweet soups. 

Chè sweet soups are typically made of several ingredients mixed together and served in a large glass.

Che desserts are a perfect end to your meal, especially if eating a light meal like banh cuon. 

In Hanoi, you’ll find che vendors on the street. When it is cooler, delight in a warm bowl of chè deserts. When it’s hot, you will appreciate crushed ice added to your che dessert.

On the street food vendor’s cart, you’ll find different ingredients in large bowls on display. When you order your che dessert, simply point to the ingredients you want.

Some of the typical ingredients include mung beans or mung bean paste, black beans, corn, taro, tapioca, jelly and more.

Due to the Chinese influence in Hanoi, you will find a special che called chè trôi nước. 

This is a sweet soup made with mung bean balls wrapped in a glutinous rice flour dipped in a warm ginger sauce. 

10. Ca Phe Trung or Cà Phê Trung- Vietnamese Egg Coffee 


Although it is not technically a food specialty, Ca Phe Trung or Cafe Trung is a Hanoi specialty coffee.

This Vietamese egg coffee is the most famous coffee in the north of Vietnam. It is a thick dark coffee topped with egg yolk whipped with condensed milk into an airy froth. 

Rich in taste, it can be likened to tiramisu dessert. 

This egg coffee was born out of necessity. It is said to have been created in Hanoi in 1946 to cope with dairy shortages during the Indochina War.  

Unlike Mexican coffee which is made with arabica bean, Vietnam’s coffee is made from robusta beans.  This coffee tends to be strong, harsh, and bitter and is often consumed with milk to balance out the flavors.

During the war and due to milk shortages, Nguyen Van Giang, a bartender at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel, created egg coffee. 

He is said to have whisked in an egg to the coffee giving birth to this legendary Hanoi coffee drink.

Today, Vietnamese egg coffee is closer to a dessert than coffee.  It is made with creamy condensed milk and beaten up egg yolk until it becomes an airy, creamy and like meringue.

Egg coffee is an experience, especially when you want caffeine and dessert at the same time.

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