The first thing a food lover does when travelling to a new city is of course grab the first dish he or she sees on the road. With Hanoi, this could take days since there is a long list of unique-flavored dishes you could taste. For those wishing for a holistic eating experience, here’s how you can make the best of a day in Hanoi.
First let’s start with breakfast.
One of the most famous Vietnames dish to the world is probable bánh mì. This is a perfect choice for students or any commuters. It’s tasty, offering you many fillings or toppings and quick to grab when you’re in a rush. Some of the most common fillings are fried egg, pate, chả lụa (another form of meat), xá xíu (seasoned meat). Sometimes people can mix egg and pate up, then fry it, the result is definitely gonna blow your mind.
One thing that makes bánh mì so unique is the toppings. They usually have seasoned shredded vegetables, which add harmony to the fat of the meat. Other than that, many vendors have their own sauce’s recipe that is so addictive. It’s kind of salty and sweet and spicy, all at the same time. It is an explosion of food culture within a few bites. Everyone should definitely try it.
Bánh cuốn (stuffed pancake)
If you have already tasted those 2 and want to try more, bánh cuốn nong is the next sensation. To put it simply, bánh cuốn nong is the Vietnamese form of dumpling, made of rolled rice flour garnished with seasoned ground pork and black mushrooms, sprinkled with fried onions and served with nuoc cham (a sauce with base of fish-sauce, garlic, lemon and chilli). You can also order some chả quế (Vietnames mortadella) to eat with bánh cuốn, the combination is worth all the wait.
Xôi Xéo (steamed glutinous rice)
Xôi Xéo is the equivalent of comfort food for Hanoians. The dish starts with glutinous rice cooked with mung bean and turmeric powder. The final result is a dense, bright yellow sticky rice which is then topped off with a drizzle of liquid fat and a hand full of deep fried shallots.
From here it is infinitely customizable with various toppings ranging from grilled chicken to pork belly to fermented hard-boiled eggs. My favorite combination is caramelized pork (thịt kho), Chinese sausage (lạp sườn), and pork floss (ruốc). You can choose as many toppings as you want. And you may be full half way done. It is truly a big bowl of enlightenment.
Another option that many Vietnamese love for their breakfast is phở. It’s like the famous spaghetti of Italy. This kind of noodle bowl is unforgettable. If you first look at it, well it’s not that complex of a dish, there’s white noodles, filled with some water and topped with slices of beef of chicken and onions. In reality, it takes a lot of time and effort to make a masterpiece like that. People have to spend hours to soft-boil the bones, in order to get the natural sweet juice out of it, which explains why the broth is heavenly good but not sugary.
While there is literally at least one phở store in every corner of Hanoi, the ones that are worth waiting for should be those that have their own recipe of what to season their broth. If you just simply boil the bones for hours, it’s not enough. Spices and herbs and some you might not know are carefully picked and mixed together, put in a clean cloth and they tie it up to put it in the broth while boiling. The result is a bowl of phở, so rich in flavor that you can’t stop eating till the last drop.
Cà phê đá (iced milk coffee)
Cà phê đá is iced black coffee. An important note is that Vietnamese coffee is no joke. It’s not decaf so the taste is strong. But that’s why we like it. Many Hanoian enjoy having a cup of coffee in the morning since it is like an alarm clock to your energy. While some will take a quick coffee to get to work, others love to spend their time on the sidewalk of some coffee shops, relaxing with drops of coffee slowly falling down.
Hanoi can be considered the culinary capital of Vietnam. A lot of unique dishes from all around the country make their mark here, in Hanoi. So there are many choices for you. You can choose banh mi or pho or consider some of these lovely dishes too.
Bún chả (Kebab rice noodles)
Bún chả is the delicious combination of grilled, caramelized edges of grilled ground pork and hearty fresh noodles, fatty pork belly, funky fish sauce and fresh fragrant herbs. The noodle in Bún chả is much different to Pho, if you’re wondering. While Pho’s noodles are usually flat, Bun is thinner.
About how to eat, you just simply dip the bun noodles into a bowl of sauce flavored with heaping mounds of fresh herbs (mostly a type of Vietnamese shiso), sliced papaya, red chili and garlic. This dish has wowed many foreigners for its appetizing taste, including Barack Obama on his visit to Vietnam. You can’t miss it.
Other than Bún chả, you can also try bun rieu (rieu means the meat of small crabs). This is personally my favorite. Bun rieu brings out that a bit sour taste from the tomatoes yet the sweetness of crabs. It's absolutely worth your try.
Cơm rang thập cẩm
As you know, rice is our daily base of carbs here. Every meal needs to have rice (or at least that's what every Vietnames mom tells us). Rice gives us energy throughout the day. And to make it more diverse, Vietnamese have many ways to cook rice. One of the signature ways of cooking rice is to stir-fry them. This dish may not be considered a signature one but it’s addictive too. Many Phở stores nowadays sell more than just the traditional Phở; they also have cơm rang - stir-fried rice. The rice is blended with egg yolk, giving the rice a sunny yellow color. Many other ingredients like green peas, corn, carot, chả, lạp xưởng are chopped into small pieces and mixed with the rice on a big hot pan. Eat this with a side of seasoned pickles is the best.
There are also cơm rang dưa bò (stir-fried rice with beef stir-fried with pickles) which is delicious and nutritious enough for lunch for any worker.
The afternoon is the perfect time for some snacks. Wandering around Hanoi with some changes around 50.000 VND and you can try lots of Vietnamese street food.
Bánh khúc (Vietnamese sticky rice ball)
Bánh khúc is a rice ball made of glutinous rice mixed with cud-weed (khuc) - the most important ingredient and filled with green bean paste, pork, and spices. If you are in the old quarter of Hanoi, you might hear someone cry “Ai banh khuc nong day?” (Who wants hot “banh khuc”?). You can stop them and ask if the “banh khuc” is from Ngoai Hoang village in Ha Noi, a place that is famous for having the most delicious and tasty “banh khuc”. Then, you can buy one for tasting.
Bánh giò (Vietnamese pyramidal rice dumpling)
Bánh giò is another beloved street food. It is made from simple ingredients. The filling includes chopped wood-ear and minced pork, two of which mix together so blended. They are stir-fried with shallots and seasoned with fish sauce and pepper. The outer skin is made by mixing rice flour with water and salt. The mixture is kneaded, stirred and cooked to form a thick, half-done substance. People usually eat it with seasoned pickles and chả quế or chả cốm as well.
Bánh tôm Hồ Tây (West Lake shrimp in batter)
Hồ Tây or West Lake is known for the signature bánh tôm - shrimp cake. Shrimp cakes have just a few main ingredients: freshwater crayfish or shrimp from West Lake, flour and sweet potato. Instead of grinding the shrimp into a paste (like a fish ball), the fried seafood is often left wholly - sitting atop the crunchy cakes. It's usually served with lettuce leaves for wrapping, plus chili, lime juice and fish sauce for dipping. Eating this while watching the daily windy road of Hồ Tây set a whole theme for relaxation
Bánh đúc nóng
Bánh đúc nóng is great for winter days. It is a hot bowl of watery bánh đúc topped with minced pork, wood-ear mushroom, fried onion and herbs with fish sauce. Due to its adding: pork, some may call this bánh đúc thịt (thịt means meat). A famous writer, Vu Bang, has described bánh đúc nóng as the tender, rustic and mild taste, a hidden elegant fragile beauty rather than a rebellious one.
Chè - any kinds
Chè in Hanoi is really diverse, having a wide range of choices that sometimes looking at the menu takes me a whole day. You can either grab a traditional one with the main ingredient: bean (green bean, red bean, black bean) or try some modern-day chè with many different jelly, caramel and yogurt. For the healthy eaters, try chè hoa quả (fruit chè) which is a combination of fresh cut tropical fruit with milk and yogurt. This dessert serves you right in the summer days.
Cà phê trứng (Egg coffee)
Cà phê trứng or egg coffee is one of 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 give a resemblance to tiramisu.
For the last meal of the day, we recommend these dishes.
Chả cá Lã Vọng (La Vong Grilled Fish)
A distinctive Hanoi delicacy, chả cá is Hemibagrus (a species of catfish) seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric, and dill served on a sizzling pan. Diners also get a bowl of rice noodles, peanuts, chopped spring onions, parsley, nuoc cham sauce, and red chili slices, all of which are meant to be mixed together with the turmeric fish, giving a holistic culinary experience.
The wide array of flavors compliment each other perfectly! If I have to choose a single dish that is considered the food of Hanoi, it is Chả cá and you should absolutely try it while you’re in the capital of Vietnam.
Món cuốn, gỏi (Rolls or Salad)
For some people who want a light meal before bedtime, the rolls will be a great choice because of its elegance. Hanoi, with cuisine focusing on sophistication, is considered the "paradise" of the rolls.
Some of the rolls that visitors can try in Hanoi include: grilled meet roll (nem nướng), pho roll (phở cuốn), Vietnamese fresh spring roll or summer roll (gỏi cuốn), ...
For 24 hours, these dishes are so ideal and well-chosen for any food lovers. However, as diverse as the Vietnamese street food goes, there are many other dishes not added to this list. We recommend you to ask from a local or any native you know for the best recommendation.
If you are looing for a place to satisfy your curiosity about Northern Vietnamese cuisine, then Lang Lieu is exactly where you should head to!
Named after the progenitor of Vietnamese cuisine, we dedicate ourselves to providing a special journey back time so that every guest can fully sense Vietnamese culture-rich history through the food we serve. Our menu presents signature traditional dishes in Northern Vietnam, from the Old Quarter of Hanoi to the mountainous North-West and North-East. Also, located right in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Lang Lieu has such a tranquil vibe that you will immediately find peace the moment you step past the door.
Book a table and start your culinary journey with us!