Even if you’re not a foodie, Hanoi is a great place to visit! Hanoi is a cheap place to be, with low prices for accommodation, tours, and transportation. In addition, Vietnamese street food has a distinct taste, with its slight sweetness and herbs like mint. The greatest thing is, you can get awesome value even if you spend just a tiny bit! This is true with anything, but especially with Hanoi’s street food.
You should try street food, even if you usually don’t. I didn’t get sick trying them, and they will definitely make for a happy budget! You will be able to find something for every meal – and take advantage of it! These are some of the dishes that I tried and loved – and would highly recommend for you.
Phở: Vietnamese Rice Noodles with Beef
This is probably the most iconic Vietnamese street food. I’ve been to countless pho places in the United States, and Vietnamese restaurants always have it. Pho is a rice noodle dish. The noodles are cooked in broth that has a slight sweet taste to it. Generally, the pho is topped with meat (beef or chicken is most popular, with beef being the go-to) and various herbs. The exact ingredients vary, but they make for a great, cheap meal. The bowl that I had – a small – was just over $1.50.
Vietnamese people generally eat pho for breakfast, so you can find it everywhere, starting as early as 6 am (but most places don’t open until 7). Unlike pho in other countries, it is often eaten for breakfast. I personally do not like to eat much for breakfast, so I had it for lunch.
In Hanoi, you can see people sitting along the side of the road with bowls of hot noodles. They probably eat it in the morning because the soup is always hot, and it is not a good pair with the scorching heat. Nevertheless, I can recommend this street food for lunch!
Get pho at Pho Thin
The pho place that was apparently the “Best in Hanoi” is in the city center near Hoan Kiem Lake. It is on the East side, just south of the Water Puppet Theater. (I visited Pho Thin right after buying tickets for the water puppet show that night!) The exact address is 61 Dinh Tien Hoang. It’s a bit of a hole in the wall, so be on the lookout for this sign!
It’s literally like a stand that is located in an alley between buildings or something. You can’t get more street food than this! I saw the above sign near a small cafe and thought it was it, until I realized there was no pho being served. It turns out the entrance looks more like this:
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Bún Bò Nam Bộ: Vietnamese Vermicelli with Grilled Beef
As much as I love pho, these beef noodles might be my favorite dish. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but decided to try this out.
Bun bo nam bo is the name of the dish (I just wrote “beef noodles” in my travel plans). It refers to a classic dish that has cool, super thin vermicelli noodles as the core of it, placed on a bed of lettuce. On top of that is bean sprouts, beef, and fried onion pieces, and peanuts. Yum! The ingredients alone might not sound that delectable, but trust me: it is! The dish is a welcome meal when you get out from the heat (if you’re in Hanoi in the summer). It tastes like noodles and meat, with enough crunch to make the mouthfeel interesting and enough flavor to keep you on your toes!
Get Bun bo nam bo at the Bun Bo Nam Bo restaurant
The best place to get this street food is the Bun Bo Nam Bo restaurant. It’s not too far away from the St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The exact address is 67 Hang Dieu. The entrance is deceptively small, but it extends far into the building. If you go there during peak meal times, you’ll probably upwards of a hundred diners. The great thing is that, the restaurant specializes in one dish, so they get it out fast to you. I went almost exactly at noon and got my food within 10 minutes. I don’t normally drink, but they also had an array of local beers and regular soda to choose from.
They have seriously figured out the process. Watching them prepare the food is like watching a movie!
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Bánh Mì: Vietnamese Sandwiches
Another street food dish you have to try is banh mi! This is technically the word for bread or baguette – and is, as you guessed, French inspired. This is probably the dish that bears most resemblance to European food.
It is a small sandwich with all kinds of ingredients. The standard banh mi has some sort of meat – typically pork or chicken. It has a set number of vegetables, traditionally with cucumbers, carrots, and coriander. The sandwich shops are everywhere, and you can find all kinds of variations on the fillings. If you are looking for anything specific, you definitely should be able to find it!
Get Banh Mi at Banh Mi 25
Some of the best banh mi in Vietnam are from a tiny little sandwich stall in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. It’s known as Banh Mi 25 – in reference to their address. You can find it at 25 Hàng Cá, towards the northern end of the Old Quarter.
I went at about 7 pm – prime dinner time – and it was busy! I had to wait about 15 minutes between ordering and getting my sandwich. When you get there, make sure it’s between 7 am and 9 pm on Mondays through Saturdays. They close at 7 pm on Sundays!
This place is way high up on TripAdvisor rankings for Hanoi, even though it’s so tiny. Because of that, there are plenty of tourists and no locals, but it’s just as well. I got the mixed banh mi because I knew I would only have one chance to try it out. It comes with pate, barbecued pork, jambon (the French word for ham), and sausage. I honestly don’t remember all those meats, but it was still delicious! For reference, pate is a sort of seasoned pork that is made into a paste. It sounds weird, but I didn’t taste anything I wouldn’t pay for again!
Banh Mi 25 has a small cafe-like area on the side. You should definitely wait for your sandwich here if you want to eat it there, or else they’ll bring it to you in a to-go bag (my bad!). Meanwhile, they sell local ice creams and fresh-squeezed juices! I ordered an apple juice that was absolutely exquisite. 10/10 would recommend.
The only piece of advice I have for this place is to order 2 sandwiches if you’re going for anything other than a snack. The sandwiches are just around $1 USD and are a little small, so don’t be afraid to get another one and try different flavors!
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The Vietnamese have mastered the art of coffee. I am not someone who loves to drink it, and when I do, I always have an overload of sugar and milk. Coffee snobs laugh because my drinks are closer to sweetened milk with a dash of coffee than coffee with a dash of sugar and milk. Either way, I knew the one thing I had to try in Vietnam was the coffee! It’s not technically street food, but it’s close enough!
Traditional Vietnamese coffee is world-famous. It’s made with Vietnamese roast and a small specialized drip filter. Because of the roasting process, this coffee is strong af. For someone like me, who is sensitive to caffeine, it is a power food. I was up until super late even though I had the coffee early!
The most common way to get it is with condensed milk. That’s the white layer you see at the bottom. You can stir the two layers together (recommended) if you like a sweeter drink. As I’m used to sweet milk with a dash of coffee, I definitely did. If you’re like me, you might want to carry around extra milk and sugar, because the result is still bitter. However, it is surprisingly good for bitter coffee!
I got the above cup at Comga Restaurant. It’s near Bun Bo Nam Bo, and the address is 1 Cua Dong Street in the Hoan Kiem District. I don’t think it’s a place to go for coffee snobs, but as a non-aficionado, I liked it enough! If you are pickier, you can walk around and find a cafe with lots of locals drinking coffee there.
Cơm Gà Hoi An: Hoi An Chicken Rice
I love chicken, and I love rice! There was no way to go wrong with this one. Even though it wasn’t a street food dish native to Hanoi, it is still Vietnamese.
Hoi An’s chicken rice is a bit unique in the spices and cooking methods that they use. The chicken is boiled and then stripped so that it’s made into slices, rather than whole pieces. The rice is cooked with some turmeric, which gives it the light yellow color. My meal also had some rice noodles in the mix, and was topped with coriander. (All these herbs are common to Vietnamese cuisine!)
The taste wasn’t very strong, so I poured the soy sauce that came with the dish all over it. It turned out to be pretty good! Traditional chicken rice is also covered in chili sauce, but since I am not a fan of spicy foods, I forwent that part.
Stir-Fried Ice Cream
This sounds like one of those oxymorons that doesn’t make sense on the surface, but also does when you get past that surface. Note that it’s different from fried ice cream, which has a crunchy, fried outer layer.
Stir-fried ice cream originated in Thailand and is definitely made on the streets. You can find it in a lot of street food areas across Southeast Asia – and I definitely recommend it! If you don’t have it here (for about $1-equivalent), you’ll find yourself shelling out upwards of $7 at ice cream stores in the US and elsewhere for it.
Of course the chef doesn’t literally stir-fry the ice cream. Basically, they make it in the same way as other stir-fried foods (think vegetables or rice). The surface used for making it is just very cold, instead of hot and covered with oil. The ice cream chef (what a job!) first puts cream on the fryer. As it starts to freeze, they put the other ingredients that you want into the ice cream. This can be chocolate powder if they’re making chocolate ice cream, bananas if they’re making banana flavor, or literally any other food that can be crushed and mixed. They mix the ingredients until everything is frozen enough, and then they roll up the ice cream into rolls!
Getting the stir-fried ice cream is definitely half about the cooking process. Watch how this ice cream was born:
Like many parts of Asia, Vietnam has its own brand of dessert teas. They’re not exactly street food, but they are a part of local culture.
I was looking for a place to duck the rain while on my way to the Temple of Literature, and I stumbled upon a place known as Royal Tea. I had no idea, but it turns out this chain is like the Starbucks of Vietnam. They have branches everywhere! The most interesting offering they have are cheese teas, which are basically liquid sweet cheese. I got this cheesecake bubble tea – best money I’ve ever spent in my entire life!
The store has branches everywhere, including the Old Quarter in Hanoi. I can definitely recommend stopping by if you’re up for tasting something unique and mouthwatering!
TL; DR: Eat everything in Hanoi, Vietnam!
It’s all too good and too cheap to pass up, I promise!
*Inspired by The Global Couple’s article, 36 Hours in Hanoi, Vietnam: A Street Food Experience Check them out!
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