Hanoi is generally regarded as the home of Pho, the rice noodle soup with herbs, often served with chicken (Pho Ga) or beef (Pho Bo). It is the iconic Vietnamese dish that is now served in many parts of the world as Vietnamese cuisine spreads. It can be a stir-fried meal as well, noodles cooked to be crisp with eggs and chili added. Pho is a favourite breakfast for locals so if you start your Hanoi tour early as people are on their way to work, you will see many eating their breakfast that they have bought on their way.
Later in the day, Bun Cha is the most popular lunch, pork patties or belly grilled and served with fish sauce (always) and often lime, sugar, vinegar and herbs. Spring rolls are a good accompaniment. They vary by region with crab meat especially popular on the coast. Xoi is the sticky rice that many people throughout Vietnam have as a central part of their diet. It can be sweet as well as savoury incidentally so try both when you tour in Hanoi.
Street vendors make these dishes every day and here are a few of the meals you will find being cooked in the street, the best street food in Hanoi:
• Cha Ca is a white fish cooked with turmeric, dill and ginger in a hot pan. It will be served with rice noodles, onions, fish sauce and red chili. Mix them all together and eat.
• Mien Xao Luon, noodles with deep-fried eel, is a broth with cucumber, bean sprouts, shallots and eggs with the usual side dish of herbs, further beansprouts and dipping sauce.
• Bung Thang is a rice vermicelli dish served with chicken, pork and egg and is eaten at any time. The clear broth has numerous ingredients including shrimp paste, coriander, sugar and ginger, sweet and sour at the same time because vinegar is usually one of the ingredients.
• Banh Cuon, or rolled cake, is a snack using chicken, pork or shrimp minced and mixed with mushrooms, beansprouts and then wrapped in a sheet made of rice flour. It is dipped into a range of sauces and can easily be eaten on the move if you are in a hurry.
• Banh Goi are fried dumplings made of noodles, minced pork, mushrooms and seasoning. They are crispy and best eaten with a sweet dip with a little chili added. If you like you can wrap them in fresh lettuce leaves.
• Nem Cua Be, or crab rolls, are crispy, a great snack that is cut into comfortably-sized pieces. In addition to crab, the rolls will include a variety of spices, mushrooms and pork and a dipping sauce is an essential accompaniment.
• Chim Quay is BBQ Pigeon, perhaps similar to the Chinese roast duck, though less fatty. Several spices are used and the whole pigeon is placed on the BBQ.
• Bun Rieu are rice noodles in a tomato broth. Crab and shrimp paste are added to this breakfast favourite which is eaten with the usual greens and herbs. Enjoy!