Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam that has such a deep history and rich culture that the best way to truly experience it is by trying the wide variety of distinctive, unique and special local food. You can easily accomplish this on a self-guided Hanoi food tour.
The best Hanoi dishes are quite often inexpensive yet delicious treats that can be found within its narrow alleyways and bustling street markets, all fresh, authentic and made with great pride.
Since no trip to Hanoi is complete without sampling the traditional delicacies, here is a list of the top must-try dishes to eat on a self-guided Hanoi food tour, as well as a guide on where to try them and how to get around.
» Also check out our guide on how to plan the perfect trip to Vietnam.
What & Where to Eat in Hanoi
Banh mi (Vientamese Sandwich)
Although the origins of the banh mi are French, the Vietnamese truly made this delicacy their own and it is now one of the best dishes you can try while in Hanoi. Banh mi is an airy baguette with a thin and crispy crust that is stuffed with pork, pâté, cured ham and an incredible mixture of Vietnamese herbs and spices, such as coriander, cucumbers, carrots, radishes and more.
From Banh Mi 25 to Banh My Pi, there are numerous banh mi spots in Hanoi where you can taste this incredible blend of wealthy textures and aromatic flavors in each and every bite.
There’s no denying you’ve already heard, or maybe even tried this world-famous rice noodle soup, but if you truly want to appreciate the wonderful taste of the broth and the herbs, you need to try this bowl of soup and noodles right here in Hanoi and discover for yourself why pho in Vietnam beats pho anywhere else in the world.
This delicious blend of broth, rice noodles and meat (usually beef or chicken) can be experienced all over Hanoi, but some of the best places include Pho Bat Dan, Pho Thin and Pho Vui. See top soup spots in Hoi An.
» Learn how to make Vietnamese Pho at home.
Bun Cha (barbecued pork with rice vermicelli)
Consisting of grilled pork strips and balls (cha) served over rice vermicelli noodles (bun) with a plate of fresh herbs, a bowl of dipping sauce and pickled vegetables on the side, bun cha is one of the best specialties you shouldn’t miss when visiting Hanoi. Although there are many restaurants that prepare this famous dish,
Bún Chả Hương Liên is one of the best places in Hanoi that should undoubtedly make its way onto your must-visit list. This restaurant gained worldwide acclaim when President Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate bun cha together right here in this local, authentic and incredibly delicious place.
Nem cua be (crab spring rolls)
The preferred complement to bun cha, nem cua be are fried rolls filled with sea crab and vermicelli noodles. Fresh and lightly fried, there rolls melt in your mouth and are meant to be savored. Sold by the roll and cut into smaller pieces, they are eaten as an appetizer while waiting for the bun cha meal or even dipped into the savory bun cha soup.
Apart from the abovementioned restaurant, other great nem cua be places include Bun Cha Dac Kim and Bun Cha Lien Anh.
Cha ca (turmeric fish with dill)
A distinctive Hanoi delicacy, cha ca is a dish consisting of white fish seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric and dill, served on a sizzling pan. On the side, you will also get a bowl of rice noodles, spring onions, red chili slices, peanuts, parsley and nuoc cham sauce, all of which are meant to be mixed together with the turmeric fish. This spectacular meal is so popular with the locals that they’ve even named a street in Hanoi Old Quarter after it.
But despite that fact, the best and most affordable place where you can enjoy this seafood delicacy is at Cha Ca Thang Long in Duong Thanh Street.
Banh gio (fried dumplings)
Named after its pillow resembling shape, banh gio is a dish consisting of finely-chopped glass noodles, minced pork, wood ear mushrooms, steamed quail eggs and seasoning, all within a rice flour pastry. Deep-fried for an amazing crispy texture and served with a sweet-sour dipping sauce made with garlic, chili, sugar, lime juice and fish sauce, banh gio is a unique delicacy.
This dish is best experienced in restaurants such as Bahn gio Kim Lien and Bahn gio Thuy Khe.
How to Get Around in Hanoi
Since Hanoi is famous worldwide for its incredible street food culture, the best idea would be to hire a motorbike and go on a drive through the bustling streets, where you could experience some of the best and most surprising local foods made in the food stalls right there on the sidewalks.
If you are wondering how to choose a motorbike for rent, there are many great places in Hanoi where you can find one perfect for an incredibly delicious local food crawl and try some of these amazing traditional dishes.
For an authentic local food experience in Hanoi, put any hesitations you may have about eating on the streets aside, sit with the locals instead and try some of these incredible Vietnamese specialties.
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Roxana is an adventurer, a frequent traveler and an occasional writer from Sydney, Australia. She is very passionate about the environment and she loves to blog about her travels.