Vietnamese food is integral to understanding the culture and history of the country, and Hanoi is a great place to taste the local cuisine. But what is the best way to experience Vietnamese food while in Hanoi? Here’s your guide to Hanoi’s best street food and how to find them:
Street food tour
The best way to experience Hanoi street food is to take a walking tour of the city. It will give you a closer look at how these dishes are prepared and served by Vietnamese people. To make your trip more immersive, try the Withlocals food tour, an app that pairs you up with a local who can guide you through the busy streets of Hanoi and take you to the best street food stops in the city.
Private vs group tour
There are different ways to experience the street food scene in Hanoi. You can take a private tour with a local through an app like Withlocals, or you can book a group tour. How are they different?
- Customizability: Group tours usually have a set itinerary. You’re told where to go and when to leave each stop, which often prevents tourist from experiencing the true essence of the city. Meanwhile, a private tour can give you a unique experience that’s totally customizable to your preferences. If you like a place, you can stay longer or visit it more than once during your vacation. You can also tell your local guide if there are certain places that you want to try or have been recommended by friends who have visited Hanoi before.
- Authenticity: Organized tours often fail to give tourists an immersive experience because they’re trying to stop by so many places in such a short amount of time. As a result, you get a holistic but not an immersive tour of the city. So if you want authenticity above all else, and if a taste of the local cuisine is your main reason for visiting Hanoi, then a private tour is the better option for you. Locals are the key to experience even the most touristy destinations in a renewed, respectful and sustainable way.
- Privacy: Don’t like the idea of spending so much time with foreign strangers who know nothing about the history and culture of Hanoi? You might enjoy a private tour more. After all, locals are the ones who live in the city and walk these streets daily, so they can take you to the best and most authentic venues, markets, and street food stalls.
What to try
Now that you know how you can taste the best of Hanoi street food, let’s talk about the must-try Vietnamese food items. While in the city, here are five dishes you don’t want to miss:
Did you even go to Vietnam if you didn’t have a taste of their famous pho? Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup made with delicious beef broth, rice noodles, fresh vegetables and herbs, and a combination of spices and sauces. When you try this delicious Vietnamese staple, make sure to squeeze in a half of a lime into the broth to add another layer of flavor to this exquisite main dish.
2. Bánh mi
Born in Saigon in the late 1950s, bánh mi is one of the good things that France brought to Vietnam during the invasion. It’s a fusion between the French baguette for the bread and Vietnam’s fresh and local ingredients for the sandwich filling. As Americans got involved in the Vietnam war, bringing with them wheat shipments from the West, bánh mi became more popular in many different parts of the country. Today, you can have a taste of bánh mi in almost every street corner.
When someone says dessert, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? A slice of cake or pie? A chocolate concoction of some kind? In Vietnam, the most popular dessert is chè, an interesting dish that can either be a pudding, a drink, or even a soup. When in Vietnam, try at least one of these famous types of chè: chè chuôi, chè thái, chè trôi nuóc, chè ba màu, and chè bap.
Xoi is a favorite breakfast food among locals. It’s a simple breakfast dish that can either be sweet or savory. Basically, xoi is sticky rice mixed with corn and beans and served with chicken, sausage, eggs, and pork. Start your walking tour of the city right with a serving of Xoi in the morning.
5. Bún cha
A dish that proudly originated in Hanoi, bún cha is a Vietnamese super meal. It usually consists of four different dishes: rice or rice noodles, meat, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs. It is also served with different dipping sauces for the meat and a few side dishes. When US President Obama visited the country, he tried bún cha and immediately fell in love with it.
Is your mouth watering yet? Get excited because these Vietnamese dishes are waiting for you on your vacation! Just make sure to choose the right kind of food tour for you and you’ll be eating the best local cuisine in no time.