6 Must Eats from the Hanoi Streets
Hanoi. The beautiful heart of Vietnam. With it being the capital of this beautiful nation and the home to a gorgeous food culture, it has a lot to be famous for! With bustling streets pipped with scooters, tuk tuk drivers perched on most corners and road sides lined with stools and street eats, lets just say, the streets of Hanoi is where its at! One of my favorite things to do while traveling is to try the local food. The more local it looks the more convinced I am. From street vendor to street side dining, I am all for the authentic experience. So as you can imagine, only having 3 days in Hanoi, I had my work cut out for me. 4 dinners one night, 3 dinners the next, I did my best to eat my way through the streets of Hanoi... And I mean that quite literally.
Now, my Vietnamese food education and love started many years ago. My love of salad rolls, Pho and buns started at a very young age (and no I am not talking about the baked buns...). When the word "take-out" was dropped, the next question was without a doubt pho or bun tonight? With a love of "Canadian" Vietnamese food, I had very high expectations for my "Vietnam" Vietnamese food.
Take one step into the city of Hanoi and it was hard to miss the endless bright signs screaming my name... BUN CHA ( for those of you lacking Vietnamese food education, Bun Cha is grilled pork on top of white rice noodles served with herbs and a dipping sauce) PHO GA (Vietnamese soup with broth, linguine shaped rice noodles and typically served with chicken or beef), BANH MI (a vietnamese word for all types of bread, their Banh Mi sandwiches are filled with meat or egg, cilantro, cucumber, pickled carrots and cabbage, and hot chili sauces).
If you're looking for amazing street food in Hanoi, the best place to go is without a doubt the Old Quarter. Lucky for me, my roommate is ace at booking hostels in happening locations (see Bye Bye Blighty for more amazing travel itineraries) so my sweet eats were around EVERY corner.
Bánh mì ốp la (Vietnamese style fried egg Sandwich)
So Hong Kongers, I know i speak for all of us when I say, good bread is hard to come by. While, if you're in need for some seriously glutton glory, get going to Vietnam! France definitely left its footprint within Vietnam. Having undergone close to a century under French rule, there are many foods amongst which france has left their imprint within Vietnam, particularly in their coffee and bread. Though the history is vast and the opinions are varied, I think we can all agree, its not all bad ... I mean, come on, who can be angry about french bread (or should I say Banh Mi)?
Cooked and consumed literally on the street this delicious sandwich was filled with scrambled eggs, cucumber, tomato and sweet chili sauce. The bread was perfection. Crispy on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside. Making this first street eat a tough act to follow (but believe me, we followed it :) ).
Street Side BBQ
Who could walk by a buzzing street lined with flaming BBQ's? Certainly not I. I pulled up a stool faster than I could even ask my lovely friends if they were interested... I already knew the answer ;) . The gentlemen waiting on us were quick to ignite the flame and drop off a plate full of beef, pork okra, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and onions. SO needless to say we got cooking! Flames flying and chopsticks flipping, we cooked up a feast. Served with a lovely dipping sauce along with Banh Mi, this definitely was both an experience and a feast! I mean come on, who can say they cooked their own food in the streets of Hanoi?
So picture this. Thin french bread, delicately sliced open and stuffed with cucumber, tomato, cabbage, pickled carrot and of course delectably roasted chicken, topped with sweet chili sauce and Vietnamese mayonnaise. It is no wonder that this little booth had a crowd surrounding it at all hours of the day. This sandwich was one of the best I had all trip! This creation although not traditionally Vietnamese was given a beautiful twist making it definitely worth the stop!
Phở Gà (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup)
Prior to visiting Hanoi, I was unaware that Pho was traditionally a breakfast food. Lucky me. Pho is now socially acceptable at any and all hours of the day. Having arrived in Hanoi late in the afternoon, I missed my opportunity to have Pho for breakfast, but that didn't stop me from having it at 2am ;) thats basically breakfast right?
This precious bowl of noods was as good as it could have been and definitely worth the hype. The broth was fresh and flavorful topped with chives, cilantro and onions. The noodles were delish (naturally) and all together, I was reminded why Pho is one of my all time favorite dishes! It truly was PHObulous!
Now onto the sweet eats. Having visited Hanoi during Lunar New Year, we found the streets to be bustling with vendors selling flowers, monkey souvenirs (yes, for those of you who aren't this year is the year of the monkey) and of course treats! I wasn't long before we found ourselves first wondering what was being made and second stuffing it in our faces... I mean it would be rude not to try the Lunar New Year treats right?
Who could walk by such a stand? I know I couldn't!
Upon first spotting this sweet treat, I'll be honest. I had absolutely no clue what it was so naturally, I had to try!
Sticky clear toffee mixed on the streets and spun into a perfect lollipop.
So fresh; So sweet; So sticky and chewy! Definitely worth a try! (Maybe a bit too sweet to polish off on your own, but hey, I'm all for trying!)
Now, my heart was heavy when the end of our trip arrived. Not only did it mean I was to return to work the following day, but it came to my attention that we had not yet tried authentic Bun Cha. (My favorite dish from our local Vietnamese restaurant Pho Dalat in Mong Kok) So we searched the streets hunger growling and hanger increasing, but seeing as it was Lunar New Years Day, the restaurants were serving everything BUT Bun Cha. Insert waves of tears. While, having not tried Bun Cha, I guess I am left with a pretty solid reason to return to Vietnam, (amongst many others)!
So dieters, you stay hungry!
And remember... Your diet starts tomorrow!