It is very easy to find best dishes that are inexpensive yet tasty in Hanoi Old Quarter’s narrow alleyways and bustling street markets. Here’s a list of the top must-try foods in Hanoi.
Cha Ca (Turmeric Fish with Dill)
A distinctive Hanoi delicacy, cha ca is white fish seasoned with garlic, ginger, turmeric, and dill served on sizzling pan. Diners also get a bowl of rice noodles, peanuts, chopped spring onions, parsley, nuoc cham sauce, and red chili slices, all of which are meant to be mixed together with the turmeric fish. Cha ca is so popular amongst locals that there’s a street in Hanoi Old Quarter named after it, though the best (and affordable) places to enjoy this seafood delicacy is at Cha Ca Thang Long in Duong Thanh Street.
Mien Xao Luon (Glass Noodles with Deep-Fried Eel)
Mien xao luon is another tasty option for seafood lovers, comprising stir-fried glass noodles in an eel-based broth with generous toppings of crunchy eels, bean sprouts, egg, cucumber slices, fried shallots, and purple perilla. As with many dishes in Hanoi, a side of fresh herbs, shaved banana blossoms, and bean sprouts are served on the side. Dong Thinh Nha Hang Mien Luon at Hoan Kiem District is a local hangout spot for mien xao luon, where dishes are priced between VND 35,000 and VND 50,000.
Bun Thang (Rice Vermicelli with Chicken, Egg, Pork)
Bun thang or rice vermicelli with chicken, egg and pork can be enjoyed at any time of the day. The clear yet flavourful broth is made with 20 ingredients, including dried shrimp, squid, shrimp paste, spring onion, coriander, ginger, mushroom, beet, fish sauce, sugar candy, and vinegar. It is also a particularly attractive Hanoi dish as the noodles, chicken, eggs, pork slices, and a dollop of shrimp paste are carefully arranged to resemble a flower. Available mostly within Hanoi Old Quarter, we highly recommend Bun Thang Ba Duc as you can enjoy a generous bowl of bun thang for about VND 30,000.
Banh cuon (Rolled Cake)
Great as a light breakfast or midday snack, banh cuon is a combination of ground meat (chicken, shrimp, or pork), minced wood ear mushroom, onions, Vietnamese ham (cha lua), steamed beansprouts, and cucumbers that’s wrapped in a steamed rice flour sheet., Its overall taste is very mild despite the savoury ingredients, and you can also dip the banh cuon into nuoc cham sauce for added flavour. You can easily spot roadside vendors selling banh cuon all over Hanoi, but Banh Cuon Gia Truyen in Old Quarter is a good alternative as the restaurant provides menus with English translations.
Banh Goi (Fried Dumplings)
Shaped like miniature pillows (hence the name), banh goi contains finely-chopped glass noodles, wood ear mushrooms, minced pork, steamed quail eggs, and seasoning within a rice-flour pastry. It is then deep-fried for a crispy texture and served with a sweet-sour dipping sauce made with garlic, chilli, sugar, lime juice, and fish sauce. You can also pair your banh goi with fresh lettuce and coriander leaves if you find it too greasy to enjoy it on its own.
Xoi Xeo (Sweet Sticky Rice)
Xoi xeo or sweet sticky rice usually comes with staple toppings of green mung bean paste, soy sauce, and dried shallots, but you can opt for a variety of add-ins such as pate, boiled chicken, cha lua (Vietnamese ham), marinated pork belly, or preserved eggs for a more substantial meal. Some restaurants also serve xoi xeo as dessert, topped with dried coconut shavings, roasted sesame seeds, and crystallised sugar. An inexpensive yet prominent xoi xeo restaurant is Xoi Yen, where you can enjoy a basic bowl for VND 15,000, with additional ingredients between VND 15,000 and VND 30,000.
Bun Rieu (Rice Noodles in Tomato Broth)
Bun rieu comprises thin rice noodles with freshwater paddy crab and shrimp paste that’s served in tomato broth. A breakfast staple amongst locals, the dish is also garnished with bean sprouts, prawn paste, herb leaves, tamarind/lime, tofu, water spinach, and tomato chunks. Like most Vietnamese noodle soups, local restaurants offer a basket of greens and herbs on each table, such as leaf lettuce, perilla leaves, cilantro, shredded morning glory stem, and also deep-fried crullers for dunking directly into the soup.
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