Hot, noisy, and crowd full of people who just don’t seem to like foreigners, Hanoi is not going to feature highly on my list of favourite places any time soon. But my trip to the capital city of Vietnam was still an enjoyable one if only because of its amazing food. I wouldn’t call myself a foodie, though I love trying local cuisine during my travels as a way of experiencing a country’s culture. Besides the ubiquitous phở, here are some of the best street food I’ve had in Hanoi.
1. Bia hơi
Freshly brewed draft beer which is sold to the drop and replenish the very next day. Cheaper than water and found everywhere in Hanoi, Bia Hoi was my choiced beverage anywhere I go. Each Bia Hoi joint seems to be getting their supplies from different places so the quality varies widely. A few I’ve had was highly suspicious of adding too much water to the mix, but after a few rounds you won’t be too bothered!
2. Bánh cuốn
Steamed rice rolls with either chicken or shrimp fillings served with plenty of fried shallots and fresh herbs, dipped in a sweet and tangy sauce. A staple in many Vietnamese restaurants outside of the country, so chances are this is not going to be something completely foreign to visitors who know their pho ga from pho bo.
3. Bún chả
My absolute favourite food in Hanoi (had to walk several streets to find this place). Bun cha is a rice noodle dish served with barbecued pork patties and again, plenty of fresh herbs and vegetables. A meal in itself, the way to eat this is to dip the rice noodles in the concoction of clear sauce of meaty goodness- a leap of faith given how oily it looks. Salivating just thinking of it, this is easily my number one thing to have if I am crazy enough to visit Hanoi again.
4. Sữa chua
As it turned out, Sua chua is actually Vietnamese for ‘Yogurt’, and not technically the name of this dish which i had mistaken it for (the store I had this had the term plastered everywhere). As I mulled over the vast variety of ingredients on display when attempting to make my order, i was pointed unceremoniously to one these little stools to take a seat- the owner will include everything. Last I count, there were yogurt, shaved ice, almond jelly, green tea flavoured jelly, jackfruit, little tapioca drops of various colour and many more. Desserts from around the world has something to learn.
5. Bánh gối and Nem cua bể
Some fried savoury pastry thing that is stuffed with minced mushroom, crab meat and vermicelli. Whoever first came up with the idea of including vermicelli in stuffed pastry is a genius and deserve an award. These were crowd pleasers among the office workers where I had them.
6. Bánh tráng trộn
A very surprise find, as I had just finish dinner before spotting a very big crowd of people having these on tiny stools by the roadside, before deciding that I too need to savour them. Banh trang tron is a tropical salad with shredded cuttlefish, peanuts, and a whole lot of miscellaneous things. It is probably akin to what Papaya salad is to Thailand or what Rojak is to Singapore.
7. Xôi xéo
Any food that has two ‘X’es in its name deserves a second look. It’s a sticky rice dish with yellow bean paste and chicken shreds, this one I had was at a stall which seems to be engaged with a fierce rivalry with a neighbouring store. Again, as with many things in Vietnamese cuisine, the ingredient seems awkward on paper together, but somehow it works really well in reality. One of the best thing I have eaten.