Foodie's Guide to Vietnamese Food in Hanoi
Hanoi, Vietnam has a unique food culture that has many people heading there for the food itself, maybe even more than the city. Although Hanoi has always been a great destination in Southeast Asia (and one of my personal favorites!), the famous chef Anthony Bourdain has definitely put the food of this city on the map more than ever.
If you don't know who Anthony Bourdain is, he was a famous American chef, traveler, and foodie with multiple TV shows focusing on international travel and cuisine. His love for Vietnamese culture and food has inspired many to make the journey to try the food of Hanoi for themselves.
This Hanoi food guide will cover some of the Vietnamese foods you absolutely can't miss while in Hanoi, as well as the famous Hanoi restaurants that are world-renowned that have been visited even by President Barack Obama! If you are also venturing to Saigon, be sure to check out our Saigon Food Guide as well.
Hanoi Food Culture
If you're looking to have a genuine Vietnamese food experience, Hanoi is one of the best cities in the world to visit. Even when it is blistering hot outside with average humidity above seventy percent, the local Vietnamese will be eating spicy hot soups.
The traditional Vietnamese Pho is a staple throughout the country and although its origins are unclear, some believe that Hanoi was the birthplace of this famous soup. Sometime in the 20th century, Pho became a breakfast meal that many Vietnamese enjoyed.
Now, you can get Pho throughout the day, not just in the mornings. You'll notice many locals enjoying Pho in small plastic chairs just outside of the restaurant, leaning over their bowls and slurping away!
The Traditional Way to Eat Pho
Pho is a broth-based hot soup that arrives at the table with uncooked meat, rice noodles, and vegetables. The uncooked meat is meant to cook in the hot soup, so you shouldn't start eating the Pho right away. After a minute or so, you add a bit of greens, some peppers if you like your Pho spicy, and a squirt of lime.
You pick up your chopsticks, grab a piece of thinly sliced beef, some noodles, and a piece of lettuce and you've got a bite of Pho!
Even better, try practicing on Duolingo before you go so that you can order your food in Vietnamese!
Here are some quick words that will come in handy when ordering Pho:
• Nam: Beef Flank
• Tái: Thinly Sliced Raw Beef (this is my favorite!)
• Bò viên: Beef Meatballs
However, don't worry too much as it is quite easy to order Pho in Vietnam, especially if you can get ahold of a menu and translate parts of it using Google Translate. Then, when ordering you can point to the menu items that you want to order instead of trying to communicate in Vietnamese.
Pro Travel Tip: If the menu has already been translated into English, the restaurant might be a tourist trap! Head somewhere else instead to get better Pho and a more local experience.
Best Pho Restaurants in Hanoi
There are plenty of well-rated Pho restaurants in Hanoi, which will be listed below. However, instead of searching for reviews online, I recommend hitting the streets of Hanoi and paying attention. Look for restaurants with lots of local Vietnamese filling the tables and serving steaming hot Pho.
There are plenty of Pho restaurants in Hanoi that are completely off the grid and you can discover them yourself by just wandering. If you're feeling up to a do-it-yourself food tour, order just one bowl of Pho in each restaurant you visit and split it with those you are visiting Hanoi with.
That way, you can experience many different types of Pho in Hanoi in a shorter amount of time and without spending too much money!
Here are some of the best Pho restaurants in Hanoi with over 1,000 positive reviews on Google:
• Phở Gia Truyền Bát Đàn
• Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su
• Phở Sướng
• Phở Thìn 13 Lò Đúc
However, don't be afraid to walk to the nearest Pho place to where you are staying and try a less popular one! In my opinion, it's hard to find a bad bowl of Pho in Hanoi!
Food Specialties in Hanoi: Bun Cha
Although Pho may have originated in Hanoi, there is a dish that is considered unique to Hanoi that might be even more famous thanks to two celebrities you may be familiar with: President Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain.
Bun Cha is different from Pho in that the meat is traditionally pork, the broth is much sweeter, and instead of thick rice noodles, you get spaghetti-like rice noodles that are quite sticky.
When you are served Bun Cha, the ingredients are all brought separately, unlike Pho. You are given the broth, with a plate of fatty pork, some greens, and a plate of sticky rice noodles.
Instead of eating it all together, you grab a bit from eat plate and dip it in your soup, or you can add it to your soup and eat it that way.
Best Bun Cha in Hanoi
Thanks to Anthony Bourdain's famous episode in Hanoi where he visited a restaurant with Barack Obama, Bún chả Hương Liên has acquired international acclaim. It's one of the best food experiences that you can have in Hanoi and has some of the best Bun Cha in town.
They have over 7,000 reviews on Google and have multiple levels to fit all of their customers. The food is still incredibly cheap, and the Bun Cha is incredible. Not only that, but you get to eat underneath pictures of Obama and Bourdain that are on most walls throughout the restaurant!
Other Incredible Bun Cha Restaurants in Hanoi:
• Bun Cha Ta Hanoi
• Bun Cha Dac Kim
Vietnamese Specialty: Banh Mi
There are tons of Vietnamese foods that won't be mentioned here, but this is the last one that you absolutely cannot go without trying while you are in Hanoi, or anywhere in Vietnam.
Banh Mi is essentially a baguette sandwich with sliced deli meats (the type varies by vendor), vegetables, cilantro and chilis, with either mayonnaise, butter, or pate. The ingredients vary by city and by street vendor.
If you are a bit wary of unrefrigerated meats, you might want to steer clear of Banh Mi that is sold from Hanoi street food carts. However, it is definitely a staple in Vietnamese culture that you shouldn't miss out on!
Personally, I have never gotten food poisoning in Vietnam, even after living there for over 6 months, although I have gotten sick multiple times in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Best Banh Mi in Hanoi
The most popular Banh Mi restaurant in Hanoi is Bánh Mì 25, with over 5,000 reviews on Google. Each sandwich costs about a dollar and you can choose which type of meat you'd like on your sandwich.
Here are a few other Banh Mi Restaurants to try in Hanoi:
• Banh Mi Hoi An
• Bánh Mỳ P
Famous Vietnamese Pastries
There are bakeries scattered all over the city and you are never far away from a fresh baguette or a sponge cake. The Bahn Mi sandwich and baguettes all over Vietnam are a leftover from the time France occupied Northern Vietnam for eight years from 1946 to 1954.
You will find small, local pastry shops like the one pictured below as well as fancier pastry shops like S'Patisserie or Madame Huong that make more intricate French pastries. If you're looking to save money, simply walk around the area you are staying in and you'll find a small bakery before long!
Order Food in Hanoi to Your Hotel/ Apartment
Now that you know three of the more prevalent foods in Hanoi, you can enjoy a bowl of Pho, a Banh Mi sandwich, or Bun Cha from your hotel or apartment! After living in Hanoi, this is one of the things I miss most about the city.
To order food in Vietnam, you use the application "Grab" and you can have any food delivered for less than a dollar.
Downtown Markets in Hanoi
The Vietnamese have a very entrepreneurial spirit, so Hanoi markets are everywhere with vendors selling anything from fruit to fans.
One market that you won't want to miss during your visit to Hanoi is the Hanoi Night Market which is in the Old Quarter area.
Similar to night markets of Taipei and throughout Southeast Asia, there are tons of street vendors selling all types of clothes but also a variety of Vietnamese street food. With over 3km of vendors, you can head here and have all the incredible Vietnamese food all in one place!
The Hanoi Night Market is open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night from 8 p.m. until late at night.
Best Picnic Spot in Hanoi
The best picnic spot in Hanoi absolutely has to be the area around Hoàn Kiếm Lake. Not only are there tons of benches where you can sit while you enjoy your meal, but it is one of the top tourist destinations in Hanoi as well.
One of the most familiar sites in Hanoi is the island in the middle of Hoàn Kiếm Lake with a temple on it. You can walk all around the lake or sit on the grass areas and benches to enjoy your food.
Final thoughts on Food in Hanoi
Any trip to Hanoi will be a foodie experience you won't soon forget. No matter where I am in the world, I find myself dreaming of the Pho and Bun Cha of Hanoi and look forward to the next time in this beautiful city.
About the Author
Dayna Brockbank is a budget-crazy travel blogger at Happily Ever Travels. She has lived in 8 countries, has gotten lost in every single one, and somehow still has miraculously never broken a bone even after scootering around Southeast Asia for 2 years. She speaks 3 languages and is weirdly obsessed with Duolingo. Find Dayna online on Facebook and Instagram: @happilyevertravels