Fresh ingredients are the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of street food in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Hanoi put the country on the foodie map, and quite rightly so. Vietnam’s cuisine is as diverse as the country: in Hanoi, the food focuses on a subtle blend of flavours and light seasoning with a distinct presence of dill. The light perfume aroma of northern cuisine stands in contrast with the food of Ho Chi Minh City, which Hanoians consider to be sweet.
To discover this for yourself, take it to the streets on a food tour in Hanoi: try things in markets and get your fill of steaming hot soups, including pho, which Hanoi is the proud home of.
What to Expect on Hanoi Street Food Tours
Small street stands with the freshest food and dirt cheap prices; most Hanoi street food tours go to clean, well-established street food restaurants. However, to really get to the best street food, it’s better to pull up a tiny plastic chair and enjoy an authentic local street-side experience. Organising a street food tour in Hanoi with a local guide will introduce you to all the must-try dishes while in the city.
A food tour in Hanoi will take you deep into the Old Quarter and beyond in search of the perfect dish. To start, you’ll visit the local market where the magic happens, then your Hanoi walking food tour will take you for a taste of the food and drinks that the country is famous for.
What’s Good to Know about Hanoi Street Food Tours
The best street food tours in Hanoi will teach you the ways of the city. You’ll learn what the average prices are and when the best time to haggle is. The golden rule is that if there is a sign with a price on it, don’t haggle. This is a set price for everyone.
There are specific times for set dishes, while on your Hanoi food tasting tour, your guide will get you there early so you won’t be disappointed.
To eat the best and cheapest meals, stick to Vietnamese meal times:
- Breakfast, 5.30 am – 8.30 am
- Lunch, 11.30 am -1.30 pm. They close at 2 pm but the food will be gone by then
- Dinner, 5.30 pm – 9 pm. Restaurants can and do close after this.
A popular pastime in Vietnam is eating and drinking to your heart’s content, it’s called nhau. For the best street food tour in Hanoi, get some friends together and try it for yourself.
Culinary Recommendations for a Food Tour in Hanoi
Vietnam’s national dish is simple yet complex. The steaming broth is cooked slowly to ensure you have a smooth but strong flavour that will quickly make this your favourite meal in the city, if not the country.
Strictly only to be eaten from small local shops, you’ll have a choice of chicken or beef pho; a good pho shop will only have one choice of meat. Vegetarian restaurants will have their own variation which can range from fake beef or chicken to tofu with a choice of vegetables.
Whatever you choose on your food tour in Hanoi, you’ll be given a plate of basil, salad leaves, bean sprouts and chilli to add by yourself. The steaming hot broth is a favourite on a cold Hanoi morning for breakfast, however, you will be able to get this dish throughout the day, so it is possible to enjoy this on an evening Hanoi food tour.
Cha Ca La Vong
A more decadent addition to the Hanoi street food scene, Cha Ca La Vong is grilled fish with turmeric and dill, stir-fried to add another level to the flavour. The dish is served on a hot flame to keep it sizzling as you eat.
Cha Ca La Vong comes with lots of green vegetables, a staple in Vietnamese cuisine that earns its reputation as a healthy and nutritious cuisine – just don’t ask how much sugar is in things!
You could try Cha Ca La Vong on your very own Hanoi street food tour to experience a true eating experience while in the capital.
An essential when you come to Hanoi, you cannot leave the capital without trying Bun Cha on a Hanoi local food tour. Made famous by the late Anthony Bourdain and former president Barack Obama, this noodle dish is popular throughout Vietnam.
Made up of grilled pork patties, fresh rice ‘bun’ noodles, and heaps of fresh herbs, carrot, cucumber and salad leaves; bun cha is served with a flavoursome soup that completes the dish. To maximise the taste, mix the herbs into the soup along with a little chilli and dip the noodles and pork in, you can wrap the pork in the leaves for extra freshness.
A staple in life, this simple sandwich is loved by everyone. Whether you are looking for char sui Chinese-style marinated pork, pate, which came from the French like the sandwich itself, or the Vietnamese style questionable processed meats, there is a banh mi for everyone.
Banh mi varies from vendor to vendor and city to city. In Hanoi, the bread tends to be thicker, however, the ingredients will never change. Banh mi is typically made up of pate, pickled carrots, cucumber, meat or egg and topped with lashing of soy sauce, fresh chilli (optional), sweet chilli sauce and cilantro.
There are many variations of these combinations; your street-side vendor will sometimes ask you, however, it is best to pay attention when they make it to avoid any nasty, or spicy, surprises. Half a chilli for breakfast anyone?
Everyone has their favourite banh mi vendor, only the best food tours in Hanoi know where to go, however, it’s just a matter of testing them out for yourself to find your personal favourite.
Trung Vit Lon
The more you eat, the luckier you are! Only for the adventurous, Trung Vit Lon is a fertilised duck fetus. You may want to read that again to make sure you understood. The eggs are of different ages, meaning different levels of fertility; some have beaks and feet – some don’t!
Trung Vit Lon is a delicacy that will shock you, but what will shock you, even more, is that it is actually quite tasty. This popular street food snack is not for the faint-hearted.
Jump into the heart of the street life in Hanoi with a street-side BBQ.
This DIY meal will start with a small barbecue that will be put down in front of you. You’ll be given a tub of margarine and then it is time to get cooking! It is best to order a variety of meat, seafood and vegetables to make the most of your experience. You can add a side of cold Hanoi beer in a glass with ice to look the part.
This buttery barbecue is perfect to share with friends. With barbeque restaurants lining the streets of the Old Quarter, it’s a quintessential introduction to the city while on a food tour in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Vegetarian Food Tours in Hanoi
As a Buddhist country that is predominately Mahayana, vegetarian restaurants and vegetarian dishes in Vietnam are in abundance. These restaurants are predominately for monks who do not eat meat, and for people who wish to eat vegetarian food on the 1st and 16th day of the lunar calendar for good luck.
Vietnam is one of the most vegetarian-friendly countries in the world because of this. As an introduction, you could organise a vegetarian street food tour in Hanoi to find out what you like and where you typically find these restaurants.
Interestingly, you will find most of the above food recommendations with tofu or fake meat, to substitute the meat and fish – a healthy and equally delicious alternative.
Vegans will be delighted to discover that a vegetarian street food tour in Hanoi is a vegan one too! Vietnamese food is based around fresh vegetables and tofu with very little egg or dairy, making the country a haven for the vegan lifestyle.
Hidden Foodie Spots in Hanoi
Dong Xuan Market
The largest market in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, Dong Xuan is set in a large, communist-style building. This market is a starting place for any Hanoi street food walking tour, however, few travellers know that this is where to get the best street food in Hanoi.
Surrounded by fresh ingredients, stall-owners have everything at their fingertips to offer the best Vietnamese food. The market is a popular local spot for an early breakfast or a late afternoon snack. Play the wild card and shop with your eyes on a food tour in Hanoi at the market.
Look no further than Pho Thin for the ultimate experience of this national dish. Pho Thin has you shoulder-to-shoulder with locals as you slurp your way through a big bowl of pho.
In a cantina-kitchen style setting, you’ll do just as locals do, which is sit, eat, pay and leave. All for a very small price. While pho is typically eaten for breakfast, you can visit Pho Thin throughout the day.
Cha Ca Phan
Pull up a chair for the longest dining experience of these hidden gems! While most would recommend visiting Cha Ca La Vong for the infamous dish, for a more authentic experience, visit Cha Ca Phan.
Order a range of dishes to share for an authentic Vietnamese experience, but don’t forget the star of the show, Cha Ca La Vong. Watch your main dish sizzle away as you tuck into Vietnamese favourites like pork with chilli and lemongrass and morning glory.
Bun Cha Huong Lien
This is far from a hidden gem, but who doesn’t want to dine in one of Anthony Bourdain’s favourite restaurants on a food tour of Hanoi?
Put on the map for the iconic picture of Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain sipping on a beer, Bun Cha Huong Lien is one of the best Bun Cha places in town. While still retaining its cantina-kitchen feel, Huong Lien’s restaurant has a more relaxed feel to it, where you don’t mind taking your time to catch up with friends around delicious food and a beer or two. You can expect a lot more western people to be around here, however, there are still many locals to balance it out a bit.
Add a Street Food Tour in Hanoi to Your Trip
In Vietnam, instead of being greeted with ‘how are you?’ locals ask, ‘have you eaten yet?’
Food is a quintessential part of Vietnamese culture. Adding a street food tour in Hanoi takes you to the heart of Vietnamese culture – or the stomach!
Whether you are looking for a vegetarian food tour in Hanoi or for the local corners of the city, our host of enthusiastic Local Suppliers in Vietnam will show you the best spots in town. To create your dream food tour of Vietnam, you can work with our Local Suppliers to incorporate your Hanoi street food tour into a longer trip that takes you to other must-see and must-eat destinations in the country.