Anthony Bourdain and I agree…the best Vietnamese food is in Hanoi. The world-famous foodie shot an entire episode of “Parts Unknown” in Hanoi, highlighting Hanoi food culture over bowls of Bun Cha with Barack Obama and grilled squid from street carts…and grilled squid on boats…and grilled squid in restaurants. There was a lot of squid.
With the cooler northern climate, the proximity to the Chinese border & Chinese influence, and the quick access to freshwater fish, prawns, crab, shrimp, crab, and shellfish – Hanoi food culture is totally unique. You’ll find dishes in Hanoi that can’t be done as fresh and won’t be done as delicious in the other regions of Vietnam.
I’d go as far as saying that these three dishes should only be consumed in Hanoi to get the full experience:
Bún Chả – Barbecued Pork with Rice Vermicelli
Nem Cua Be – Crab Spring Rolls
Bún Bò Nam Bộ – Beef Noodle Salad
Hungry, yet? Let’s start eating.
Rise and shine. Cho Hom Market (aka Hom Market) is prepared to kick-start your day with the widest selection of fresh juice made with exotic Southeast Asian fruit! Come early and watch the locals haggle while collecting the day’s produce. This is how true Vietnamese families shop.
Cho Hom Market also features a “Wet Market” where fresh meat is butchered and live seafood swims in tiny pools waiting to be bought. After your blood is surging with Vitamin C, head upstairs to the fabric market!
How did Dong Xuan Market become the largest street food market in Hanoi? Well, first and foremost, Dong Xuan Market is a fabric and souvenir market with literally hundreds of vendors hawking their goods every day. And these hundreds of vendors need somewhere to eat, right?
To cater to the hungry vendors during the breakfast and lunch rush, street food vendors started setting up shop with soups, grilled meat on a stick, and beverages in bags (the fast-food versions of Vietnamese food). As tourists started to roll in, the cuisine diversified to include both traditional Vietnamese dishes and exotic treats like Korean fish-shaped pancakes and tokbokki.
This street food stall serves ordinary nem cua be (deep-fried pork and crab spring roll) with a sauce that you’ll be tempted to drink through a straw. A magical mixture of fish sauce, fresh greens, and cucumber slices – this sauce is famous citywide. Dunk your crab rolls and devour.
In Vietnam, breakfast is served in a bowl. Bún Riêu Cua, a crab-cake soup with vermicelli noodles and fresh greens. It’s the perfect dish for those chilly Hanoi winters and will only cost you 30k ($1.30). With tables and chairs out on the sidewalk, you can enjoy your meals with a view of the city waking up – perfect for solo travel foodies in Vietnam.
Must Try: Fresh Beer (homemade, less than $1 per pint)
Open: Friday to Sunday, 6 pm-Midnight
Where: Hang Dao Street to Hang Giay Street.
Not the biggest, but one of the most fascinating! Hang Buom Street packs 40 street food stalls into 300 meters of street stall real estate. You can try a little bit of everything here when it comes to traditional Vietnamese food. Dishes like Vietnamese pho, sticky rice, sweet soups, and porridges with dough to sweet boiled corn and sticky candy represent Hanoi food culture to a T.
You’ve never seen anything like Beer Street, aka Ta Hien Street. This narrow alleyway is the bustling, mingling, eating, and drinking spot where locals gather to sit on plastic stools eating stir-fried noodle dishes and drinking cheap beer. Like…20¢ per beer cheap! After you’ve had your fill, head out on foot to explore the famous Old Quarter.
Ps. This little street is an easy place for solo travelers to make friends and meet other travelers in Hanoi!
Get off the beaten path, away from the tourists, and into local territory at this Hanoi night market. The Tan Market is the best place to find cheap, tasty snacks in Hanoi. Be adventurous with the Wormwood Balut or get an easily-identifiable dish like deep-fried spring rolls or meat on a stick.
This little gem is easily missed on a cursory glance. In a city bursting with color, this stall’s small hand-drawn sign is inconspicuous. The surest way to identify this stall is the old woman/ man who is operating the stove while calling out: “Nem chua không em ơi?!!” Which roughly translates to: “Friend, would you like some fermented pork rolls?” The dark alley and the dim light behind the stall lend it an air of mystery and adventure.
With the widest variety of dishes in one small market, Thanh Cong Market is an easy one to explore. My favorite dish here is the Congee (mashed rice porridge) that many locals eat for breakfast. You’ll find deep-fried bread that are a mix between donuts and breadsticks, that are dipped into the porridge to soak up all the yummy ricey goodness. In more of a lunch mood? Some of the best Pho in Hanoi can be found in Thanh Cong Market!
Easily my favorite dish in all of Hanoi (especially after a few beers), Bún Bò Nam Bộ is a beautiful harmony of texture and flavors that represent Hanoi food culture beautifully. Aka “Beef Noodle Salad,” this dish combines a beef broth with tender strips of beef, vermicelli noodles, crunchy greens and crispy shallots that is refreshing and filling. You’ve never had anything like it.
Need to stuff your face in a hurry? Food tour by motorbike is the best way to eat a lot in a little amount of time. Hanoi Food Tasting Tours offers a thrilling 5-hour Hanoi food tour that zips you around the city to the best Vietnamese street food destinations. You can either drive a motorbike yourself or hop on the back of a staff motorbike (with a beer in hand, of course).
The best food tour isn’t just about the food; it’s also about the culture, the adventure, and the little old lady who sits next to you while you fumble with your chopsticks. Spend at least 3 days in Hanoi. That’s enough time for 9 meals (12 if you’re ambitious). Plan restaurants in the morning, then street food and street beer in the afternoons and evenings. Download GrabTaxi. Take bikes to markets you can’t reach on foot. Show up. Point to things that look good. Order dishes that I recommend in this list. And always always eat with a cold beer.
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I'm a bestselling author, hotel reviewer and pickleball player. I teach women how to travel the world solo without going broke or getting kidnapped.
In 2011, I left Seattle with just $200 in my pocket to travel the world solo. Today, I'm the founder and creator of The Solo Girl’s Travel Guide, the #1 travel guide book series for women - and the author of The One-Way Ticket Plan.