Top 10 Authentic Vietnamese Food You Must Eat in Hanoi

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Vietnamese cuisine varies by region. Each city, even each village, may have its own list of unique local specialties.

Our quest through Vietnam started in the north, in the capital city of Hanoi. Many of the popular Vietnamese dishes originated here. The famous Vietnamese noodle soup Pho, is one of the most iconic northern Vietnamese food.

Situated near the Chinese border, northern Vietnamese cuisine reflects Chinese influences. With the cooler climate in the north and wide availability of freshwater fish and seafood like prawns, shrimp, crab, clams and more, food from the region has its own distinctive flavor.

Hanoi, we discovered, is also famous for its street food culture. Street food stalls are popular and make up for the vast majority of Hanoi food. Some of the best and surprising local food experiences in Hanoi are made on the sidewalks with locals and not in restaurants.

In this article, we highlight the top 10 Vietnamese food you must eat in Hanoi and the best places to have them.

#1 – Bún Chả – Barbecued Pork with Rice Vermicelli
Bún chả, is one northern Vietnamese food that quickly became our favorite. It is one of the best Hanoi food specialty not to be missed.

The dish consists of grilled pork strips and balls or chả served over a bed of rice vermicelli noodles or bún. It typically comes with a plate of fresh Vietnamese herbs and a bowl of dipping sauce. Pickled vegetables, like cabbage, carrots, onion or green papaya served with additional meatballs on the side.
Grilled pork strips and pork balls

The sauce is made of the famous Vietnamese fish sauce or Nuoc Mam combined with vinegar, lime, sugar, garlic and chili.
Bún chả meal with noodles, herbs and nem

Where to Eat It

Most restaurants in Vietnam specialize in making just one dish. In Hanoi, there are several bún chả restaurants and vendors. While it is a popular meal for lunch, some restaurants serve it all-day long. For great bún chả local experiences, here are two exceptional places to check out in Hanoi.
Bún Chả Hương Liên

Already popular, this restaurant gained worldwide acclaim when President Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate Bún chả together. To capitalize on this fame, Bún Chả Hương Liên restaurant added the name “Obama” to the link of their Facebook page.
Inside the restaurant with prominent pictures of President Obama

Although the walls are now covered with Obama’s pictures, the cuisine remains the same – local, authentic and delicious. This is one of the best bún chả restaurants in Hanoi.

The pork balls are slightly fatty, incredibly juicy and tasty. Fresh herbs, noodles dipped into the special sauce, makes for an incredible harmony of flavors. A definite must eat in Hanoi dish!
The entrance of Bún Chả Hương Liên restaurant

Hùng Lẩu

The second restaurant was actually where we ate our very first lunch in Hanoi. It is a very local joint where no-one speaks English. This place was recommended by our Airbnb host, and undeniably, the restaurant was packed with locals.
Eating with locals at Hùng Lẩu

For our first meal out in Vietnam, we were not sure about the ordering process. With no one speaking English and the menu in Vietnamese, we felt a little lost. We shared a table with local office workers on their lunch break. And with broken English, gestures and facial expressions, we made ourselves understood and they helped us order lunch.

This was a wonderful introduction to Bún chả. We found the pork meatballs to be grilled to perfection! The sauce was flavorful, and the combination of tastes and textures divine. Definitely a place to get your bún chả fix.
Grilling the pork at the entrance of the restaurant

Where to Eat It

Bún Chả Hương Liên

Address: 24 Le Van Huu Street in Hai Ba Trung District

Hours: Everyday from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm

Prices: About 40,000 VND to 50,000 VND ($1.77 USD to $2.21 USD)

Hùng Lẩu

Address: 6, Ngõ Trạm, Hà Nội.

Hours: Everyday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm

Prices: About 35,000 VND ($1.54 USD)

Another popular option, especially with tourists is Đắc Kim Restaurant. We found the pork to be more fatty and not as tasty or delicate as at the other two restaurants above. Nonetheless, it remains a solid option for this “must eat in Hanoi”.

Bún Chả Hàng Mành – Đắc Kim

Address: 1 Hang Manh Street

Hours: Everyday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm

Prices: About 60,000 VND ($2.65 USD)

Pro Tip: Order your Bún Chả with Nuem Ca Be (Must eat Hanoi food #2)

#2 – Nem Cua Be – Crab Spring Rolls

Nem Cua Be, or crab spring rolls are the perfect complement to bún chả. These are fried rolls filled with sea crab and vermicelli noodles. Fresh and lightly fried, these rolls melt in the mouth and are to be savored.
These crab spring rolls are sold by the roll, where one roll is cut into three smaller pieces. They are eaten as an appetizer while waiting for the bún chả meal or dipped into the savory bún chả soup.

The same restaurants mentioned above serve equally tasty and crispy fresh crab spring rolls.
Delicious lightly fried Nem Cua Be

Where to Eat It

Address: 24 Le Van Huu Street in Hai Ba Trung District

Hours: Everyday from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm

Prices: 7,000 VND per piece (about $0.30 USD)

Hùng Lẩu

Address: 6, Ngõ Trạm, Hà Nội.

Hours: Everyday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm

Prices: About 10,000 VND per roll ($0.44 USD)

Address: 1 Hang Manh Street

Hours: Everyday from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm

Prices: About 15,000 VND per roll ($0.66 USD)

Pro Tip: Check for the menus to combine the order of Bún Chả and Nuem Cua Be at a lower price
Đắc Kim restaurant -reputable and popular with tourists

#3 – Chả Cá – Grilled Fish with Dill and Tumeric

Chả Cá is one of the unique specialties of the Hanoi people and definitely a must eat in Hanoi. So important is this local specialty, that it even has a street named after it – Cha Ca street.

We loved this dish so much and can absolutely say it is a Hanoi food worth flying for. World-renowned, The New York Times followed its history from Vietnam to the United State. “Hanoians even have a saying that … “someone should try this once in their life before leaving this world.”

Our local airbnb host highly recommended Chả Cá Thảng Long Restaurant in the Old Quater, as the best place to eat this local delight. You will not be disappointed.

The special ingredient in Chả Cá is grilled fish, typically mudfish or snake-head fish. According to the restaurant, the best fish to use Hemibragus, because it has fewer bones and tasty flesh.

This dish is made table side and the experience of preparing the dish is almost as much fun as eating it.
A delicious bowl of chả cá

A server will set up a hot pot on your table and will bring everything you need to accompany your meal. Fresh herbs, vermicelli rice noodles, a bowl of roasted peanuts and a dipping fish sauce with sliced chilies. In the pot is the fish grilling with mounds of dill and turmeric.

Must Eat in Hanoi: Chả Cá at Chả Cá Thảng Long Restaurant

Listening to the sizzling sounds of the Chả Cá cooking at Chả Cá Thảng Long Restaurant , surrounded by the aroma of fresh herbs, we were in foodie heaven.

Each bite of the buttery grilled fish, perfectly seasoned with turmeric and noodles soaked in fish sauce, combined with the fresh herbs, is a delicious explosion of flavors. This must eat in Hanoi was definitely one of our best meals in the city, and one you have to experience.
Yours truly delighting in chả cá at Chả Cá Thảng Long Restaurant

Where to Eat It

You will find several Chả Cá restaurants in Hanoi. The one we went to was Chả Cá Thảng Long, which was recommended highly by our local airbnb host.

Address: 19 – 21 – 31, Duong Thanh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Hours: Everyday from 11:00 am to 9:30 pm

Prices for Cha Ca: 120,000 VND per person, (approximately $5.29 USD)

The original restaurant for Chả Cá, is Chả Cá Lã Vọng also in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. We did not eat at this restaurant as our host highly recommended Chả Cá Thảng Long for an authentic experience. Additionally, the reviews of Chả Cá Lã Vọng receives mixed reviews on Trip Advisor. Nevertheless, noted below is the address of this legendary restaurant.

Address: 14 Chả Cá, Hà Nội.

Hours: Everyday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and 5pm to 9pm.

Pro Tip: There are two Chả Cá Thảng Long restaurants, one is smoking, one non-smoking Make sure you eat this best food in Hanoi at the non-smoking restaurant!
Entrance to Chả Cá Thảng Long restaurant

#4 – Bún Cả – Fish Noodle Soup

In northern Vietnam, fresh water fish is widely used in dishes. This Hanoi food Bún Cá, is no exception.

It is a light broth made from fish bones with golden fresh white fish lightly fried. At the bottom of the soup, is a bed of rice vermicelli noodles. On the top covering the broth, is a delicate combination of spring onions and bean sprouts mixed with dill herbs.
Bún Cá soup, perfect for cool evenings.

Bún Cá Sâm Cây Si

To taste this unique dish, there is no better place than Bún cá Sâm Cây Si, a typical street side restaurant. Tucked in a dark alley in the old quarter, this unpretentious small joint is packed with locals and tourist alike.
Bun Ca Sam Cay Si tucked in an alley of Hanoi Old Quarter

We actually stumbled on this place while looking for another restaurant nearby. As we took our seats, we asked if we were in the right place. The owner using gesture pointed us to a closed restaurant, which we learned, later on, had closed down.

Tempted by the delicious smells and local crowd, we decided to stay – – – and we didn’t regret that decision!

The hot steaming soup outside on a cool evening was delightful. Tender fresh fish in a flavorful broth, combined with onions that were slightly crunchy was perfect. This heart-warming soup at a very local joint was one of our best surprises in Hanoi.

Where to Eat it

Adress: 5 Ngõ Trung Yên, Hà Nội.

Hours: Everyday from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm

Prices: About 35,000 VND per person, (approximately $1.54 USD).

Pro Tip: Order a side of Cá Cuốn Thịt with your soup. These are deep fried spring rolls, with a mixture of pork and herbs wrapped in fresh fish. Add another 10,000 VND ($0.44 USD) to your meal and your taste buds will thank you!
Menu on the wall at Bún Cá Sâm Cây Si

#5 – Bánh Cuốn – Steamed Rice Rolls

Bánh cuốn is another local specialty from Northern Vietnam that you don’t want to miss.

It is a delicate and light dish usually eaten for breakfast in Vietnam. However, you can find it all day long.

Bánh cuốn is made of a thin rice sheet rolled and filled with ground pork meat and minced mushrooms. It is served with fried shallots and cilantro herbs on top.
Beautiful plate of Bánh Cuốn

The secret flavor of this Hanoi food resides in its dipping sauce.

As with most Vietnamese dishes, Nuoc Mam of fish sauce is used in the dipping sauce. The magic comes with the additional drop of cà cuống, the essence of a giant water bug common in Southeast Asia.

This drop in the sauce adds an extra flavor which gives off a taste similar to scallops or shrimps. Today, this natural essence is becoming scarce and many restaurants are now using an imitation essence.

The rice sheet is made by steaming fermented rice batter on a cloth stretched over a pot of boiling water.
Ladies preparing bánh cuốn to order at street side restaurant

Bánh Cuốn at Gia Truyen

For this dish, we recommend to go to Bánh Cuốn Gia Truyen. It is a well-known restaurant in Hanoi for its Bánh Cuốn. On the menu below, you can see the restaurant still uses the original water bug essence in the dish.

Note, that you can actually order the essence and the bug as a side dish, which is quite popular in Vietnam.
Menu at Banh Cuon Gia Truyen

The bánh cuốn is light and flavorful. It is a very unique and delicate Hanoi food best eaten as an appetizer.

Although this dish was delicious, we missed having more attention from the staff and being able to talk about this Hanoi food specialty and the unique essence used.

Check out this video on the making of Bánh Cuốn at Gia Truyen. See how the ladies at Gia Truyen prepare this “must eat in Hanoi” on the spot. It is quite fascinating!

Must Eat in Hanoi: Bánh Cuốn at Gia Truyen

Where to Eat It

Address: 12 Hàng Gà, Hà Nội.

Hours: Everyday from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm and 5pm to 11pm

Prices: About 35,000 VND per person, (approximately $1.54 USD)

Pro Tip: Order a couple portions of this best Hanoi food as it is very light.

#6 – Lau – Hot Pot

In the cooler months, Lau is one of the most popular food you will find in Hanoi. Sitting on the sidewalks, in the evenings, you will see groups of locals huddled together over a large pot of simmering soup, cooking beef, chicken, fish, noodles, veggies and so on.

Next to the tables, you will find vendors with a display filled with different vegetables and protein to be added to the hot pot.
Tempting raw vegetables for Lau cooking

There are many different kinds of hot pots. Frog, is one of the most popular ones that we saw followed by chicken and seafood.

As this is a large dish that is meant for sharing with several people, we did not order it. Though it is one of the authentic Vietnamese dishes you must eat in Hanoi. This article from goes into more detail about the different types of hot pots you can find in Hanoi.
Groups eating Lau in Hanoi

#7 – Pho – Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Pho is THE classic Hanoi food, and possibly one of the best food Hanoi offers. Our previous article, the best pho in Vietnam, goes into detail about the soup and where to eat it, including in Hanoi.
Delicious and satisfying Pho Tai Nam. Yum!

Let’s just say you don’t want to miss this aromatic soup, filled with slices of beef, rice noodles and a plateful of fresh herbs.

There are many places that sell this Hanoi food. One of the best place to eat Pho in Hanoi is Pho Gia Truyen. Be sure to go early, as there is usually a long line!

Where to Have it

Address: 49 Bát Đàn, Hà Nội.

Hours: Everyday from 6:00 am to 10:30 am and 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm.

Prices: About 40,000 VND to 50,000 VND per person, approximately $1.75 USD to $2.20 USD.

Pro Tip: For 5,000 VND ($0.20USD) Add a side of trung ga to your order. It is a banh mi style bread lightly fried and used to dip into the soup.
Long lines on a Sunday night for the best pho in Vietnam - Pho Gia Truyen, Hanoi

# 8 – Bánh Mì – Vietnamese Sandwich

The bánh mì sandwich is truly the best Vietnamese sandwich to fall in love with. While its origins are French, the Vietnamese have made it distinctively their own. Generally speaking it is an airy Vietnamese baguette made with a combination of wheat and rice flours with a thin crispy crust.

It is stuffed with pork, pâté, cured ham, a mélange of Vietnamese herbs and vegetables like coriander, cucumber, carrot, slices, radish and more depending on what part of the country you are in. A wealth of textures and flavors, you will savor spicy, salty, savory, sweet, and aromatic tastes in each bite.
Gorgeous and delicious bánh mì sandwiches

Our favorite Bánh Mì sandwiches are actually not found in Hanoi, but in Hoi An, in central Vietnam.

In Hanoi, we stumbled onto Bánh Mì Ngon where we had two freshly made bánh mì sandwiches for the first time. What made this experience extra special, was the owner of the place made us taste a local dessert – pomelo slices topped with a mix of chili spices. A very nice and unexpected treat.
Where to Eat It

Address: 49 Đường Thành, Hà Nội.

Hours: Everyday from 8 am until 10 pm.

Prices: About 15,000 VND to 25,000 VND ($0.66 USD to $1.10 USD)

Pro Tip: Order your Bánh Mì sandwich to eat in and enjoy the local experience of eating at the small back tables.
Banh Mi Ngon

#9 Chè – Vietnamese Sweet Soup

Chè is the perfect end to your meal, especially if you had a light Hanoi food like Bánh Cuốn. Chè basically means dessert in Vietnamese.

In Hanoi, you will find chè vendors on the streets. Delight in warm chè in the cooler evenings and refresh with crushed ice added to the dessert in the hot months.

Chè is a sweet soup typically made of several ingredients mixed together and served in a large beer glass.
Refreshing chè on the streets of Hanoi

In the vendor’s cart, you will find different ingredients in large bowls displayed in the cart. When you order your chè, simply point to the ingredients you want.

Some of the typical ingredients are: mung beans, black beans, corn, taro, tapioca, jelly, and more!
Street vendor making chè for us

In Hanoi, due to the Chinese influence, you will also find Chè trôi nước. This is a sweet soup made with mung bean balls wrapped in a glutinous rice flour dipped in a warm ginger sauce.
Tasty and gingery chè trôi nước dessert

Finding a chè place, should not be an issue in Hanoi. Approach any street vendor with a chè sign, sit on the small stools, join the locals and place your order.

That’s what we did in Hanoi. We found this delicious Chè vendor and had chè mixed with every ingredient she had on the cart. We also ordered a delicious warm ginger soup with sesame balls.

Both were excellent and filling desserts!

While trying to understand the ingredients on the vendor’s cart, we took the opportunity to talk with locals and have them guide us to make sure we were ordering the right stuff. Definitively, a great way to connect with locals, while indulging in local delicacies!
Sitting on small stools while eating chè dessert with locals in Hanoi

Where to Have It

Address: 52 Hàng Điếu, Hà Nội.

Hours: Everyday from 8pm until 11pm.

Prices: About 10,000 VND to 25,000 VND ($0.44 USD to $1.10 USD)

Pro Tip: In the summer, order your Chè with ice, while in the winter have it warmed up.
Chè street vendor

#10 Cà Phê Trung- Vietnamese Egg Coffee

Although it is not a food, it is like food. Egg coffee or Cà Phê Trung is the most famous coffee in the north of Vietnam. It is a thick dark coffee topped with egg yolk whipped with condensed milk into an airy froth. Rich in taste, it can be likened to tiramisu dessert.
Rich and silky egg coffee

Where to Drink It

There are several coffee shops and places to enjoy a silky Vietnamese egg coffee. One place that offers the best view in Hanoi is a hidden and difficult to find coffee shop called Café Phố Cổ.
Hidden entrance of Cafe Pho Co

Address: 11 Hàng Gai, Hàng Trống, Hà Nội

Hours: Everyday from 8am until 11pm.

Prices: About 30,000 VND for a cup of egg coffee ($1.34 USD)

Pro Tip: In addition to egg coffee, Hanoi is also one of the best place to experience the Vietnamese beer Bia Hanoi and the local Bia Hoi.
View of Hanoi at night from Cafe Pho Co
In Summary

Northern Vietnamese food has its own unique tastes and flavors. The balance of flavors, the influence of the weather and the unique ingredients make for a wonderful culinary adventure.

Many of the best Hanoi foods are found on the streets, on small plastic tables and chairs.

For a local and authentic food experience on your travels, put any hesitation aside about eating on the streets. Instead, sit with the locals and try some of the local specialties you must eat in Hanoi highlighted here.

Do you like Vietnamese food? Which of the Must Eat in Hanoi food have you had or would like to try? Leave your comments below.

Savor the Adventure!

Where to Stay in Hanoi
To taste a slice of local life in Hanoi, consider booking your stay at the new La Santé Hotel & Spa in Ba Dinh.
The hotel is close to city’s main attractions such as Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, Vietnam Military History Museum, the Old Quarter, and Truc Bach Lake, which is perfect for running.

The hotel restaurant also serves authentic Vietnamese cuisine.

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