Vietnam, the country with an exotic food culture, never fails to surprise travelers. There are dozens of types of noodles, different versions of pancakes, and tons of distinctive dishes made from rice flour. Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh are the two big cities of Vietnam, and they both have distinctive cuisines worth exploring. We’ve already written lots of articles about Ho Chi Minh and it’s food for you – for example Chinatown in Saigon – 3 must-eat dishes! Today, I will fly you to the capital of Vietnam and help you discover the five best dishes in Hanoi that you should try, and we will first focus on breakfast options, excluding the one you already know: pho.
Why breakfast? A good breakfast and a satisfied stomach in the morning means the rest of your day will probably be good too. Plus, strolling around the Hanoi Old Quarter in the morning will bring about a lot of interesting and unexpected experiences.
If you are looking for western breakfast – this is not for you! When you are traveling, you must try local food – it’s a great way to get to know the people and the culture!
Hanoi – Vietnam
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and the second biggest city by population. With more than a 1,000 years of establishment (since 1010), Hanoi has been through a lot of important historical events and has been influenced by multiple cultural factors, especially by the feudal rule of the kings and the colonial system established by the French. It now showcases the contrast between the old and the new, bearing ancient beauty within its citadels, old temples, pagodas, and churches, while blending in with today’s tall buildings and developed road system.
Hanoi’s points of interest
“What should I do in Hanoi?” is one of the most common questions that travelers normally ask. If I were you, exploring the crazy foods in Hanoi would be on top of my list. However, in order to digest all the exotic food you’re going to eat, let’s take a walk through Hanoi’s most famous points of interest. These are some of the iconic attractions in the city that represent Hanoi’s beautiful culture.
- Hoan Kiem Lake
- Hanoi Opera House
- Hanoi Ceramic Mosaic Mural
- St. Joseph’s Cathedral
- Hoa Lo prison
- Imperial Citadel of Thang Long
- Long Bien bridge
Here is a great guide on how you can make the most of your time in Hanoi. The full itinerary is included!
Best time to visit Hanoi
The weather in Hanoi is different from that of Ho Chi Minh City. In Ho Chi Minh City, the winter never comes, and there are only two seasons – the dry and the rainy. Hanoi’s weather changes four times a year. Regardless of the season, you will still be surprised by its beauty.
Spring: February – April
Spring is the season when Tet holiday in Vietnam takes place. If you’re visiting Hanoi around this time of the year, you’ll have a chance to experience the Tet markets, where locals sell colorful decorative items for the holiday and the stunning flower markets pop up in every corner of the city.
Summer: May – July
Summer is also known as the dry season. There won’t be any rain during this time, mostly just sunlight which ensures beautiful shots of Hanoi.
Fall: August – October
Hanoi becomes a totally different city in the fall. Leaves change to yellow, even purple and red sometimes. The weather cools down a bit so you can enjoy staying outside. Taking a stroll under a rain of falling leaves is absolutely romantic.
Winter: November – January
When winter comes, there is no more humidity and heat. Winter in Hanoi isn’t so cold – it’s just around 20 degrees Celsius, and there isn’t much rain either. During this time of the year, Hanoi’s BBQ street will come back to life and start serving crazy tasty food.
The Top 5 Must-try Foods in Hanoi
1. Egg coffee – Ca phe trung
Egg coffee is proudly considered as one of the signature drinks of Hanoi. It was invented by a bartender who worked for Metropole Hotel in Hanoi during the colonial times. He was inspired by the cappuccino while working there. This man is named Giang. He made the first egg coffee cup in 1946 and since then, it has become a recognized drink in Hanoi and soon, the rest of Vietnam.
Egg coffee is prepared by beating egg yolks with sugar, condensed milk, and black coffee. It is served inside a bowl of hot water in order to retain its temperature, or else the texture changes. The frothy and yolky layer is simply delicious and will remind you of a Crème Brulee. There is no better way to get your day started. CNN ended up writing a whole article about it: Egg coffee in Hanoi: Where to get your caffeine fix.
Mr. Giang’s sons and daughter have continued using the family recipe and the café expanded. Café Giang has three locations now. If you find yourself sitting here taking sips of the egg coffee, don’t forget that they also have new flavors such as green tea, mung bean, and even egg beer. Sounds weird, but tastes amazing, I assure you!
Where to find your Egg coffee in Hanoi:
- Giang coffee
Address 1: 106 Yen Phu st, Ba Dinh Dist., Hanoi
Address 2: 39 Nguyen Huu Huan St., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
Price: 40,000 VND
Opening hours: 7 AM – 10:30 PM
- Cafe Dinh
Address: 13 Dinh Tien Hoang st., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi.
Price: 30,000 VND
Opening hours: 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM
Egg coffee is served in venues across the city as well as the country. If you want to explore more spots that serve egg coffee in Ho Chi Minh City, this article will be a helpful source: Vietnamese Egg Coffee in Saigon – Simple Recipe Included!
2. Sticky rice – Xoi xeo
Vietnamese love eating rice, just like the rest of Asia. And sticky rice is another of our favorite breakfast dishes, among the amazing foods in Hanoi. It can’t be missed! People not only eat it on special occasions like Tet holiday but also in daily life, as a common dish for breakfast. Xoi xeo, especially, is one of the Hanoians favorite breakfasts, whether they are CEOs of a company or university students.
How to make sticky rice
Xoi xeo is a pretty simple dish, made from three main ingredients: sticky rice, mung beans, and fried onions. It takes five hours to soak sticky rice and two hours to soak the mung beans before cooking. Sticky rice is mixed with some turmeric powder which gives the dish a delicious yellow color. Mung beans, after they are cooked, are then stirred until smooth and soft. Condense the beans by hand to form the mixture into a giant tennis ball shape. Slice the mung bean ball and present those slices on top of the sticky rice, then sprinkle some fried onion, and pour a little chicken fat over the top when serving. Finally, wrap it with banana leaf and there you go, your extra convenient takeaway breakfast.
In my opinion, xoi xeo is the most delicious sticky rice dish that I’ve ever eaten. It only costs 10,000 to 15,000 VND, there is no doubt why students love it so much.
Where to find sticky rice in Hanoi
You can literary find this meal almost everywhere in Hanoi. There is always a lady in the alley, on the sidewalk, or in the market selling this dish every single morning. However, if you are looking for a fixed destination, check out these addresses:
- Xoi xeo chi May
Address 1: T-junction of Hang Bai st. And Vong Duc s.t, right in front of Uu Dam vegetarian at 34 Hang Bai st., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
Address 2: The corner at the crossroads of Hang Bai and Ly Thuong Kiet st., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
Price: 10,000 – 15,000 VND
Opening hours: 6 AM – 10 AM
- Xoi xeo 44 Hang Hom
Address: 44 Hang Hom St., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
Opening hours: 6 AM – 8 AM
3. Steamed rice roll – Banh cuon
You might be thinking: “Rice roll? Isn’t it just another kind of roll similar to spring rolls or summer rolls?” Well, kind of. But look, try it and you will notice delicious differences too.
Steamed rice roll (banh cuon) is one of the oldest dishes from the North of Vietnam. It’s so delicious that it’s been even mentioned in ancient poetry. There are many types of banh cuon that differ slightly from each other: banh cuon Thanh Tri, banh cuon Hanoi, banh cuon Phu Ly, banh cuon Lang Kenh etc. Some are named after the cities they are found in, and others are named after the ingredients. Today, let’s talk about banh cuon Hanoi.
Having been mentioned in a previous article on our Christina’s Blog: Banh Cuon – Vietnamese Steamed Rice Rolls And All You Need To Know, you already know where to find this delicious dish in Ho Chi Minh City and also the recipe to make it yourself. The Hanoi recipe isn’t much different – most of the ingredients are similar and the method of preparation is similar too. However, the way the Hanoi version is served is where the differences lie. Banh cuon Hanoi, after being steamed, will be rolled with a cooked mixture of minced pork and wood ear mushrooms. After that, add shredded dried shrimps (optional), fried onions, and herbs such as mint, Vietnamese basil, cilantro, and then cut it into four pieces. Now dip it in the sweetened fish sauce with some sausage slices and feel the flavors in your mouth. Surprisingly good, right?
Where to find banh cuon in Hanoi
- Banh cuon Yen Phu
Address: 34 Yen Phu st., Ba Dinh Dist., Hanoi
Price: 25,000 VND
Opening hours: 6:30 AM – 6 PM
- Banh cuon nong Phuong
Address: 68 Hang Cot st., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
Price: 25,000 VND
Opening hours: 4 PM – 7:30 PM
- Banh cuon Quang An
Address: Crossroads of Hang Bo and Thuoc Bac st., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
Price: 20,000 VND
Opening hours: 5 PM – 9 PM
4. Pyramidal dumpling – Banh gio
When it comes to Hanoi street food, pyramidal dumpling (banh gio) is one of the highlights. This cake is in a pyramid shape, made of pure non-glutinous rice and broth. Fillings often include minced pork, wood ear mushroom, and onions. On the outside, the cake is covered with a banana leaf which gives the dumpling a greenish color and a very leafy taste. After boiling for about 45-60 minutes, the cakes will then be placed in a basket that is covered by a thick fabric. This is to keep the cakes hot and to enhance the taste. Pyramidal dumplings are served with pickled cucumber, chili sauce, and soy sauce. To be honest, the cake doesn’t look super appetizing at first glance, but we wouldn’t mention it on this list if it wasn’t delicious. Trust me!
Where to find pyramidal dumpling in Hanoi
- Banh gio Thuy Khue
Address: 3 Thuy Khue st., Tay Ho Dist., Hanoi
Price: 25,000 VND
Opening hours: 6 AM – 9 PM
- Banh gio Nguyen Cong Tru
Address: Nguyen Cong Tru st. (in a local market alley), Hai Ba Trung Dist., Hanoi
Price: 15,000 – 33,000 VND
Opening hours: 3 PM – 10:30 PM
- Banh gio Dao Duy Tu
Address: 16 Dao Duy Tu st., Hoan Kiem Dist, Hanoi
Price: 12,000 – 30,000 VND
Opening hours: 6:30 AM – 5 PM
5. Crab paste vermicelli – Bun rieu
It will be a huge mistake to leave out bun rieu from this breakfast list. Vietnamese noodle dishes are always loved. Bun rieu isn’t an exception.
How to make crab paste vermicelli (Bun rieu)
Freshwater paddy crabs are pounded in their shells until they are made into a fine paste. The paste is then strained up to three times until just the bones and shell pieces are left. The liquid is then boiled so the crab meat will float. Your job now is to pick up those delectable crab pieces and place them into your bowl when everything else is ready. The broth is also cooked with tomato. Fermented grains will be added to the broth later with some fried tofu and shrimp paste.
And finally, a bowl of bun rieu won’t be complete without some fresh herbs: banana flower, shredded morning glory, spinach etc. Now you are ready.
Where to find bun rieu
If you are from Ho Chi Minh City, you will be a bit surprised to find more ingredients in your bowl than what you would find in Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh City’s bun rieu is made a bit differently and if you want to find out more, check out this detailed article about Bun rieu in Saigon. For an amazing bowl of bun, these are our recommendations for you:
- Bun rieu Hong Phuc
Address: 22 Hong Phuc St., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
Price: 35,000 VND
Opening hours: 8 AM – 10 PM
- Bun rieu Trieu Viet Vuong
Address: 159 Trieu Viet Vuong St., Hai Ba Trung Dist., Hanoi
Price: 35,000 VND
Opening hours: 9 AM – 6 PM
- Bun rieu Hang Bac
Address: 11 Hang Bac St., Hoan Kiem Dist., Hanoi
Price: 25,000 VND
Opening hours: 6 AM – 6 PM
Now I’m hungry – writing this article makes me want to eat. For those of you who are reading this and are currently in Hanoi, what are you waiting for? Put on your shoes and go for a food hunt.
A Hanoi Food Tour with Onetrip
If you have the time and funds to go on a food tour, it’s a great opportunity to discover many more delicious dishes and a local guide will explain everything about Vietnamese cuisine and culture to you. If I just piqued your interest, check out Onetrip Food Tour. Onetrip aims to provide the most local experiences to travelers. Hop on the back of a motorbike and snake through small roads in Hanoi to find the hidden gems that are only accessible through local knowledge. You’ll drive through various districts, trying out a whole bunch of different dishes, leaving you not only fulfilled (pun intended!), but also more knowledgeable and appreciative of the culture.
Enjoyed this article? Follow the Christina’s Blog for more fun info on what to do, see, and eat while in Vietnam!