Do you travel to eat and drink? For me, one of the most exciting things about travelling to a new country is to sample a brand new cuisine. You’ll experience new flavours, herbs, exotic fruits, funny shaped vegetables, strange new delicacies, and of course a whole new spice level – sometimes which is just too hot to handle!
In Southeast Asia, you have the added bonus of an incredible variety of street food, which is surely one of the biggest pleasures of travel in this region. Eating a bowl of noodles on a tiny plastic chair in an atmospheric corner of an Asian city will, not only fill your belly but give you with an authentic cultural experience. Best of all; it will cost you less than a few dollars!
As well as all of the amazing experiences that you can have in Southeast Asia, for sure, eating dinner is an adventure in itself!
Street Food in Hanoi
The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, is an amazing place to sample lots of different kinds of street food.
You’d probably all have heard of the famous Phở (a rich clear noodle broth; beef or chicken), which locals often eat for breakfast, and was voted one of the top 5 street foods in the world by GlobalPost. Hanoi isn’t just about Phở, there are hundreds of different types of noodle soup; from Bún Ốc (vermicelli soup with snails) to Bún Riêu cua (tapioca rice noodle soup with crab paste, fried tofu and spring onions), and many others…
Or how about bánh, the delicious Vietnamese pastries, many wrapped in bamboo or banana leaves. bánh xèo, a pan-fried pancake made with rice flour, turmeric, shrimp, onions and mushrooms or bánh cuốn, a steamed rice roll made with fermented rice flour, lean meat, wood ear mushrooms, fried shallots and it is served with the dipping fish sauce.
Then there’s the awesome bánh mì, the delicious Vietnamese baguette, clearly influenced by the French colonial history, filled with paté, mayonnaise, cold meat cuts or eggs, sardines, jalapeños, pickled radish and carrot.
The variety is incredible, with everything from meat, seafood, rice and sticky rice dishes, wraps and rolls, hot pots, noodles, soups and congees (rice porridge) to salads, pickled vegetable dishes and curries!
For dessert, try chė, a sweet pudding made from beans and sticky rice, mixed with different fruit and beans, such as kidney or mung beans, and served with coconut milk.
Of course, you can wash it all down with a ‘bia hơi’ – the most popular draft beer in Vietnam, and the cheapest beer in Asia!
What’s unique about Vietnamese food?
Vietnamese food is renowned and celebrated for using a variety of fresh ingredients that come from the local fields, rivers and farms. It is actually considered one of the healthiest cuisines in the world, as the cooking uses minimal dairy, oil and grease, and plentiful herbs and vegetables. Lemongrass, ginger, mint, coriander, chilli, lime and basil are often used, along with fish sauce, shrimp paste, soy sauce, rice and a variety of meats, fish, herbs and vegetables. Soybean oil is the most popular oil used in Vietnamese cooking, which is also one of the healthiest oils to heat.
Did you know?
Vietnamese food is created using a careful balance between five elements. These five elements relate to the five fundamental taste senses: spicy (metal), sour (wood), bitter (fire), salty (water) and sweet (earth). Vietnamese dishes include five types of ingredients: water, rice flour, mineral elements, protein and fat. In turn, these taste senses correspond to the five organs: gall bladder, small intestine, large intestine, stomach, and urinary bladder. Some chefs even try to have five colours in their dishes: white (metal), green (wood), yellow (earth), red (fire) and black (water)!
How to order street food in Hanoi?
When you first arrive, the variety of street food on offer can be a bit bamboozling. It seems that everyone is eating, but the street stalls have no menus and no indication in English what they are actually serving. You kind of just have to look over people’s shoulders, point and gesture, as if to say ‘what he’s having’ and hope for the best! If you just don’t know where to start, a food walking tour can be a great way to explore a new city through your stomach!
A Taste of Hanoi – Food Walking Tour
The Taste of Hanoi Food Walking Tour is a great way to explore the nooks and crannies of Hanoi, from the ancient Old Quarter to the bustling local markets, all whilst sampling some amazing and authentic Hanoi street food, snacks, drinks and treats. Not only will you learn about the unique Vietnamese cuisine, you’ll learn about the history and culture of the city from your English speaking guide, as well as discover unique architecture in the city. You’ll begin by exploring Dong Xuan Market sampling a few of the local delicacies, followed by a stroll around a selection of the original 36 ‘trading streets’ of the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
Did you know? The streets of the Old Quarter of Hanoi are named after the trade that was originally established there, such as ‘fish street’ or ‘sugar street’… After that, you’ll get off the beaten track amongst the famous narrow alleyways of the Old Quarter, where vendors cook up a variety of traditional dishes, giving each one a unique twist depending on their personal heritage, and indeed personality!
The tour will end with a viewing of the lovely Hoan Kiem Lake, where you can taste a wide selection of local delicacies brought to you directly from the vendors as well as the most unique “egg coffee” only found here in Hanoi. The tour will last for approx four hours, depending on the group size and you’ll taste around 30 dishes along the way – no wonder why they advise you not to eat breakfast before you join the tour!
The Original Craft Beer Tour in Hanoi:
Did you know that there’s a lively craft beer scene in Hanoi? If you’re into your craft beer, then why not try this one of a kind craft beer tour of Hanoi. During the tour, you will leave the hustle and bustle of the old town to go and visit some very unique craft breweries in a non-touristy part of town. You will sample 12 different authentic craft beers of Vietnam and learn more about the exciting craft beer scene of the capital. Moreover, you will take a chance to try different Vietnamese food pairing along the way.
Whilst sipping the delicious craft beers, you’ll be told about the interesting history of beer in Vietnam which dates back to the French colonisation of the country. Through French occupation for over 100 years, war, hunger, hardship and depression, beer has been soothing the woes of the Vietnamese people.
The tour is a great way to get out of the Old Quarter and see parts of the city that most of the visitors don’t know about. You’ll chat with the owners of microbreweries and get an opportunity to sample the work of local brewmasters. Complimentary finger foods are provided to soak up a bit of the ale. Whether you’re a craft beer newcomer or a connoisseur, this tour is a unique way to see the city!
Details of the two tours mentioned in this article:
A Taste of Hanoi Food Walking Tour:
- Morning Tour: From 8.30am – 12.30pm (Mon-Sun).
- Afternoon Tour: From 4.30 pm – 8:30 pm (Mon-Sun).
- Includes: All food, drinks and snacks.
- Meeting place: Sacombank ATM Machine – No 1 Dong Xuan street (front entrance of Dong Xuan Market, Corner of Dong Xuan St with Cau Dong St).
- Price: $40 USD per person to join the group tour. $55 USD per person for a private tour.
For more info and to book a tour, check out the Taste of Hanoi website here.
The Original Craft Beer Tour of Hanoi:
- Time: From 4 pm – 9 pm (depending upon Hanoi traffic). (Mon-Sun).
- Includes: Tasting three amazing craft beers at each stop (12 beers in total) as well as finger foods (vegetarian available). English speaking guide, pickup by minibus from your hotel in the Old Quarter.
- Group size: 12 people (max), 3 people (min). Must be 18 years old. Private tours available on request.
- Price: $70 USD per person.