Hanoi Street Food Tour – Eat Your Way Through Vietnam’s Capital

Backpackers savouring Vietnamese street food

A Hanoi street food tour is a must-do experience in Vietnam’s crazy capital, especially if you’re only in the city for a few days! A food tour is a fantastic way to sample a variety of Vietnamese street food delights, meet new travel buddies and discover more about Vietnamese culture and traditions along the way.

South East Asia Backpacker Ambassadors, Rosie and Hannah from the UK, sampled the highly-rated Real Hanoi Street Food Experience with Friends Travel Vietnam. Their tour costs just $19 US and lasts three hours, during which time you get to sample up to 15 local delicacies, including food and drinks.

The local company offers both a meat and a vegetarian tour of Hanoi’s most famous foodie delights, as well as the city’s best-kept culinary secrets! Their review of the tour and photos of the street food had us drooling through the screen…

Real Hanoi Street Food Experience - Vietnam
The Half-Day Real Hanoi Street Food Experience, Vietnam.

Hanoi Food Tour – Our Experience!

On a rather rainy day in Hanoi, we set off on the afternoon tour with Friends Travel Vietnam and were greeted by our friendly Vietnamese guide, who was also a student in the city. She spoke excellent English and had all of the best local knowledge for the vegetarian tour that we had opted for!

Our first stop introduced us to an incredibly popular Vietnamese dish, banh mi. Influenced by the French colonials, the bahn mi is a fusion street food made with bread and stuffed with Vietnamese herbs, vegetables and meats of various textures. (Vegetarians can ask for it without the meat.) The mix is often referred to as a Vietnamese Sandwich!

The street restaurant that we were taken to was thriving with local customers. They served up the soft baguette as an open sandwich, covered with crispy fried onion, fresh coriander, and a mouthwatering dressing. During the rest of our travels in Vietnam, we tried and failed to find a banh mi all over the country that would compare to this first experience, but the standard was set impeccably high!

Vietnamese street food
An alternative take on the bahn mi sandwich – one of Vietnam’s most loved street foods.

We then walked down the bustling streets further and stopped at a fruit stall offering a wide selection of some familiar and some not so familiar varieties. We tried those carefully picked out by our guide as a refreshing bite before our next dish, the iconic spring roll…

Eating fresh spring rolls on a Hanoi street food tour.
Wrapping your own fresh spring rolls on the Real Hanoi Street Food Tour.

Many variations of this world-famous appetiser can be found around Vietnam, however, deep frying is one of the most common methods of cooking them. The street vendor prepares the roll in front of you and drops them into the boiling oil, ensuring you receive a crisp and fresh delicacy. Which way do you prefer your spring roll? Fresh or fried?

Cha gio. Mixed fresh, crunchy veggies, minced pork, rolled in a thin rice wrap. Yum!
Cha gio. Fried spring rolls consist of mixed veggies, minced pork, rolled in a thin rice wrap and fried. Yum!

Moving onto an incredibly authentic and slightly surreal part of the experience…

Whilst walking through the bustling streets, our guide called over a bicycle vendor. Before this moment, we were completely unaware that the pots suspended over the bicycles that you see all over the streets of Hanoi contain ingredients!

The vendor whipped out their gas cooker and cracked a few eggs and herbs into a cup. After whisking, she dropped it into a hot pan and added a few chillis. The concoction smelt delicious! She then handed us a clean plate and chopsticks and let us tuck into the delicious omelette with chilli dressing right there on the busy streets of Hanoi!

A Vietnamese omelette, whipped up in a matter of seconds on the streets of Hanoi.
A Vietnamese omelette, whipped up in a matter of seconds on the streets of Hanoi.

What a simple, yet delicious (and healthy!) snack if you’re hungry while you’re sightseeing. We felt proud to know the secret of the omelette bicycles, like we had just secured an insider piece of knowledge about Hanoi.

As we started to fill up from the previous dishes (they were incredibly hard to stop eating!), we were greeted with a delicious mango and green papaya salad, which proved to be a refreshing and light snack. Served with pine nuts and leafy grains in a homemade soy sauce, it’s not the most filling meal but it is very flavoursome.

At a roadside fruit stall, we also tried one of the most delicious fruits in Southeast Asia, the famous mangosteen! Nicknamed the ‘Queen of Fruits’, Queen Victoria of England is believed to have offered a Knighthood to anyone who could bring her a perfectly ripe mangosteen!

A fresh mangosteen in Hanoi
A fresh mangosteen in Hanoi – Queen Vic would have loved this one!

The final two stops of the tour are the two that you’d definitely struggle to find the most without a local guide…

The first being a dessert restaurant ran out of a narrow house on a busy Hanoi corner. Here, we tasted a popular Vietnamese sweet treat consisting of coconut ice cream, ice, jelly and fresh fruit. Locally, it’s known as ‘chè’ and can come in many different varieties. 

As we sat in the small street food café, our guide told us that the stall was a family business that been running for decades. Apparently, the place was a favourite with the locals who’d stop by until the late hours of the night. We could understand why!

Grass jelly, pearls, mango slices, Thai basil seeds, with a scoop of coconut ice cream
Grass jelly, pearls, mango slices, Thai basil seeds, with a scoop of coconut ice cream. So refreshing!

As the end of the experience neared, we were slightly (VERY) on the full side so our guide took us to a coffee shop situated near the lake. We turned off the main road into an alleyway through what appeared to us as someone’s house and went up a set of old rickety stairs! We were being taken to the true hidden gem of Mr Kanh’s Coffee Shop!

At the top was a small yet quirky little cafe serving up some of the best Vietnamese coffee and fruit juices we’d ever tasted. They also served western varieties of coffee with latte art that will blow your mind!

Here, you can try ‘egg coffee’, a thick and filling Vietnamese drink made up of what you’d expect from the name. We opted for a fruit juice as it was getting late, but marvelled at the intricate patterns on the surface of the coffees being served.

This spot also has a small balcony if you’re lucky enough to grab a seat out there, a perfect spot for people watching and to see all of Hoan Kiem lake from above!

A passion fruit juice at Mr Kahn’s Coffee shop.

All in all, this Hanoi street food walking tour was a brilliant way to introduce us to Vietnamese food and gave us the confidence to go and order dishes as we continued our adventure throughout Vietnam. 

The small and modest exteriors of a lot of the best eateries are easily hidden in a city that can sometimes overwhelm the senses! However, our guide made it a thoroughly enjoyable and stress-free experience, and one that we’d highly recommend.

For anybody new to Hanoi or Vietnam, the tour is a great way to try traditional local dishes you maybe wouldn’t have tried otherwise, and enrich your entire travels in the rest of the country. 

The Real Street Food Tour is the third in a series of ‘Real Experience’ tours provided by the Friends Travel Vietnam team that we have been fortunate enough to review.  Their ‘Real Experience’ tours are designed to provide you with a truly authentic experience that goes above and beyond the typical tourist experience. We have absolutely no doubt in recommending this company and have been provided with a flawless service throughout. Their tours are also extremely budget-friendly, so for backpackers, they are ideal.

Real Hanoi Street Food Tour - A highly recommended experience in Vietnam!
Real Hanoi Street Food Tour – A highly recommended experience in Vietnam!

You can book the Read Street Food Experience on our website here. And, if you’re thinking of heading to the mountainous town of Sapa, we’d highly recommend that you check out the Real Sapa Experience too!

Rosie, currently a school teacher in Leeds, recently returned to the UK after a one month epic trip of Vietnam where she documented her experiences as an ambassador for South East Asia Backpacker Magazine. Are you interested in writing for us?

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One thought on “Hanoi Street Food Tour – Eat Your Way Through Vietnam’s Capital

  1. Santel Phin says:

    Good recommendations! I’ve been in Ho Chi Ming a few times. Pho and Coffee is the most commune street food but as described in this post, we have many other choices.

    What was so strange to me is that they drink coffee even at midnight. Impressive!

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