A walk through Hanoi’s Old Quarter can quite quickly turn into an impromptu food tour thanks to the narrow alleys and bustling streets jam packed with food vendors, each offering up a dazzling variety of local flavors. And in case you didn’t already know, everything tastes better when it comes from a no-frills, hole in the wall restaurant with bad lighting and bright red plastic chairs that look like they would struggle to support anyone older than 7. It’s tough to narrow down, but here are our top 5 must-eat foods in Hanoi’s Old Quarter:
Any foodie worth their weight couldn’t rightfully compile such a list and leave off Hanoi’s ubiquitous bowl of steaming rice noodle soup- the world famous pho. Although it’s now found all over Vietnam and has become one of the country’s most famous cultural exports, pho originates in Hanoi. Melt-in-you-mouth rice noodles swim in a lightly spiced transparent broth, flavored with wafer thin slices of beef (or chicken) and a mix of fresh local greens on the side. Kick it up a notch with some tiny (but very, very spicy!) chilies, a squeeze of lime, and some fish sauce.
Where to eat: Pho10, Pho Bat Dan
2. Cha Ca
A well-renowned Hanoi delicacy, this elegantly designed dish is made from carefully chosen cuts of succulent white fish, marinated in turmeric and served on a bed of dill. You’ll get a bowl of rice noodles alongside it, served with peanuts, sliced red chilies, chopped spring onions and shrimp paste. This dish is so good there’s an entire street named after it in the Old Quarter.
Where to eat: Cha Ca Thang Long
3. Chim Quay
Consider this to be Vietnam’s answer to Beijing duck. Chim Quay is a no frills, lightly spiced, crispy, barbecued pigeon… whole. It might sound like it’s only for the adventurous foodies among us, but don’t be fooled. Chim Quay is comprised of delicate, un-fatty meat that’s crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside.
Where to eat: Chim Quay Bit Tet
4. Pho Chien Phong
You remember those dainty little rice noodles floating around in the delicate pho broth? Well, someone somewhere thought it would be a good idea to take a ball of them, stick them together and deep fry them… and they were totally, unequivocally correct. It might not be glamorous, but fried pho balls topped with sautéed greens and spiced beef are A1 in our books.
Where to eat: Pho Cuon Vin Phong
5. Nem Ca Xa Lo
Highway4 is a much-coveted chain of Hanoi restaurants, and their signature dish is the very special Nem Ca Xa Lo, or catfish spring rolls, to you and I. This Hanoi eatery offers a more modern and refined take on the much loved traditional street food, and the catfish spring rolls are a wonderful example of this. Delicately fried pieces of fish are paired with fresh herbs and wrapped in a transparent rice paper. Take the flavors to the next level with a dunk in the wasabi soy sauce served on the side- taste sensation.
Where to eat: Highway4