If going on a local food trip is among your main goals for travelling, then visiting Vietnam’s capital city is a must. Hailed by the late Anthony Bourdain as one of the best food cities in the world, this food mecca is teeming with great eats. They’re super affordable to boot! From sipping pho to attending cooking classes, here are the best things to do in Hanoi that food lovers should try. Bon appétit! Or should I say, an nào!
1. Bite Into a Banh Mi Sandwich
It’s not quite right to be in Hanoi and miss eating banh mi, which also means bread in Vietnamese. Food stalls selling the ever-popular snack are all over the city. Typical components include barbecued pork, pickled vegetables, liver pate and coriander. And all these delicious local ingredients come wrapped in a crisp baguette.
You can customise your banh mi, but the language barrier can get in the way. So, to enjoy your sandwich just the way you like it, look for Banh Mi 25 at Old Quarter Hanoi. Aside from having an English-speaking staff, their menu includes vegetarian options. It’s quite popular, so prepare to queue and pull up a plastic stool!
2. Go on Street Food Tours
One of the top things to do in Hanoi is to visit its night markets and hidden food gems. And if it’s your first time in the city, the best way around it is to find a local guide to show you around. This way, you get to dine where the locals go and eat the best of the best, be it spring rolls or bun cha with rice vermicelli.
Ha Food Tours is one agency that offers such services. Here, you can choose from several walking tours, from seafood tasting to vegan food hopping. And yes, starting your gastronomic walk with an empty stomach is A-OK.
3. Have a Bowl of Authentic Pho
Forget about having breakfast in the hotel. When you’re in northern Vietnam, it’s best to look for restaurants or food carts that serve pho. Vietnamese vendors will have this ubiquitous rice noodle soup simmering and ready early in the morning. You can either sip one with a tasty beef broth (pho bo) or go for the chicken variant (pho ga).
Don’t be surprised to see a myriad of condiments with your steaming soup. Aside from bean sprouts, herbs and lime, you can also season your pho with pickled garlic, hoisin sauce, pepper and fish sauce. Experiment and slurp away!
4. Enrol in a Cooking Class
The best takeaway from any trip is to learn a new skill. And perhaps one of the most productive things to do in Hanoi is to sign up for a cooking class. Just thinking about bringing those delightful recipes home makes my food lover heart (and tummy) flutter. On top of learning all sorts of Vietnamese dishes, you even get to visit markets, shop for local produce and witness the Hanoians’ everyday life. It is a great way to know the local cuisine and see the city beyond its tourist attractions.
There are so many options available to start your Vietnamese culinary journey. For instance, if you’re after the basics and traditional cooking, Rose Kitchen is worth checking out. The Hanoi Cooking Centre, on the other hand, offer several options, from street food to barbecues to vegetarian.
5. Enjoy a Cup of Egg Coffee
Vietnam offers one of the best-tasting cuppas in the world and is among the largest producer of Robusta coffee. And while coffee is not something to eat, Hanoi’s egg coffee is practically a dessert. Often likened to tiramisu, this creamy beverage has a frothy top made of whipped egg yolk and condensed milk. It’s a must-try for all coffee lovers!
With dozens of coffee shops in the city, this Vietnamese staple is pretty hard to miss. But if you’re interested in learning how to make a cup yourself, Chi Hotel’s Rooftop Bar is the perfect place. Their egg coffee class will show you the ropes.
6. Go on a Bia Hoi Adventure
Bia hoi means fresh beer, and just like the baguette, it was the French who introduced this bevy to Vietnam. This beer comes in kegs, contains no preservatives and has a low alcohol content. Best of all, it’s very cheap! Travellers would usually go to bia hoi junctions to sit with the locals and drink the night away.
If you’re after a more western-like experience, Hanoi is also home to several restaurants offering craft beer. These spots often have outdoor seating paired with scenic courtyards. What makes your craft beer experience even better, however, is having it with pizza, freshly baked from a wood-fired oven.
7. Shop for Food Gifts to Bring Home
Finally, you can’t leave just yet without doing a little shopping in Hanoi. And what better way to share the experience with your family and friends than bringing them some goodies? If you’re on a tight budget, a trip to Lotte Mart at Lotte Center Hanoi is perfect. Here are some ideas:
- Cuttlefish or squid. This dried, chewy snack is a great beer match for house parties.
- Pate in cans. A can or two of these should help curb your sudden banh mi cravings.
- Rice noodles. Recreate your street food tour with a bowl of homemade pho come wintertime.
- Coffee and lotus tea. Either of these will step up your mid-afternoon routine.
- Dried fruits. These come sweetened or salted. Peach, tamarind or plum? Have one of each!
- Dried seeds. Snack lovers will like these. Even the healthy lotus seeds and soybeans are addictive.
- Young green rice cake. This sweet and sticky Hanoi treat has coconut inside then coated with winter melon seeds.
Looking for more ideas to add to your food adventure list? Check out this article featuring Taiwan’s best street food markets!