Complete Hanoi Food Guide for Foodies: Top Must Try & Exotic Dishes

Hello all the foodies coming to Hanoi for some amazing Vietnamese food! 

As you may know or have heard, Vietnam is a heaven for foodies. It’s a home for the world-famous pho and a country full of regional specialities. I also heard many people saying that Vietnamese food is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. Vietnamese food is also super rich in flavours and variety. 

Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and also home of pho. Hanoi alone has countless number of delicious dishes you must try! I’ve been living in Hanoi for quite some time now. And as I’m a passionate foodie, I’ve tried most (if not all) of the must try foods in Hanoi. Then I realised that other than the classic list of best Hanoi foods, there are lots more to it.

I’ve discovered a whole range of delectable local dishes so far. What’s even better is that the list keeps expanding. The more I look into Vietnamese local newspapers or social media, the more new dishes I find out about. I feel like I could spend a life time here fully dedicated to food and still have something new to discover!

To help you choose what you should and want to try, I thought I should give you a good complete Hanoi food guide. So here are lists of must try foods in Hanoi as well as some really exotic and unusual dishes for you. 

I’ll start off with the classic series of most quintessential and famous dishes. Then I’ll give a list of some other foods that may require some tolerance and guts to try. I divided them into “level 2” and “level 3” only to indicate how challenging it can be for foreigners (level 3 being the most challenging). 

Complete Foodie Guide: Must Try Foods in Hanoi

Level 1 – Most classic must try dishes

Pho

A trip in Hanoi is never complete without a good bowl of pho, a rice noodle soup. Hanoi is the birth place of this notorious Vietnamese dish. I can say my love for Hanoi partly comes from pho because it’s just heavenly good. I’ve been to many amazing pho restaurants in town and here’s a list of Top 4 Pho Restaurants in Hanoi.

Pho bo - with beef at Pho 10 Ly Quoc Su

Bun Cha

Another top recommended Hanoian dish is bun cha. This sweet and slightly sour flavoured BBQ meat with fresh rice noodle is a perfect lunch menu. My personal favourite bun cha is Bun Cha Hang Quat in the Old Quarter. I love this place not only for food but also for the super local ambiance because it’s in the centre of local residential buildings. 

Bun Cha Hang Quat - Hanoi famous restaurant
Bun cha at Bun Cha Hang Quat

Banh Mi

It’s an all time favourite light lunch menu in Vietnam. Vietnamese sandwich, banh mi is filled with various ingredients from veggies to meat. It’s like a whole of fresh Vietnamese herbs and flavours packed in one. I think there are plenty of banh mi shops all over Hanoi and across the country. But the most famous banh mi shop in town is Banh Mi 25 on Hang Ca street. 

Banh my sandwich
Banh mi is hard to disappoint

Bun Ca

Bun Ca is another great variation of rice noodle soup and its main ingredient is fish. Usually, there’s fried fish, fish cake and loads of vegetables in delectable soup. I think it’s a perfect lunch or breakfast menu in Hanoi. Also, I have a favourite place in Old Quarter, Hanoi called Bun Ca Sam Cay Si. It’s a very famous restaurant here. Located in a narrow alley, but it’s always full of local guests who are mostly regulars just like I am.  

Bun Ca Sam Cay Si Hanoi famous restaurant
My favourite bun ca shop in Old Quarter, Hanoi

Chao

Chao is rice porridge and one of the most popular breakfast menus. I love to order slices of quay, which is fried mini baguette to enjoy with my chao. It is an amazing breakfast especially in the winter in north Vietnam. A small bowl can fill you up and boost you to kick start your day of sightseeing. 

Vietnamese breakfast menu porridge - chao
Chao topped with chopped quay and sprinkled with chilli powder

Banh Gio

Another local’s favourite breakfast menu is banh gio. It is made of sticky rice flour and topped with a range of ingredients like sausages and pickled cucumber. As it’s wrapped in banana leaf, there’s a really special fragrance to it. I love having banh gio for a light lunch as well. 

Banh Gio Vietnamese breakfast menu
Small bowl full of a good variety of flavours and textures

Cha Ca

This century old Hanoian delicacy is grilled fish. Fish is marinated in turmeric sauce and enjoyed with a grill on the table. I fell in love with this dish when I had my first cha ca in Cha Ca Thang Long, one of the most famous cha ca restaurants in town. I’d definitely recommend trying cha ca to everyone. 

Cha Ca Thang Long - must try food in hanoi
Grilling cha ca with lots of veggies

Banh Cuon

Banh cuon is another one of my favourite breakfast dishes. Thinly spread rice flour batter is rolled with minced meat and mushroom inside. It’s enjoyed with a sweetened fish sauce and Vietnamese sausages on the side. The soft texture of rice flour is to die for!

Banh Cuon - must try Vietnamese breakfast menu
A quick and simple breakfast but something I'd die for

Pho Xao Bo

There’s not only the classic version of pho with soup. Pho noodle is amazingly yummy when it’s stir-fried with beef. I’ve been to lots of local restaurants selling pho xao bo, but nothing beats where I always go. My favourite place for this dish is in the very centre of Old Quarter on Hang Buom street. It’s only open in the evening, so go try it for dinner.

Pho xao bo Hang Buom - must try food in Hanoi
Stir-fried pho with beef and pok choi in Hang Buom street

Pho Cuon

Here’s another delicious variation of pho noodle. As you might know, fresh spring roll is a well-known Vietnamese dish. While spring rolls are wrapped with thin rice papers, pho cuon is wrapped with flat pho noodles. The wrap is thicker than spring rolls, thus adding some extra texture. Lots of greens and beef filling makes pho cuon an excellent appetiser.

Pho Cuon Huong Mai Truc Bach - Pho Cuon 2
Pho cuon is a prefect side dish or appetiser

Vietnamese BBQ

For some proper and fantastic dinner, I’d say Vietnamese BBQ can be number one choice. Vietnamese way of doing BBQ is adding margarine to the grill, which explains why it’s inevitably good. My top recommendation would be to go to BBQ street under railway bridge for an awesome and unique dining experience. 

Vietnamese BBQ Gam Cau
Put that margarine to this awesome BBQ dinner

Bia Hoi

Bia hoi is not a dish, but a common place for dinner. This is where many locals would go after work for a quick or long beer with friends before heading home. I noticed that most locals order some dishes on the side to enjoy with their beer. But I go to bia hoi for a proper meal because of their amazing food. Most bia hois have authentic local Vietnamese dishes like morning glory, tofu etc. My top suggestions are stir-fried morning glory, tofu (deep-fried or soft) and whatever is recommend by the restaurant. 

Classic Bia Hoi meal - local Vietnamese Food
Range of local dishes with some cold beer is soooo heavenly

Level 2 – Hanoi Food for moderately adventurous foodies

Bun Dau Mam Tom

Bun Dau Mam Tom is a prominent Hanoian dish. It’s a platter of fresh rice noodle, crispy tofu, meat and fresh herbs. I consider this a level 2 (or even a level 3) difficulty because of the sauce that comes with it. Mam tom is a shrimp paste sauce famous in Hanoi. It has a very particular smell and taste. I think it’s like marmite of Vietnam because you either hate it or love it. Most Vietnamese people seem to love it. So go give it a try to see if you like it, or hate it. If you end up not liking it, you can ask for a different type of dipping sauce like salt with lime or fish sauce. 

Bun Dau man tom - Ho Ba Mau
Mam tom sauce on top right. Salt with lime below mam tom.

Cha Ruoi

Cha ruoi is a type of pancake dish and is often enjoyed with a glass of beer. From the outside, it just looks delicious and tempting. Then there’s a shocking fact that the main ingredient is worm. It is mixed with eggs, minced meat, mandarin peels etc and the texture is almost like an omelet. Unless you see the cooking process, you might be able to easily enjoy this dish. 

cha ruoi - worm pancake
Omelet looking cha ruoi made with worm

Snails

Dishes with snails may be familiar to some of you as it’s also used in Western cuisine. But I heard some people finding it a challenging dish. This dish is a very popular light dinner or late night snack menu for locals. There are lots of snail restaurants and here are some of the best places you can try this dish.

Oc snail restaurant Ho Ba Mau

Level 3 – Ultimate Hanoi Food Challenge

Chan Ga

Chan ga is chicken feet! I’m from Korea where chicken feet is a widely popular dish and thus I had never thought of chicken feet being scary or weird. The way we do in Korea is almost always spicy – like crazy spicy, but in Vietnam they grill with sweet sauce. And I love it so much! I get to see quite a lot of foreigners being slightly stunned to see chicken feet while passing. I’d say don’t let the visual scare you away because it’s delicious.

Chan Ga Ngo Gach - grilled chicken feet
Sweet flavoured grilled chicken feet

Long Ran

Long ran means deep-fried pork intestines and it is quite a thing here. I love the chewy texture of intestines, so I enjoy long ran dinner from time to time. There’s a famous long ran restaurant in the Old Quarter and it’s packed with people every day. Their main dish is pork intestines, but they have some variety like deep-fried, stir-fried or steamed. If you want to try long ran, I’d say it must be at Long Ran Nguyen Sieu.

Long Ran Nugyen Sieu Pork intestines and ribs
Table full of pork intestines

Trung Vit Lon

Trung Vit Lon is also known as Balut. It is half-hatched duck egg. It’s usually boiled and enjoyed with herbs, sliced ginger with salt and pepper. There are places that serve this dish with other kinds of cooking methods and sauces such as tamarind sauce. Colour and contents of the egg can differ depending on the level of hatching. So some could look almost like a normal boiled egg and look much less scary than the more hatched ones.

Trung vit lon - Vietnamese Balut, Bird embryo
Trung vit lon - quite a hatched one

Trung Cut Lon

This one is the same as balut but of quail eggs. I only recently found out about trung cut lon. I was expecting a normal quail eggs, but it turned out to be a mini version of trung vit lon (duck egg). Our dish was cooked with tamarind sauce, which is a type of sauce I love. But I must admit it was one of the challenges I had in Vietnam to try it. However, I know some of my foreign friends love this – very much!

Half-hatched quail eggs - Trung Cut Lon
Trung cut lon with tamarind sauce

So here was all the most famous Hanoi dishes as well as some less known but amazing dishes. As I mentioned how Vietnam has a huge variety of specialities outside of classic top recommendations, I hope this list will help you experience a good range foods in Hanoi!

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