• Foodie Feature: Hanoi

    by  • 23/11/2012 • Emma MacKenzie, front page, stories, text • 5 Comments

    One of Hanoi’s most endearing features is that everything and I literally mean everything occurs on its streets. Whole families and friends gather on tiny coloured stools around what is referred to as ‘street kitchens’.

    They may look a little disconcerting in appearance and the way they prepare their food – not too inviting – but if you can look past all of that, you are in for a truly superb insight into Vietnam’s soul. This is basic cooking at its best.

    The food is cheap, vibrant in colour, delicious and authentic. In essence, a food lover’s fantasy.

    Many steer away from this eclectic experience out of fear of food poisoning but as long as you use a little common sense and head where the locals are you are in for a treat.

    So without further ado I present to you the flavourful food of Hanoi…


    This classic Vietnamese dish is probably the most recognisable to the western eye. Often made with beef stock, onion, ginger, star anise, coriander, freshly made rice noodles and mild chillies, it is then topped with slices of beef, chicken, tendon or meatballs, dried shallots and a squeeze of lime. Most often eaten for breakfast, pho is the best way to start the day before exploring this bustling city.

    30 000 dong or A$1.38 (and no I am not kidding)

    Traditional Pho

    Traditional Pho


    Vietnamese coffee:

    Many don’t know that Vietnam is actually one of the world’s biggest exporters of coffee beans. So naturally, the coffee you find on the streets here is ridiculously good. It is intensely rich in taste, served hot or cold, and involves condensed milk. Need I say more?

    25 000 dong or A$1.15

    Vietnamese coffee and mango smoothie


    Fresh fruit:

    This country has beautiful, natural fruit that many are too scared to touch. As above, as long as you use common sense and only eat what looks healthy, you will be fine. Try something different from what you would get at home such as the jackfruit or dragon fruit which are packed full of exotic flavours.

    Fruit on the street

    Lady selling food on the street


    Rice paper rolls:

    No, these aren’t the same as you get at home in Australia. They are so much better. Essentially prawns and pork with vermicelli noodles and herbs wrapped in rice paper with a little peanut sauce on the side. These rice paper rolls make for an excellent snack to break up all that sight seeing.

    20 000 dong or A$0.90

    Prawn and Pork Rice Paper Rolls


    Cha ca:

    A few nights into our trip, the VRP crew made their way to a recommended restaurant around the corner from the hotel. We were ushered in, and in the blink of an eye, pans were put on burners and a medley of colourful ingredients was added. Without uttering a word, menus were placed in front of us, and we figured we were having cha ca for dinner that night. Made from de-boned mudfish and snakehead fish that are covered by banana leaves and grilled by coal heat, then served with roasted peanuts, rice noodles, herbs such as dill, spring onion, coriander, shrimp paste and fish sauce. Oh and don’t forget the chilli.

    129 709 dong or A $6.00

    The very unexpected 'cha ca'


    Banh Cuon gia truyen:

    In search for another unusual start to the day we came across a little restaurant renowned within the city for its tasty banh cuon gia truyen. Otherwise known as silky steamed rice crepes filled with minced pork, mushrooms and ground shrimp, they are served hot of the screen with fish sauce. Although this meal had unusual textures and unexpected flavour it was a morning delight. Adding to the experience, most of the Vietnamese within the restaurant laughed at us as we ate. Maybe we were doing it wrong?

    30 000 dong or A$1.38

    Beautiful breakfast 'banh cuon gia truyen'

    Beautiful breakfast 'banh cuon gia truyen'

    Bun dau:

    This is the cousin of Hanoi’s famous bun cha, and a dish I have now eaten on the stools outside our hotel with the locals many a time. Involving deep fried tofu, a forest of herbs, rice noodles and pork spring rolls this is a real feast for any time of the day. Also served with fish sauce and enough chilli

    20 000 dong or A$0.92

    Our neighbourhood 'bun dau'


    We are sad to leave Hanoi and its wonderful street kitchens behind. However there is much more food in this incredible country to be eaten. Look out for ‘Foodie Features’ on Halong Bay and Ninh Binh over the next week!


    Emma MacKenzie


    Emma MacKenzie is currently studying a Bachelors of Journalism/Arts at The University of Queensland majoring in International Relations. She fell in love with Vietnam after volunteering there and recently studied in the United Kingdom. She hopes to pursue her keen interest in feature writing and foreign affairs after she graduates in 2013.

    5 Responses to Foodie Feature: Hanoi

    1. 23/11/2012 at 9:34 AM

      Great article Em! I went to Vietnam a few years ago and loved the people, the food and the country. You’ve made me yearn for a revisit!.

    2. Ali
      23/11/2012 at 11:21 AM

      Great article. From a lover of Viet food, I am thoroughly impressed (and hungry)!

    3. Susie Bennett-Yeo
      23/11/2012 at 2:51 PM

      Yum! Some of those dishes are family favs here- can imagine how great they taste in Vietnam. Your descriptions make my mouth water! We were talking about condensed milk the other day and how the Vietnamese love it in their coffee! Look forward to reading more!


    4. 24/11/2012 at 9:08 AM

      Oh, how this makes me long top be back in Hanoi. Spent six weeks there last summer — my 8th extended trip in the last fifteen years. Can’t think of anyplace else I’d rather travel to, I guess. And the food is a big part of it.

    5. Bryan
      27/11/2012 at 8:58 PM

      Your post, Foodie Feature: Hanoi | Vietnam Reporter, is really well written and insightful. Glad I found your website, warm regards from Bryan!

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