All photography by Christian Berg
Made from mung bean or sweet potato, miến (vermicelli) has a delicious chewy texture and a mild umami taste. Topped with chicken, crab, or freshwater eel, you can enjoy a bowl of miến with broth or stir-fried. In Hanoi, you can eat most noodles with quẩy (fried breadsticks), and vermicelli is no exception. Don’t forget to dip them in the broth!
Try it: Miến trộn 6 Phùng Hưng St., Hoàn Kiếm District
This one is a no-brainer. Even if you’ve had phở elsewhere in Vietnam, it’s worth giving the Hanoi variant a try. If the many condiments that come with your phở seem confusing at first, start with a bit of gritty chili sauce, then top with a spoonful of garlic vinegar for beef phở, or a squeeze of lime for chicken phở.
Try it: Phở bò Khôi Hói 50 Hàng Vải St., Hoàn Kiếm District
For a pick-me-up afternoon snack, grab a plastic stool and order a plate of sweet and sour nộm bò khô (beef jerky salad.) The crunchiness of green papaya and carrot is softened with flavoured fish sauce, while strips of beef jerky adds a funky texture to the mix. Ask for a version with beef spleen and tripe if you’re feeling adventurous.
Try it: Long Vi Dung 23 Hoàn Kiếm St., Hoàn Kiếm District
Simple fried tofu and noodles have never tasted so good! A match made in heaven, crispy golden tofu and fresh rice noodles are a much-loved Hanoian lunch. Originally bún đậu is served with mắm tôm (fermented shrimp paste), but you can also choose fish sauce as a lighter alternative. Young rice patties, fried spring rolls, and herbs complete the beautiful ensemble.
Try it: Bún đậu 6 Mã Mây St., Hoàn Kiếm District
To set their mì vằn thắn (noodles with dumplings) apart from southern versions, cooks in Hanoi put a flavourful twist on these noodles with a sprinkle of chives, shiitake mushrooms, and pork rind. In Hanoi, you’ll find that your mì vằn thắn bowl comes with a large piece of fried dumpling. It’s the extra crunch you never knew you needed!
Try it: Mì vằn thắn Alley 16, Hai Bà Trưng St., Hoàn Kiếm District
Nowhere else does chả cá like Hanoi. Fatty catfish is marinated in spices and grilled, then stirred with lots of spring onions and dill on high heat right at the table. Eating chả cá in Hanoi is an experience in itself. The most important element of good chả cá is the marinade. Original recipes are kept secret in family-run restaurants for generations.
Try it: Chả cá Thăng Long 6B Đường Thành St., Hoàn Kiếm District
Almost exclusively a lunch dish, bún chả combines chargrilled pork belly and patties with diluted vinegar fish sauce in a harmonious concoction. Put your rice noodles into the fish sauce bowl, add spices and herbs, then try to get a little bit of everything in one bite. For a hearty upgrade, go ahead and order some nem (fried spring rolls) with your bún chả.
Try it: Bún chả 40 Cửa Đông St., Hoàn Kiếm District
Round out your amazing meal in Hanoi with a cup of creamy egg coffee. The strong robusta is balanced out by the sweet egg foam on top, making this drink a real treat for coffee lovers. Sitting under the shade of khaya trees, sipping on a hot, fluffy cà phê trứng, watching locals drive by on motorbikes -- now that’s a classic Hanoi moment.
Try it: Cà phê Giảng Alley 39, Nguyễn Hữu Huân St., Hoàn Kiếm District
With just the right amount of sweetness and sourness, bún cá (fish noodle soup) is the perfect summer treat. Rice noodles, Vietnamese celery, and crispy pieces of fried tilapia are submerged in a broth made sweet and sour with pineapples and tomato. Best served with a side of fresh herbs and pickled bamboo shoots, this dish can be found at street stalls all around Hanoi.
Try it: Bún cá Sâm Cây Si 14 Trung Yên Alley, Hàng Bạc St., Hoàn Kiếm District
A few slices of Vietnamese ham, a handful of shredded chicken, some omelette strips, spoonfuls of clear umami broth -- bún thang takes leftovers to a whole new level. Unconsumed Lunar New Year food turned favourite local breakfast, bún thang is a fine example of Hanoi’s age-old culinary creativity.
Try it: Bún thang Bà Đức 48 Cầu Gỗ St., Hoàn Kiếm District