HANOI BEST STREET FOODS (Part 1)

With thousands years of history, food culture of Hanoi is no doubt to be the origin of Vietnamese cuisine. Hanoians attach much importance on gastronomy, whether it is just a family meal or a formal party of anniversary.

After decades, the eating habits of Hanoians have changed, people tend to eat out more, but the soul of Hanoi food culture remains unchanged, that is, the minute cooking method, the diversity of ingredients, and the love of creation. The booming street food in Hanoi, especially in the Old Quarter, has made Hanoi one of the most-destinations for food lovers.

"The booming street food in Hanoi, especially in the Old Quarter, has made Hanoi one of the most-destinations for food lovers."
Beef noodle soup “Phở”

Among all kinds of Vietnamese food, Pho stands at the first position to be mentioned. There is no doubt that Pho is the symbol of Vietnamese cuisine. All over the world Pho appears in each and every Vietnamese community. “Phở” is the combination of soft rice noodles in a soup broth, normally prepared with either beef chicken both of which can be extremely delicious. 

“Phở” is originally from Nam Dinh, but Hanoi is the place that made the reputation of Phở. The popularity of Phở spread southwards starting in 1954 when the country was divided into North and South Vietnam. As the dish moved south, cooks infused it with additional ingredients until it evolved into the version that is commonly served today. 

Hanoians have Phở with only rare or well-done sliced beef, while Saigonese always add bean sprouts, basils, sawleaf (most important), coriander, brisket, beef balls and tripe. Nowadays Phở is not only a popular street food but also served in mid-range restaurants around the world.

Hanoi_streetfood_pho
Hanoi grilled pork vermicelli “Bún chả Hà Nội”

“Bún chả” is a Vietnamese dish of grilled pork and vermicelli, and is believed to have originated from Hanoi. This dish is served with grilled fatty pork over a plate of white rice noodles and herbs with a side dish of dipping sauce/broth. 

Bun cha is recognized as one of the “top 10 delicious street foods all over the world” by National Geographic Magazine. Bún Chả always goes well with many types of herbs, including salad, mints, basil, and shiso. 

The fish sauce used for Bún Chả is much lighter and includes some pieces of sliced pickled green papaya. Besides, grilled pork belly, deep-fried crab meat spring rolls are also ready to order. Bun cha is usually served in portion size, with a small plate of vermicelli, bowls of fish sauce, grilled pork chunked in broth, and a basket of fresh vegetables.

Hanoi_street_food_bun_cha
Vietnamese fried spring – rolls “Nem rán”

“Nem rán” called “Chả giò” in the South of Vietnam is one of the most popular snacks originating from Northern Vietnam. “Nem rán” is presented on almost every menu of Vietnamese restaurants around the world. 

“Nem rán” is served as an entrée for every party or special occasion such as wedding parties and Tet holidays. Eating spring rolls the real Vietnamese way requires lots and lots of lettuce and fresh herbs. Whole rolls are wrapped up in a leaf of lettuce and lots of fresh herbs are added to create a kind of lettuce spring roll wrap. 

While the Southern people usually have pork and prawn in their spring rolls, the Northern people prefer to roll the rice paper with pork and crab meat. Sauce for spring rolls is also quite abundant, it can be fish sauce, soya sauce, sweet and sour sauce, or mayonnaise. 

As time goes by, more and more types of spring rolls are created such as vegetarian spring rolls, fruit spring rolls, taro spring rolls, etc. There is a special type of spring roll that is only popular in Southern Vietnam, called Net spring roll “Chả giò rế”, in which rice paper in a net shape is used to wrap the meat and offers a super crunchy taste when deep-fried.

Hanoi_Street_food_spring_rolls
"There is a special type of spring roll that is only popular in Southern Vietnam, called Net spring roll “Chả giò rế”​
Grilled fish “Chả cá”

“Chả cá” might not be the oldest dish of Hanoi, but it is the pride of the citizens here with its definite exclusive taste. And the secret that makes such a special taste is the balance between seasoning and herb–fennel.

Chả cá is considered the most complicated recipe because of strict requirements from the very first process to the final step to maintain its unique taste. Amongst these, seasoning is especially important and sensitive.

Chả cá gives its best flavor when it is still boiling in a vegetable oil pan when being served. Eating Chả cá also requires some techniques for the best enjoyment: wrap a small piece of fish and eat it with rice vermicelli, peanuts, coriander, dill, and spiced fresh onion. If you want some fat, should pour the boiling oil in the pan onto it and dip it in the shrimp paste “Mắm tôm”. Some might not be able to stand the smell and taste of fennel, but once you get familiar with it, you will be impressed and fully attracted.

Rice flour cake “Bánh đúc”

“Bánh đúc” is considered one of the rustic snacks in Hanoi. Made from rice flour mixed with coconut milk, steamed Bánh đúc with a jelly shape is just a little bit salty with coconut flavor, tapioca starch is also added to make the cake’s texture more glutinous.

Different from Saigon, Hanoi’s weather has 4 separate seasons with cold winter and sunburn in summer, thus there are 2 different types of Bánh đúc: Hot Bánh đúc for winter time which is topped with minced pork, wood-ear mushroom, sesame, roast peanut, fried shallot, goes with fish sauce, and cold Bánh đúc for summertime is much more simple, with just some peanuts mixed inside the cake, and dipped in soy sauce. Bánh đúc is a common snack suitable for all ages: children, students, workers, as well as old people.

To be continued...

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Hanoi countryside tales by traditional crafts

Today, drive an hour along the Red River to Ha Noi’s neighboring countryside through immense rice fields and fruit farms. Visit the village that birthed Vietnamese incense upon arrival. This village’s incense, made from over 30 herbs with skills passed down from generation to generation, is known for its pure, light scent. A guided stroll through the hamlet with older residents will take you to various family-run workshops to see the entire incense-making process and hear about the glory days of this traditional craft. Help the host make incense.

Take another short drive to a rural community behind endless rice fields and duck farms. The locals’ 200-year-old fish-pot crafting heritage includes bamboo weaving. Walk around the village to see the typical Northern countryside architecture: dark brown tiled roofs, three-room houses with elders sitting in front weaving fish-pots and chatting. Visit a local artisan who rode his bike across Vietnam to proudly promote his village’s unique traditional craft. Create your own fish pot with his help and give it as a present.

Notes:

  • Availability: Morning
  • Suggested time: 08:00
  • Duration: 6 hours

*Optional to add Nha Xa silk village
*Incense making at Thon Cao, Hung Yen. Fish-pot making village at Thu Sy, Hung Yen.
*Possible to have lunch at Hung Yen