Eating through Vietnam: Hanoi & Sapa

When I think of Vietnamese food, I think of love, lessons, and taste buds. During my trip to Vietnam, I had the privilege of traveling to both the North and South which has taught me a lot about the differences not only geographically and politically but in the food in itself.

The following are some of the foods from Hanoi and Sapa. While many dishes may have the same name in the North and South of Vietnam, some dishes are slightly different whether in presentation or ingredients.

For a full map of recommended eats, feel free to see here or at the end of the post. This trip was originally taken in April 2017.

 


Northern Vietnam

Food is far simpler here, though not lacking in taste. Phở doesn’t come with the bean sprouts, herb garnishes, and every vegetable that can stack on a plate. Even the menus at each shop are mainly one dish (that’s when you know you’re at a place that specialized in that specific dish). The best meals can be found in the food stalls served as street food.

 

Hanoi

Vietnam’s capital located in the North encompasses the Old Quarter and much of the remnants of the French’s presence. Busy with motorbikes and the hustle and bustle of a big city, food is distinct and delicious. Much of the food places can be found in the Old Quarter which is great for those visiting to stay in the vicinity.

 

Bánh Cuốn

Rice noodles made fresh in front of your eyes. While this isn’t a unique Hanoi food, it’s still quite delicious. There are vegetarian and meat options in the set menus at Bánh Cuốn Bà Hanh.

Bánh Cuốn- Bà Hanh Sampler
Bánh Cuốn- Bà Hanh Sampler

You can try Bánh Cuốn (center dish) at Bánh Cuốn Bà Hanh along with Nem lui (lemongrass skewer pork, cinnamon pork pie or Cha and egg omelets. Bánh Cuốn Bà Hanh26B Thọ Xương Hàng Trống Hoàn Kiếm, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

 

Bún bò Nam Bộ & Nem

Vermicelli noodles with grilled beef? Pass that over here! There’s grilled beef, pickled carrots and daikon, fried garlic, bean sprouts, vermicelli, lettuce and the best fish sauce thrown all together.

We also got Nem here which I only took a bite of. Nem Chua is a Vietnamese sausage and in this form is a cured/fermented pork. These ones were wrapped in banana leaf, but my fellow Californians probably recognize it in its saran wrapped square form with a garlic slice on top. It’s not for the faint of heart and often irritates my stomach as it isn’t cooked but fermented pork.

Nem
Nem

You can find both at Bún bò Nam Bộ | 67 Hàng Điếu, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.

 

Bun Cha

If you’re an Anthony Bourdain fan or Obama fan, you know that the dish that Bourdain introduced to Obama was Bun Cha. It comes out with noodles, a sauce broth of sorts, vegetables, and fried spring rolls. You can decide how you want to eat this. Throw it all in together, dip, whatever. Whatever goes. It’s full of flavor, and you’ll undoubtedly be full when you’re done.

You can find Bun Cha at Bun Cha Ta Hanoi | 21 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.

You can eat where Anthony Bourdain and Obama ate at Bún chả Hương Liên | 24 Lê Văn Hưu, Phạm Đình Hồ, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam.

 

Bún riêu

One of my favorite things about Vietnamese food is the plethora of breakfast noodle soups. People line up and quickly slurp up a piping hot bowl of noodles before work. We tried this version which had a mixture of tomatoes, beef, crab, fried garlic, green onion, and soft noodles. You can add additional garnishes if you like.

Hanoi Bun Rieu
Bún Riêu

You can try this Bún riêu at Bun Rieu Cua 40 Hàng Tre, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

 

Nem hải sản

I’ve also learned that “nem” can mean a ton of different things. All I know is that nem is related to food and I know I need it in my belly. This fried crab/seafood roll was monstrous!

Fried Crab Roll

You can also try this at Bún chả Hương Liên | 24 Lê Văn Hưu, Phạm Đình Hồ, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam.

 

Phở Bo

Phở Bo or beef noodle soup is something that I grew up with. While my parents are full Chinese, my dad has this love for beef phở like no other. However, that type of phở we’re used to? Hanoi style is well, everything in the bowl…ready to go! Herbs and greens are added in pre-order, smaller bowls, and a more straightforward style.

Hanoi style Pho Bo
Hanoi style Pho Bo

You can try Hanoi style Phở Bo at Quán Phở Thìn13 Lò Đúc, Phạm Đình Hồ, Hai Bà Trưng, Hà Nội, Vietnam

 

Phở Gà

For my San Francisco friends, Turtle Tower Pho originates from HERE. There’s literally a Turtle Tower in the middle of Hoàn Kiếm Lake that’s in the Old Quarter. The chicken with its skin still attached is super juicy, some green onion, cilantro, and piping hot broth just make this all around a great dish.

Hanoi Pho Ga
Hanoi Pho Ga

You can find this Phở Gà at Phở Gà Bún Thang Tư Lùn Mập | 22 Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam. If you want the best, I highly recommend coming here as many restaurants will merely put in cut pieces of chicken rather than cooking with skin and all.

 

Oc

Hello, snails! These little babies are super fun to eat. You just pop the shell and pull out the little suckers. Dip in sauce and plop into your mouth. It’s a true beer snack. Be careful though, it’s a bit tough to digest so I would eat sparingly if your stomach is a bit weaker.

Hanoi Oc Snails
Delicious snails

You can find Oc across from the touristy Beer Hall area at Quán Ốc Nóng Hà Trang 1 Đinh Liệt, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.

 

Xoi Yen

What other food to fill your stomach for a full day than sticky rice? We stopped by on the recommendation from our hotel based on a street food list they gave us. We had previously walked by on our way to egg coffee (more on that below) and paid no attention. I am so glad we went back. We got the different version which meant I got to try everything (and on a full stomach). Fresh soy milk is also available.

Xoi Yen Bowl
A little bit of everything.
Xoi Yen Menu
Menu

You can get this at Xôi Yến | 35B Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

 

Drinks

When the weather hits a certain degree, all I want in life is a tasty beverage. Hanoi has many delicious options, below are just a few I got to try.

 

Egg Coffee

You cannot come to Hanoi and not try egg coffee. The egg is added to piping hot coffee and sits on top as in a foam form. The first time I had it, it was so thick that I could barely get to the coffee. I highly recommended stirring it well and getting to the coffee as that’s the best part. Some people find it a bit odd and worry about the raw egg, but the heat should cook it fine.

Cafe Trung Egg Coffee

You can try this at Trung Cafe54 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam. This place also sells more desserts and sweets.

Cafe Giang Egg Coffee & Iced Coffee
Cafe Giang Egg Coffee & Iced Coffee
Cafe Giang Menu
Cafe Giang Menu

You can also try this at Giảng Cafe 39 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, Lý Thái Tổ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam.  I preferred this location (Trung Cafe is also right next door). If I had a choice, I would come back here and try the other egg varieties!

 

Highlands Coffee

If you just want to relax with a view, Highlands Coffee on the 4th floor near the north tip of Hoàn Kiếm Lake has a balcony that many people grab their beverages to get slightly away from the busy streets below. Highlands Coffee is a chain that you can find throughout Vietnam.

Highlands Iced Coffee
Highlands Iced Coffee

Quick tip, to enter here, go from the entrance on Đinh Tiên Hoàng (the street) where there’s a ton of menus for all the restaurants in the building. Head up the elevator and Highlands Coffee should be listed inside the elevator. Highlands Coffee Highlands Coffee7 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, Hàng Bạc, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

 

Bia hơi

A fresh, draft beer that you can get at many local, small bars on tap that keeps coming throughout the night. While drinking is a past time that I don’t engage in as often anymore; when in Vietnam, you should try this even for a few sips (which I did). Most Southeast Asian beers taste the same to me (BeerLao is the darkest and most distinct taste that I like). It’s one of the cheapest beers you can get and after a few would you even start to feel a bit tipsy.

Bia Hoi
Fresh Beer

We went to get Bia hơi at Bia Hoi Ha Noi50 Bát Đàn, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam. You can find Bia Hoi at various corners but we gravitated here as there were more locals than tourists.

 

Other Spots

Of course, aside from the main food here, we also got to try two places I really liked. While not distinctly Ha Noi, still worth stopping by.

 

Hanoi Social Club

Drinks
Snacks

6 Ngõ Hội Vũ, Hàng Bông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

There were many places that we saw on Erwan Heussaff’s Overnight Guides that we knew we had to stop by. This place reminds me of every other hip shop I’ve been to around the world. Ex-pats who need a co-working space can find sanctuary here especially with more westernized type food. Still worth a stop as you’ll be supporting disadvantaged youth who have graduated from KOTO and Hoa Sua hospitality schools.

 

Den Bar

Den Bar Drinks Menu
Den Bar Drinks Menu
Great drink presentation

12 Nguyễn Quang Bích Phường Cửa Đông, Quận Hoàn Kiếm, Cửa Đông, Hà Nội, Hanoi City 100000, Vietnam

Located in the basement of La Siesta Trendy hotel, this little gem reminds me of someplace you’d find in NYC. Trendy drinks, leather seats, and bottles lined against the shelves of the walls, it’s a great spot to relax. I had a great mocktail which was super delightful. The presentation was everything. Prices are a bit higher so not for those who are trying to save.

 

Sapa

We only stayed in Sapa Town for one night after our trekking tour with Sapa Sisters The food we ate was provided through the tour and our homestay which consisted of a lot of rice, vegetables, and pork. Very reminiscent of Cantonese cooking but with more oils. The food was homecooked Hmong food. If you have more time and feel a bit more adventurous, this returns as one of the first Google searches for local food in Sapa.

 

Do Fu Fa

Dofu Fa at the Lao Cai Chinese-Vietnamese Border
Dofu Fa at the Lao Cai Chinese-Vietnamese Border

Technically a Chinese dessert and in Lao Cai, we were up by the Chinese & Vietnamese border. We found one of my favorite desserts of all time—Do Fu Fa. I think this translates to Tofu Flower. Think soft tofu drenched in a sugary syrup. This one also had another type of jelly and ice.

 

Hmong Style Food

Hmong Style Food served during our trek with Sapa Sisters

At our homestay and trek, we ate a lot of fried spring rolls, oily veggies, rice, and noodles. To me, it reminded me of a lot of Cantonese food that my parents would make but with more oil. Of course, Hmong food varies from village to village and location to location. We only got to try Black Hmong style food through our trek.

Also, if you are in Sapa Town, highly recommend going for hot pot which is something the locals recommended. It’s a much colder climate, so hotpot truly warms the soul. We stopped by Nhà hàng Khám Phá Việt 15 Thạch Sơn, tt. Sa Pa, Sa Pa, Lào Cai, Vietnam.  The menu is all in Vietnamese, but nothing like Google translate to help. There are hot pot foods (for you to cook yourself) or ready made. The local cuisine is horse meat. If you’re adventurous, you might as well try (we got chicken instead).

 


The Full Map

The full map of all Eating Through Vietnam is located below. Share and let us know what to add to our map.


Great resources that helped throughout this food journey:

 


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