Updated: Jul 19, 2018
I've been wanting to visit Vietnam for some time now, having heard of the beautiful sights and delicious food. I've heard of the amazing Phos, tasty Banhmis and iconic Vietnamese coffee that has everyone raving. This summer, I finally planned a trip down to Hanoi and hunted out the best places to eat, visit and enjoy! I experienced first-hand the beauty of Vietnamese cooking, using the freshest ingredients and hours of preparation and finally understood what the hype was all about. If you're interested in seeing some of the best foods I tried and where to get them, then keep on reading!
Pho Gia Truyen
Pho = rice noodle soup, usually made with beef stock, with beef or chicken slices added.
A small unassuming shop along Bat Dan street (no. 49), this Pho shop is popular among both locals and tourists alike. They only operate from 6am-10am in the morning, and 6pm-8.30pm at night. That in itself, probably shows how fast they sell out. There are only 3 items on the menu, though we couldn't read any of it and just chose the first item. That turned out to be sliced Beef Pho, with large portions of meat chunks (though I'm not sure if it was chicken or pork HAHA) and fresh veggies. The portion size is very generous for it's low price point of about S$4. This place is definitely the best pho I had on my trip, with silky smooth noodles and a flavour-packed broth! I enjoyed it so much I even skipped my hotel breakfast and headed down here at 8am on our last day of the trip oops.
Tip: Try to be there at the opening hours of the shop especially for the dinner timing! The queues can get crazy long and finding seats may get tough.
Banhmy P Vietnamese Bread
Banh Mi = A sandwich with Baguette bread, a meat of choice, topped with a mix of pickled and fresh vegetables.
Banhmi is another food item commonly found in Singapore's Vietnamese chain food stores such as Nam Nam and So Pho. In Hanoi, it was common to find 'Pate' in their Banhmi which is a spread made of ground meat and liver. I wasn't keen on trying that so I opted for the options without it. I tried Banhmi at two different places, including the highly raved about BanhMi 25, but I preferred this store. Here, they have 4-5 variations of Banhmi and we tried the chicken, beef and pork meatball ones. Each were equally delicious and I couldn't decide which I preferred!
Then again, if you're undecided, each banhmi was only about S$1.50 so you can try all 3 and still pay less than one at NamNam.
Bun Bo Nam Bo
Bun Bo Nam Bo = Bun means noodles and Bo means beef. It's basically a beef, rice noodle salad!
I've personally never had a good bowl of Bun Bo Nam Bo in Singapore, so i was pretty excited to try this popular store in Hanoi. This particular one is topped with fresh veggies and some other crispy garnish (probably fried garlic?). They also sold herbal chicken soup and I honestly enjoyed both items so much. The dry noodles tasted fresh and it glided down my throat. Paired with the Bulgogi- like beef and added crispy texture from the toppings, every mouth was an explosion of flavour. Even though I was stuffed after, I didn't feel greasy or bloated because everything tasted fresh and light!
The herbal chicken soup also gave a nice contrast in flavours with a thick broth and tender herb infused meat. If you're a fan of herbal chicken soup and bulgogi beef, you'll definitely love this.
Cha Ca Thang Long
Cha Ca = Stir fried fish marinated in a mix of special yellow ginger, garlic and other spices. It's cooked with spring onions and paired with rice noodles and other garnishes.
Yes! This was definitely one of my favourite meals on this trip and it's also something I've never seen before. Upon using Google trips to plan my itinerary, this place showed up and I was confused by what they actually sold. After further investigation (I was very determined), it turned out to be stir fried fish marinated in yellow Ginger. When we entered the store, we just needed to tell the waiter we wanted 3 pax and they brought out the fish, 3 portions of rice noodles, sauces, peanuts and fresh leaves. They also brought out a huge bowl of spring onions and something else mixed (I have no idea what veg that was) and started to stir fry it with the fish. The waiter kindly showed us how to eat it which starts with some noodles into a bowl, followed by a piece of fish, sauce, spring onion mixture, peanuts and some leaves.
Maybe it was the cold rainy weather and hunger pangs that made me enjoy this meal so much, but my whole family gobbled everything down too quickly. The fish was really fresh and was not mushy at all. Matched with the spring onions and dry noodles, everything complemented each other perfectly and before we knew it, the entire pan was empty. This place is a definite must-try if you're in Hanoi! A very unique and delicious dining experience.
Funfact: According to the store, Cha Ca is usually made using mud fish such as catfish! This store uses another type of fish but I honestly can't remember what it was anymore (I'm a great blogger aren't I).
Mr. Bay Mien Tay
Bun Cha = Grilled pork and noodles.
Banh Xeo = Rice flour crispy pancake.
My family came across this store by chance when we first arrived and were famished. It was about 2pm and many of the stores were already closed (many of the stores only open for lunch and dinner timings, not in between!). We looked at the menu and ordered fresh spring rolls, Bun Cha, and asked the waitress to recommend something else. She actually recommended Banh Xeo, which is something we have never seen before.
Turns out, the crispy rice flour pancake is a very crispy mixture of rice flour, seafood, and spring onion. Almost similar to the Korean seafood pancake but much crispier (duh!). Alongside it also came a whole basket of fresh veggies and brown rice paper wraps. Our friendly waitress demo-ed for us how to eat it (I will insert the video if I can find it) which is basically to take a rice paper wrap, lay a mixture of veggies on it and then place a piece of the pancake on, before rolling everything up with your hands. As a lover of crispy food and a combination of textures, I was surprised, impressed and in love with this dish. It was really interesting and I found myself craving it a few days later although we never got round to having it again; there was just too much good food to try. The Bun Cha and spring rolls at this store was not bad as well though nothing as new or exciting as the pancake.
Fun Fact: We never actually saw any other stores selling rice flour pancakes after this, so i'm not sure if it's local to Hanoi?
For those who don't know much about Vietnamese culture and history, Vietnam used to be colonised by the French, so a large part of their present day life is influenced by that. This is evident through their architecture, education and of course, food (why else would Banhmi be made with Baguette?). Thus, it is only fair that a French Quarter is established in Hanoi where you can find multiple French restaurants, bars, clothing stores and markets.
Ironically, the Green Tangerine is a French restaurant located in the Old Quarters. We had French food twice on this trip and I chose to feature this as the menu items were definitely more unique. We had a seabass with rice and passionfruit sauce, a chicken, salmon 3 ways and a soup (not featured). I'm not going to lie, I wasn't the biggest fan of the flavours and couldn't appreciate the meal that much. I'm not sure if that's because I haven't had much French food before and am not accustomed to it, or because it wasn't representative of good French cuisine. The price point was also pretty high, at about S$20 per plate, which seems even higher when you compare it to all the other food we had on the trip. That being said, the restaurant is beautiful with the loveliest setting and atmosphere, it's a great place to escape the bustling streets of Hanoi and chill and talk with your girlfriends or special other.
Sing To Cot Dua Ca Phe = Ice Blended coconut milk with coffee (2nd pic)! Not to be confused with coconut milk coffee (1st pic).
I live for Vietnamese coffee. I had at least one a day on this trip, no less. There's something about the thickness of the beans, or as we call it here in Singapore, 'gao', that pairs wonderfully with condensed milk. My favourite drink however, and newest discovery is the ice blended coffee with coconut milk (2nd pic!). This was probably the best mistake I made on the trip with the original intention to buy iced coffee with standard coconut milk, but pointing at the ice blended one on the menu instead.
Vietnam's summer is no joke and it's humidity is as bad, if not worse than Singapore's. Roaming around the streets of Old Quarters with the crazy traffic can really work up quite a sweat and nothing's better than an ice cold coconut coffee to make me feel so much better. My favourite one is from Cong Caphe at an affordable price point of S$4.50. Even my Dad, who never drinks iced coffee, loved this and said the coconut ice made it so good.
Dammit, thinking about it now is making me crave one so badly.
For a quick afternoon refresher, Fruity Fact provides a large variety of cold press juices, smoothies and fruit teas for a healthy pick-me-up. I tried both the fruit tea and a cold pressed juice which were both yummy, and a great value considering the price point of about S4-$5 for a large cup. If you get tired of coffee (which should not happen!) or already had your fix for the day, this is a great option for tackling the sweltering heat.
Chè chuối = Sweet grilled banana soup (2nd pic bottom)
Chè sương sa hạt lựu hoa quảu = Mung Bean, water chestnut, mixed jelly and jackfruit (1st pic bottom)
My friend recommended me this dessert place mid-trip and I was pleasantly surprised to find it located right across the road of our hotel. LutuLata desserts serves a large variety of "Che', which are basically traditional Vietnamese desserts. There were many options to choose from, some resembling blackball desserts, tao huey, mango sago, etc, but they all had their own twists and combinations. The desserts are all served with a bowl of crushed ice to add based on your own preference. I personally recommend the banana with coconut creme and sago (ugh! so good!) and the mixed jelly bowl with jackfruit. My friend also really likes the salted egg bun with pork floss though that tasted like Breadtalk's pork floss bun to me.
As this dessert place is a physical store with tables, seats and an english menu, the price point is slightly higher than the ones you can find by the roadside (though still very affordable by Singapore standards). Based on experience, this store also tastes a lot better and it's definitely worth that dollar more!
Egg Coffee and Rice noodle rolls
Egg coffee is famous in Hanoi and it tastes just like a normal latte, but the milk is much richer, sweeter, and creamier because of the egg whites. It's almost like a dessert coffee and has a very homemade, cosy feel to it. We tried the egg coffee at Old Town caphe which is said to be one of the better ones. I personally felt it was too sweet and would instead recommend Giang cafe, which has been making Egg coffee since 1946, and is said to be the best in Hanoi. We unfortunately missed it on our trip, but my brother (who doesn't even like coffee) and many others have tried it and raved about it.
Vietnamese rice rolls can easily be found along roadside stores with vendors making and rolling the rolls on the spot. It's pretty much an elevated version of Singapore's Chee Cheong Fun that is stuffed with minced meat and served with shallots and a dipping sauce. I'm actually not a fan of Chee Cheong Fun so I was pretty skeptical and wasn't that keen to try this. But once we did, we immediately asked for another plate. Something about the texture of their rolls feels less surfeiting (jelak) and light, which pairs well with the savoury meat and crispy shallots. I also preferred the clear sauce served with the rice rolls as compared to the thick and sweet dark sauce we get in Singapore. A definite must-try!
Finally, I'm leaving this last photo in just for good measure of some of the delicious street food available. My family was afraid of eating street food at first because of cleanliness, but we had this chicken pho and it was delicious. Be careful and make sure you ask for the prices before ordering especially if there's no menu! We almost got cheated by the store owner for this meal. Nonetheless, the food was good and our stomachs were fine after, so if you think you can handle it then knock yourself out!
We made it! This is by far one of the most enjoyable travel blogpost I've written to date. Of all the trips I've been on, I don't think I've ever fallen so in love with the food and find myself craving it back home. If you haven't noticed the recurring use of the words 'fresh veggies' in this post yet, Hanoi's foods are pretty much all fresh, has a ton of veggies and hardly use any oil or sugar. Almost nothing is fried and they use the freshest ingredients available! I found myself energetic everyday and not once was I bloated or felt gross despite gobbling food down non-stop. I honestly think I could drink their coffee and eat their food everyday and not get sick of it, which is probably why I enjoyed sharing these amazing finds with you.
Do let me know if you tried any of these places or where else you would recommend so I can start planning for my next trip there (hehe)! Hope you enjoyed reading and looking at the visuals. Have a lovely week ahead x.
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