We made a short stop in Hanoi before our cruise around Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. What did we do in the short time frame we were there? Eat, of course! Actually, that was pretty much all we did. There are plenty of Vietnamese joints in Vancouver and pho is considered the norm, so we were stoked to taste authentic Vietnamese food.
The obvious choice when in Vietnam.
While most North Americans eat pho after a night of hardcore partying, the locals eat it for breakfast. Pho in Hanoi tastes completely different than the ones in Vancouver. A mutual friend, who is Vietnamese herself, says that apparently most Vietnamese restaurants in Vancouver serve southern cuisine, with very few serving northern cuisine. Northern Vietnamese food is on the savoury or saltier side, while the southern flavors are on the sweeter side. So if you think you’ve already tried pho in North America, give it another shot in Hanoi because it’ll be something new! I found that the pho in Hanoi tasted much better and I wasn’t dying of thirst afterwards (result from the MSG-loaded pho back home).
2. bun bo nam bo
It’s kind of like beef pho, but only with a teeny tiny bit of broth- lettuce, bean sprouts, garlic, fried scallions and some pickled fruit on vermicelli, topped off with some grilled beef.
The go-to place in Hanoi is called, you guessed it- Bún Bò Nam Bộ, on 67 Hang Dieu. It’s a small hole-in-the-wall place and you’ll have to squeeze in with the locals for a seat at the long table. They serve only ONE dish; so you bet they’re good at what they do. The price for a meal is very cheap at 2.50USD a bowl.
3. banh mi
Banh mis. Banh mis everywhere. There’s a banh mi stand literally every corner you turn. We lost count of how many places we tried but our favourite was from a stand called BomBop. Their bread was very crunchy with a soft center, and they didn’t cheap out on toppings. Cleanliness and hygiene isn’t the greatest as with most Southeast Asian places, so it’s not uncommon to see vendors wrapping banh mis without using gloves. We also saw a HUGE beetle (or cockroach lookalike? not sure what that was) crawling by the veggie toppings at one of the more popular stands. We didn’t get sick in Hanoi though!
4. mexican coffee buns
If you’re a pastry addict like me, you’ll thank me for this one. Mexican coffee buns or Rotiboys, actually have nothing to do with Mexico as they originated from Malaysia! Topped with coffee streusel, these are around the size of your palm with a buttery filling. After going days without pastries, I was so excited to see a Papparoti stand! For less than a dollar each, they are served hot from a giant oven with different flavors to choose from. Not gonna lie, but this was my favourite part about Hanoi. I ate 2-3 chocolate rotiboys everyday!
5. egg coffee or cà phê trứng
I hate coffee. I never drink coffee and I’ve never liked it. But this egg coffee is something else! The birthplace (and the go-to place) of Hanoi’s very own cà phê trứng is called Cafe Giang on 39 Nguyen Huu Huan. These guys blend in sugar, eggs, cheese, and condensed milk among other ingredients into brewed Vietnamese coffee to create this little cup of delight. It’s probably not the healthiest but as a coffee hater, I loved it!
There’s also Cafe Pho Co where you can sip on your egg coffee with a view of Hoan Kiem Lake. You’ll have to climb up a few flights of stairs but it’s a very relaxing place to chill out.
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