5 things to eat in Hanoi’s Old Quarter

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.

1. pho

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).

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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.

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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!

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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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21 thoughts on “5 things to eat in Hanoi’s Old Quarter

  1. I absolutely loved reading this post. I loooooove Vietnamese food. My favorite is Pho and I really would love to try authentic Pho some day in Hanoi. I also really like bun bo nam bo. I can’t believe it was only 2.50 for that bowl of deliciousness! And your photos are fantastic 🙂

    • Thank you! I think I like pho slightly more than bun bo nam bo because the broth is just SO soothing on a cold day! We were there in December so it was kind of chilly, but I bet I’d think differently if we were to eat pho in the summer 😛

  2. What a great summary of Vietnam’s great dishes!
    I’ve been in Hanoi for one month to do volunteer work and I really miss to get a lunch over there.
    Your pictures make the food look extra delicious!

    • Thank you, Eva! Wow, a whole month eh? That must’ve been such a neat experience. I miss the quick bites too but can’t say the same for the crazy traffic haha

  3. I looooove coffee and the egg coffee looks delish! I would love to get the recipe and may start digging around on the internet to find. Thanks for turning me on to something new.

  4. Sounds like eating in Viet Nam was quite an adventure. I’ve had some great pho in the San Francisco Bay area where I live, but your blog makes me want to try other dishes – and especially the egg coffee.

    • Yes! If I love egg coffee even though I hate regular coffee, it must taste AMAZING for the regular coffee drinkers 😛

  5. This looks delicious! I’ve heard so much about North American pho and never tried it but I really want to…although now I’m wondering if I should wait until I take my Asia trip? When I do, I plan to try everything on this list!

    • Many North American places add a lot of MSG (always dying of thirst after the meal) but you should try both so you can compare 🙂 Have fun on your Asia trip!!

  6. Aww I miss Vietnam so much! You food snaps brought back some great memories, but my favorite is still pho – its just so fresh and fragrant!

    • MMM that’d be an awesome combo. I’m not sure where home is for you but Paparotti has a few chains across the globe- maybe there’s one near you!

  7. Now that I’m hungry haha…I can’t wait to get to Vietnam to try some delicious food! Believe it or not I’ve never tried pho and it seems like every second person is obsessed with it!

  8. Yum! The only thing I knew about Vietnamese food was Pho (which I love!) but oh my word… I love coffee and I love pastries so those coffee buns look great! Considering a trip to Vietnam at the end of this year so your posts are handy!

  9. What a great read. I’ll be going to Vietnam later this year so I am saving these suggestions! I love Pho, but sadly my experience of it has been only in the U.S. I’m looking forward to tasting it locally and experiencing the differences. As a coffee lover I’m intrigued..egg coffee?? Can’t wait to discover!

    • There’s a huge Vietnamese community back home so I thought all Vietnamese flavors are the same before going, but I had no clue there’s such a difference between the north vs south. I love learning about new things, especially when it comes to food! Have fun on your trip in Vietnam 🙂

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