Vietnamese cuisine is a rising star of the modern food world, and it’s not hard to see why. As well as flavours that zing and pop all over the place, it’s also pretty hard to get healthier than this. The cosmopolitan, lively and rather hectic city of Hanoi showcases Vietnamese cuisine in all its glory, and getting around the city and experiencing what each quarter has to offer is a foodie delight.
Roadside eating, as in all of South East Asia, is the lifeblood of Hanoi. You’d be hard pressed to find a street that doesn’t have a roadside eatery of some kind. Carts travel around the city offering up speciality dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The first quintessential dish you must try in Hanoi is Pho – the healthiest and most delicious soup you will ever eat.
Soups comes in a variety of styles, simple chicken broths, or heavier beef style stews, always with sumptuous noodles and many more than your five a day of veg in every bowl.
You can find all sorts of other exciting and sometimes pretty unusual dishes street side too. Steaming bowls of cockles and snails, barbequed prawns, sticky rice, fish cakes and deep fried ‘spring rolls’ are just the beginning. Watch out for the punctuation marks when looking for ‘spring rolls’ – you might find what you ordered is actually just deep fried chicken skin. All healthy cuisine has to take a break now and again I suppose…
The Old Quarter and around Hoàn Kiếm Lake
Here you’ll find the usual street food alongside coffee shops (local coffee is very strong and sweet unless you specify otherwise). There are a variety of superb restaurants scattered around this popular tourist hot spot so the choices are endless. A popular pastime is to head upstairs and grab a table at one of the restaurants overlooking the lake and Old Quarter. This provides a little respite up above the overwhelming traffic of the city with a great vantage point for people watching.
Hàng Bè market is one of many markets worth travelling to Hanoi for. You’ll be inundated with snacks and ingredients of every description. Seafood, pickles, weird and wonderful fruits – it’s all here. Strolling through a market and watching how the locals barter and select the fresh produce for the day is an intoxicating experience. Next to the food market, there are also food stalls open until about midnight, if you’re in need of a late night snack after a long day of exploring.
The dynamic food culture of Hanoi is jam packed with top class restaurants. The old French colonial Vietnam has brought many world class French chefs to the region resulting in fabulous fusion cuisine. Be prepared to splash out and be treated like foodie royalty at the 5 star hotels of the city. Don’t miss my top favourite Madame Hien in Hoan Kiem – simply stunning.
To experience the delights of Vietnam and eat your way around Hanoi, you could do a lot worse than to use a travel consultant, like Flight Centre. Most of the food is pretty healthy, except maybe the croissants and baguettes, so if you can save some money on the travel as well, there is nothing you need to feel guilty about!