The street sets the stage for much of the food in Hanoi; makeshift stalls, roving food vendors, and tiny ‘restaurants’ tucked into alleys are where you will find some of the tastiest bites. After discovering what makes the street food scene run smoothly on a food tour of the Old Quarter, I spent the rest of my time in Hanoi tasting everything I could get my hands on. By far, it was one of the best food-centered vacations I have ever been on.
Street food in Hanoi is not typically a huge feast, but small bites easily shared and eaten on the go. This makes the food here perfect for grazing. Which is great if you are anything like me, and have a hard time picking just one thing to eat.
There are so many incredible lists for eating in Hanoi (check out this one, and this one, and this one). But I couldn’t not write about the incredible food I ate in this Vietnamese city. So, to switch things up a bit, this is your guide to the street snacks of Hanoi. The foods you can pick up and eat on the go, and the foods that are perfect for satisfying that mid-day hunger.
Banh Xeo – Vietnamese Pancakes
This was my most, most, most, most favorite street food snack in Hanoi. I was told it was similar to a pancake, but I would describe it more along the lines of a soft/crispy tortilla.
Rice pancake batter is fried on a sizzling pan then stuffed with pork, mushrooms, shrimp and veggies. The dish comes with lettuce to wrap the pancake in, tons of herbs, and tangy dipping sauce. This is not food to eat on the go, as it is a DIY snack, but trust me, taking a quick break to devour this dish is necessary.
Banh Mi – Vietnamese Sandwich
We arrived in Hanoi with our sights immediately set on a bahn mi sandwich. Alright, this may be more than just a snack food, though anything can be a snack if you want it to be right?
Pate, cucumbers, pork, spicy mayonnaise, chili sauce, egg, and onions fill a crispy baguette resulting in a bahn mi. The combination of flavors makes this one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. The bread fits it all together perfectly; crusty on the outside and soft on the inside. I have no idea how they do it!
Bia Hoi (Beer) and Boiled Peanuts
Spending a night sitting at a bia hoi joint is a classic Hanoi activity. I made friends, was immersed in the street scene culture and barely spent a dime at these roadside stands. They are also the perfect respite from the hot and humid weather. When exploring Hanoi, stop for a cold, fresh, albeit watery, beer and some boiled peanuts. Now, I am not a peanut eater, but there was something about these soft boiled peanuts that were so addicting. They go perfectly with the beer, making an excellent afternoon snack.
Sugar Cane Juice
Drink this when you need a pick me up after a long day of walking the hot and busy streets of Hanoi. The juice is fresh and sweet and made to order right in front you. Stalks of sugarcane and kumquats are sent through a juice press. The juice is then poured over ice and ready to drink!
Xoi – Sticky Rice
Xoi, aka sticky rice, is a staple in the Vietnamese diet. This dish is eaten in a variety of different ways; as a full meal, a snack, and dessert.
Kem Xoi is sweet, sticky rice topped with ice cream and coconut. Putting ice cream and rice may sound like a strange combination, but trust me, it works.
There are so many variations to eating xoi. Try it topped with crushed peanuts and fried shallots. Or the shredded chicken and pate. Or better off, get the xoi with all of it! Look for the ladies with huge baskets of rice to get your fix.
Banh Goi – Pork and Mushroom Pastry
These are deep fried pockets of deliciousness. Pastry dough gets filled with noodles, pork and mushrooms then gets dropped in hot oil for a perfectly fried crust and hot interior. These are perfect treats to eat on the go, as they are not too messy.
Bo Kho – Dried Beef
I discovered this incredible snack while taking a Cooking Class at Hanoi Cooking Center. We topped a mango salad with this dried beef, and I was hooked. The class leader took us to the market and pointed out where I could buy some of this beef (right next to the roasted dog). The beef has just about every flavor profile you could want in a bite. It is sweet and tangy at the first taste, soft and chewy, then spicy as you chew more and swallow. One hundred grams cost 20,000 dong ($1) and I ate the entire bag before even walking off the aisle.
When you see the women carrying baskets of fruit down the street you will want to stop and pick some up. The rambutans and mangos were my favorite pieces of fruit to grab and eat on the go, though that will change with whatever season you are visiting. Don’t get scammed by the women who put their traditional baskets on your shoulders and their hats on your head, they will charge you an inflated price for their fruit.
What is your favorite thing to eat on the streets of Vietnam?