Vietnam – Hanoi Street Food

Hanoi is famed for their street food. Walking through old town,I was drooling at all the fried foods and pots of boiling broth. The vendors were also serious, sometimes packing their entire setup on a bicycle to get around. Setup including the normal plastic stools and tables, but also stoves, pots and pails of ingredients. Our guide took us on a night tour through Hanoi’s streets and into hidden cafes to visit the spots where locals go.

Chicken Pho – Unlike in North America where beef pho reigns supreme, Hanoi’s preferred protein was chicken, which turned out to be 10x more flavourful than 99% of the broths I’ve had in Toronto (except of Pho Dau Bo!). Another regional difference was just how much lime juice they use, and the little wedges were so fragrant. Adding the sharp acidity to the broth really made the flavours pop. The first bowl of pho we had was topped with hand-shredded chicken and fresh chives. Despite the sweltering weather, The Hubby and I both slurped up the hot broth, wiping sweat in between bites.

Banh Mi – Banh Mi sandwich stalls were located on almost every block. Our tour guide brought us to one setup in an alleyway with a long line and we split a sandwich filled with pickled vegetables and various meats. The sandwich was good, but the best Banh Mi we had in Vietnam was at Banh Mi Huynh Hoa in Ho Chi Minh City. That sandwich was filled with 6 different kinds of meat including pate, terrine and pork floss. Locals picked up sandwiches by the dozen and some were even dropped off by taxi to wait in line.

Beef Pho – We did try the beef pho in Hanoi and the chicken was far superior. Our guide explained that chicken was much more accessible in Vietnam than beef, but many North American tourists are only used to beed. The bowl was served with a plate of fried dough fritters and sliced chili peppers. Again, our guide recommended generous squeeze of lime juice and then to dip the fritters in the broth. Broth soaked fritters were the best part of the meal.

Wormwood Egg Omelette – Made with fresh wormwood leaves and eggs, a lady fried up the omelette for us using a propane camper stove. The eggs had a strong natural taste that heavy in yolk. I couldn’t really make out the flavour of the wormwood, which should have been bitter, but I only tasted a hint of liquorice.

Vietnamese Egg Coffee –
Made with whipped egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and coffee, the espresso cup sized drink was a creamy dream. We enjoyed the coffee at one of Hanoi’s famed hidden rooftop cafes. Walking through a souvenir shop to the space in between buildings, we climbed up 4 flights of a narrow, winding staircase that led to a rooftop terrace with a stunning view of Hoan Kiem Lake lit by the neon signs of buildings around us. The thick froth was sweet and the coffee was strong. Watching the sun set over the lake was a great way to spend the evening.

Swan Pho – Our last stop of the night was one more bowl of pho. Originally, our guide wanted to bring us to a duck pho street stall but evert plastic stool was taken. Plan B was swan pho. We sat down at a table on the street as the vendor assembled our order. The swan tasted gamier than chicken and closer to duck. There was a big chunk of blood included that was savoury but mild. The broth’s key flavour was bamboo, which I loved. IF you like bamboo, I would highly recommend stopping by (although I wouldn’t be able to find the stall again on my own).

In addition to pho and banh mi, Hanoi has a variety of delicious street foods to offer. I’d recommend being adventurous and to give exotic ingredients a chance.

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