Try these 10 dishes. In the process, you might find the best restaurant in Hanoi. And if you don’t, you will still eat quite well.
You can argue that other regions of Vietnam have better food than Hanoi. However, you can’t argue with the fact that the capital has got one of the top food scenes in the country. Even better is that the French Quarter will be the place you find the 10 dishes you must try as you hunt for the best restaurant in Hanoi.
There are plenty of delicacies that are special to this city, and brilliant eateries to boot. From pho to grilled chicken on the street, here is the stuff you must try as you pick your activities here.
Although it’s sold all over the country, with different regional styles, pho is an authentic, Hanoian classic. Despite how ubiquitous it is here, finding the best restaurant in Hanoi that serves it can be a tough task.
However, you can’t go wrong with Pho Ly Quoc Su (10 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem) in the Old Quarter.
It’s a little more expensive (to be expected given it’s the best pho restaurant in the city!), with a bowl setting you back 65,000 VND. However, it makes up for this in the depth and aroma of the flavors.
Bun dau mam tom
I couldn’t write about Hanoian dishes without mentioning the best food in the city: bun dau mam tom. First, let’s start with the obvious: mam tom.
I call it the Vietnamese marmite, but even that probably doesn’t do it justice. It’s a divisive dish, for both its flavor and odor. I can’t get enough of its fermented shrimp paste umami goodness, but that’s just me.
If you’re not a huge fan — the smell sometimes repulses foreigners — you can always order nuoc mam. Mam tom is the star of the show but the deep-fried tofu, sticky, baby-rice sausage and spring rolls are a close second.
Alley 31 on Hang Khay street near the Old Quarter has some of the best restaurants in the city serving this delicious dish, all in the same tiny alley. The average price for a set, including all of the above, should be around 40,000 VND.
Cha ca is my go-to dish for visiting family and friends. The fact that it’s served in a huge, sizzling pan makes it a fun meal for communal eating.
Then there’s the flavor.
The fish used is freshwater snakefish. It’s marinated in a mix of turmeric, garlic, salt, sugar, fish sauce and galangal. That it’s served with the delicious, though Marmitesque, mam tom is just an added bonus.
The place to go has got to be Cha Ca Anh Vu (120 K1 Giang Vo, Ba Dinh). It’s a bit of a distance, but for me, it’s even better than those in the Old Quarter. Cha ca for two comes to 260,000VND.
Thanks to Barack Obama’s visit to Hanoi in 2016, bun cha nearly rivals pho as the best-known Hanoian dish. This grilled pork, sauce and noodle combo is so delicious, poems have been written about it.
People might rave that Bun Cha Huong Lien is the best restaurant in Hanoi, thanks to Obama’s visit. But my favorite place to eat has to be Bun Cha Hang Manh (1 Hang Manh, Hoang Kiem). A big bowl costs around 60,000 VND and I would recommend ordering some extra nem ran (Vietnamese spring rolls).
Generally a breakfast dish, banh cuon is a very Vietnamese food. That might sound like a tautology, but you know what I mean: it’s spicy, sweet, sour and salty.
I prefer banh cuon from up in Lang Son, but the Hanoian variety isn’t too shabby either. For a restaurant that serves a mix of traditional and more modern flavors, head to Banh Cuon Ruoc Tom (68 Hang Cot, Hoan Kiem). Prices range from 10,000VND to 45,000 depending on the type you order. But you can’t go wrong with a traditional banh cuon cha que.
I’m the first to admit that, generally, Saigonese banh mi blows away the Hanoian varieties, but bear with me. Banh Mi 25 (25 Hang Ca, Hoan Kiem) has one of the best butties in the world! No search for the best restaurant in Hanoi would be complete without a stop here.
With a range of fillings all on fluffy, crunchy bread, it’s the best in the city. A little pricier than usual, between 25,000 and 30,000 VND, it’s worth it.
Ga nuong, or grilled chicken, isn’t one of the first dishes that spring to mind when you think of famous Hanoian food. However, it gets a mention simply because of how brilliant “chicken street” is. I haven’t had many proper street food places so far, and this is a great one to start with.
The chicken itself isn’t that special, but the honey roasted sweet potatoes and baguettes are. It’s also worth a visit just because of how cool chicken street is. I mean, it’s an entire street dedicated to the open roasting of whole chickens.
The best restaurant is at the end of the street, but they are all pretty great.
Xoi, or sticky rice, is another breakfast staple. The ubiquitous xoi lac is a pretty solid dish, but that isn’t why I’m putting it on the list. The place to go is Xoi Yen (35B Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem).
It closed down for a while and was one of the biggest culinary losses in recent years, in my humble opinion at least. But now it’s back up and running. Xoi is all right, but it becomes a completely different dish here.
You can choose from anything from peanuts to char siu to Vietnamese beef sausage. Prices depend on what you want to order, but at 50,000 VND, xoi thap cam, with a mix of everything, is a safe bet.
Banh goi, or pillow cakes, are more of a winter dish, though Quan Goc Da (52 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem) is open year-round. This is a real local favorite.
Deep-fried and filled with wood ear mushrooms, mien (rice vermicelli), pork, and Chinese sausage, they’re delicious. They come with a sour, tangy sauce that helps cut through the oil from frying.
Banh goi cost 10,000 VND each, but you will want to order more than that!
Nom bo kho
I haven’t included too many vegetables on the list, until now. This is a salad. It’s not exactly vegetarian-friendly given the beef jerky, but it’s still delicious.
Located on the smallest street in Hanoi, Long Vi Dung (23 Ho Hoan Kiem, Hoan Kiem) is the best place to go. A small plate will cost 35,000 VND.
Without a doubt, Hanoi has some of the country’s most delicious food. You can argue about which spot above is the best restaurant in Hanoi. Just make sure your journey includes a stop at those places.