For a long time, we considered ourselves Vietnam travel experts. We’ve traveled to Vietnam more than a half dozen times. And, we’ve seen parts of Vietnam that many travelers never see (Dong Ha, Quang Tri Province anyone?). We’ve done more than just travel to Hoi An. After all of these trips to Hanoi, I thought I was a Hanoi street food expert. But, when we took a Hanoi street food tour, we were surprised to learn how much more there was to learn about Hanoi food.
Book one of the Top Hanoi Food Tours – Updated 2018
We’ve spent a lot of time exploring the Hanoi restaurant scene. Some of our favorite restaurants are well known, like Cha Ca La Vong, in the Old Quarter. Others are definitely off the Hanoi tourism trail. Chim Sao is not near any of the Hanoi attractions and is probably not rated as the best restaurant in Hanoi, but we visit there every time we travel to Hanoi. There’s a Vietnamese beer garden near there that we also love. They don’t even have English menus.
The problem was we found ourselves going back to the same places, the same street food corners, and eating the same foods that top every top 10 list of foods to eat in Hanoi. We’ve eaten our share of pho and bun cha, and I love them both dearly. I just wanted to know a little more.
After all of our visits to Hanoi, we’ve never even considered taking any Hanoi tours. After all, we are kind of experts.
What we learned, though, is that by taking a Hanoi food tour, we learned new places to eat in Hanoi, and even new foods to eat. It made it all worth while.
Looking to take great food photos when traveling? Check out our guide on How to Take Food Travel Photos!
Taking a Hanoi Street Food Tour in the Hanoi Old Quarter
I posed the challenge to Buffalo Tours in Vietnam when we signed up for their Hanoi street food tour in the Old Quarter. I figured the challenge would be exceedingly difficult for them as the Old Quarter is certainly one of the more touristy areas of town.
Our guide, Tuan, took us to a small bia hoi, or fresh beer stand on the edge of the Old Quarter. We have drank our share of bia hoi before, but did not mind sitting down to chat with Tuan. It was just before Tet, the lunar new year, and the city was energetic. We were able to ask Tuan all sorts of questions about Hanoi, and about celebrating Tet. It was then and there that I decided the tour would be worth our time.
Our Hanoi street food tour was off to a good start with the selection of unique foods we had not tried before. But, one of the things I enjoyed the most was the interaction with Tuan. He spoke very good English, was very knowledgeable, and spoke liberally, teaching us a lot along the way. Tuan took us to Hoan Kiem Lake to see the famous red bridge lit up at night, and shared the story behind the bridge. We stopped for ice cream in a famous stall on the north side of the lake. Again, one that we’d walked by, but never visited before.
By the end of the night, I was indeed stuffed. And, I was thrilled that Buffalo Tours had risen to the challenge of introducing some unique Hanoi street food to two people who consider themselves well versed in Vietnamese food.
Taking a Hanoi Street Food Tour on Scooter
Hanoi walking tours have been popular for quite some time. But, there is a more recent trend when it comes to finding the best food in the Hanoi Old Quarter.
Recently, many tour operators are offering tours of the mean Hanoi streets on motorscooter. Perhaps this is my age showing, as I am a travel blogger over 40, but if you are not comfortable riding a scooter, opt for the walking tour. It’s not necessary to take a scooter tour to see the best of Hanoi. And, the traffic in Hanoi, although not as bad as in Ho Chi Minh City, can be chaotic.
I had my very own scooter when I lived in Bali, and I loved it. I loved the freedom. But, the traffic there is not nearly as intense as in Hanoi. So, yes, perhaps I sound like a mom. But, don’t book a scooter Hanoi food tour unless you feel entirely comfortable driving a scooter in a big city! If you feel comfortable, though, it could be an amazing experience.
Book a Hanoi Food Tour on Motorbike – From $68
Recommended Hanoi Food Tours
Even if it’s not your first trip to Hanoi, it’s a good idea to take a food tour. Whether you just want some recommendations on the best places to eat in Hanoi, or on things to eat in Hanoi, a food tour can help. We also include some recommendations for Hanoi cooking classes as well. After all, there is some goof food in Hanoi. You just need to know how to find it.
|Tour||Duration||Price From||Book It!|
|Private Hanoi Street Food Tour at Night||3 Hours||$45|
|Hanoi Craft Beer Tour||5 Hours||$70|
|Hanoi Cooking Class - Hanoi Cooking Center||4 Hours||$65|
|Hanoi Food Tour by Motorbike||4.5 Hours||$68|
|Zen Meditation & Cooking Class||9 Hours||$89|
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
Top Hanoi Foods To Eat – The Best Food To Eat in Hanoi
If you do decide to visit Hanoi and explore its tasty street food, with our without a tour, here are some recommendations on what to eat in Hanoi. Some of these are pretty typical. Others are Vietnamese foods you might just be unfamiliar with.
Nem Chua Ran
Who doesn’t want to sit down to a plate of fried fermented pork? That’s exactly what nem chua ran is. Prior to our Hanoi street food tour we had never tried it. But, it was the perfect match to some cold, fresh bia hoi!
Nem chua ran looks like nothing more than chicken fingers. But, it’s more than that. It’s not likely to be found on the menus of the top restaurants in Hanoi. But, it’s great street food.
Nom Thit Bo Kho
We’ve eaten a lot of papaya salad when living in Bangkok. There’s something about the cold, the sweet, the spicy, the sour. But, eating a Vietnamese version was different. I might consider this as a candidate for the best street food in Hanoi, in part because it is unusual.
The Vietnamese version of papaya salad. We watched this version of nom thit bo kho being made fresh, and it was topped with beef jerky! Essentially, a papaya salad with cured, seasoned dried beef on top. And, it was excellent.
I loved visiting the stall in the Hanoi Old Quarter that sold the papaya salad, in part because of the history. They’ve been selling that particular salad, at that stall, for decades. I could almost feel the history in the stall, as I was munching on deep fried garlic cloves, which were an instant hit with me.
But, we rounded off this food tour stop with a plate of fresh spring rolls, goi cuon. One of my favorite Vietnamese dishes! Fresh shredded vegetables, coriander, and shrimp, wrapped in rice paper and topped with a spicy sauce.
Hanoi Street Side BBQ
I am not sure how we have walked through the streets of Hanoi as many times as we had, but had never seen street side bbq, almost like a Korean BBQ. Tuan deposited us on a couple of tiny plastic stools, with two beers, on a street corner on the western edge of the Old Quarter, and disappeared. Then, this showed up.
Scoping out BBQ is one of the most unique Hanoi restaurants in the Old Quarter. It’s possible to pick what you want, including beef, pork, squid, and even vegetables. They cook the foods a little bit before it arrives at the table. Then, they deposit it on the grill. It continues to heat, and stay warm, while tables of friends, eat, and chat, and drink more bia hoi.
So far, this list top must eat in Hanoi list focuses on the dishes that many people are not familiar with. Because if there is one iconic Vietnamese dish that every traveler must eat in Vietnam, it has to be pho. Pho, pronounced more like “fuh,” is beef noodle soup.
Although different throughout the country, with a heartier broth showing up in Northern Vietnam, the basic premise for Vietnamese pho is the same. It’s slow cooked beef broth with fresh rice noodles, often served street side on tiny plastic stools. The broth is usually prepared overnight for the morning’s meal. Or, the stall owner gets up very early in the morning.
The beef is served raw, and then placed in the hot boiling soup to “cook” making it a fresh dish. The bowl is presented surrounded by condiments including chopped chillies, soy sauce, chili sauce, and most important fresh herbs, so that you can flavor the soup to your liking.
It’s possible to learn how to make pho in Hanoi, although a real pho takes hours and hours to make. The broth is usually prepared overnight for the morning’s meal.
One of the best places in Hanoi to eat pho is Pho 49 on Bat Dan Street. But, get there early, or the lines will be insane! And, don’t make the typical tourist mistake. In Vietnam, pho is eaten for breakfast. Sure, you can find it all day long. But, the locals eat pho in Hanoi in the morning.
Vietnamese Bun Cha
Similar to pho, there is another dish that varies across the country of Vietnam. Bun cha is a grilled pork noodle (bun) soup, but different in so many ways from pho. Generally it is served with two kinds of pork, including a ground pork meatball and strips of fatty pork meat (cha). Bun cha is served in a bowl, simply with pork and broth. In fact, bun cha translates to “two kinds of pork.” The fresh rice noodles are served on the side, to be dunked in the broth, along with chillies and fresh herbs to flavor each bite.
Hanoi Food Tour – Hanoi Cooking Class
Another great way to learn about Hanoi street food, and Vietnamese food in general, is to take a cooking class. Most cooking classes start by touring one of the local food markets, like the Chau Long market. Touring the market with a local is an unique enough experience. It’s a traditional Southeast Asian wet market, with fish, meats, frogs, and everything in between. And, Chau Long is one of the best places to go in Hanoi to learn about Vietnamese food culture.
After the market tour, the chef will explain how to cook a few traditional Vietnamese dishes. In our cooking class at the Hanoi Cooking Centre, we learned how to make pho and bun cha. After, we joined our fellow chefs for a lunch, with plenty of cold beer.
Book a Half Day Hanoi Cooking Class Tour – From $65
We were supported by Buffalo Tours on their Hanoi Street Eats tour through the Old Quarter, but all yummy sounds are my own. Tour packages start at around $29, excluding transfer.
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For more tips about eating in Vietnam, check out our Southeast Asia Food Guide.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.