1. Phở ( Noodle )Savory rice-noodle soup is one of the most internationally recognizable Vietnamese dishes and certainly one of the tastiest. Hanoi is actually credited as being home to the very first pho restaurant in the country, and today you won’t have to walk too far to find a bowl of it at a restaurant, café or street stall. Ingredients vary, but locals prefer it with either chicken or thin slices of beef in a rich beef broth; garnish it with bean sprouts, chiles, hoisin sauce and fresh Vietnamese herbs.
2. Bún ChảOf all the great street food in Hanoi, perhaps there'd be no greater crime than to leave without having had Bún chả. Bún chả Hà Nội (grilled pork vermicelli soup) may not sound particularly appetizing, but be assured this thin rice vermicelli served cold with grilled marinated pork is legendary. Bun cha is served with a plate of white rice noodle (bún), a steamy broth and herbs. Traditionally, chả (the pork) is a marinated pork patty, but another type of chả (small pieces of fatty pork belly) also often accompany the patties. Learning the top Bún chả joints is a right of passage for all Hanoi residents.
3. Bún ốc (Snail noodles )Bún ốc (“snail noodles”) is a Hanoi’s speciality. It is famous for its red broth and its unique, sour taste called “bỗng”. The ingredients are tangled white rice vermicelli noodles (similar to regular white rice vermicelli noodles but thinner) and boiled Helix Snails. Bún ốc can be served in two different ways: in its broth (called "hot snail noodles") or with broth in a separate bowl (called "cold snail noodles") with vegetables. The broth is made from stewed bones, tomatoes and other ingredients. “Cold snail noodles,” which are eaten by dipping the noodles in the broth, is the favourite type during the summer.
4. Bún riêu (crab paste vermicelli)Bún riêu cua (crab paste vermicelli) is Vietnamese vermicelli, served in a tomato broth and topped with crab or shrimp paste. In this dish, various freshwater paddy crabs are used, including the brown paddy crab found in rice fields throughout Vietnam. These freshwater crabs are pounded in the shell until they consist of a fine paste. This paste is strained and the crab-infused liquid is a base for the broth called “riêu cua” (along with tomato). Other ingredients include: fried tofu, mẻ (ferment) or bỗng (fermented grains), Garcinia multiflora Champ., annatto seeds (hạt điều màu) to redden the broth, pig's blood, split water spinach stems, shredded banana flower, rau kinh giới (Elsholtzia ciliata), spearmint, perilla, bean sprouts and chả chay (vegetarian sausage). It is one complex dish.
5. Bún Thang (vermicelli with egg, chicken, and pork)Bún thang (vermicelli with egg, chicken, and pork) is a Hanoi delicacy. Making Bún thang involves a sophisticated consisting of no less than twenty ingredients. The ingredients include things like rau răm (Vietnamese coriander leaves), Eryngium, shredded fried chicken egg, shredded chicken, shredded pork, and white rice vermicelli served in a clear broth. Originally, tinh dầu cà cuống (Lethocerus indicus) was added to provide a unique aroma.
6. Bánh cuốn ( Rolled cake )Bánh cuốn (“rolled cake”) is dish made from a thin, wide sheet of steamed rice batter rolled and filled with seasoned ground pork, minced wood ear mushroom, and minced shallots. It is eaten with a dipping sauce and usually served with chả lụa (Vietnamese pork sausage). Traditionally, bánh cuốn has cà cuống (Lethocerus indicus) essence added to the sauce.
7. Gỏi cuốn (Rolled phở)The cool, fresh summer rolls are made with rice paper wrapped around herbs, vermicelli noodles, shrimp, pork or whatever vegetables and protein you have on hand.
8. Phở Cuốn (“Rolled Phở”)Phở cuốn (“rolled phở”) is a Hanoi delicacy. It’s made by wrapping fried beef with onion, lettuce, coriandrum sativum, basil and other vegetables in a think wrap of the same rice roodle material used to make phở noodles. It’s served with a small bowl of dipping sauce. In phở cuốn shops, you’ll also find phở chiên phồng (“inflated fried phở”) and phở chiên giòn (“crispy fried phở”) on the menu. Phở chiên phồng is square rice noodle “pillows” which are fried until they become inflated and golden brown, while phở chiên giòn is noodles mixed with egg then deep fried; both have beef and Brassica rapa.
9. Chả cá Lã Vọng (grilled/fried fish)Chả cá (grilled/fried fish) is a Hanoi delicacy. The main ingredient is catfish which is marinated, grilled on charcoal, and then fried in oil. Different restaurants have their own secret methods to marinate the fish and serve it with different vegetables and herbs, white rice vermicelli noodles, rice crackers, peanuts or shrimp sauce.
10. Nem cua bểInstead of a tube, these flaky, deep-fried spring rolls are shaped like a square. What’s inside is equally surprising: ground crab, pork, mushrooms and more. Eat them with fresh herbs and lettuce, which ably cut through the greasiness.
11. Bánh Tôm Hồ Tây (West Lake shrimp cake)Bánh tôm Hồ Tây (“West Lake shrimp cake”) is a type of batter-dipped shrimp patties that were originally made and served by a state-owned restaurant next to West Lake in the 1970’s. Originally, freshwater shrimp that were caught from West Lake were used to make the dish, hence geographically inspired moniker. Bánh tôm Hồ Tây is served with sweet and sour fish sauce, green papaya and carrot slices.
12: Bánh gối (“Pillow Cake”)Bánh gối (“pillow cake”) is a popular cake which has crispy, golden brown shell. It is often stuffed with pork, shrimp, some vegetables (and sometimes glass noodles and hard-boiled quail eggs). It has a shape roughly resembling that of a taco. It’s served with sweet and sour fish sauce for dipping.
13: Bánh Xèo (sizzling cake)Bánh xèo ("sizzling cake") is savoury fried pancake made of rice flour, water, turmeric powder and stuffed with slivers of fatty pork, shrimp, diced green onion and bean sprouts. It is eaten by being wrapped in mustard leaf, lettuce leaves or rice paper. It’s served with mint leaves, basil, fish leaf and/or other vegetable and sweet and sour diluted fish sauce.
14: Bò Bít Tết (Beef steak)Bò bít tết (beef steak) is the Vietnamese adaptation and interpretation of two Western stables: meat and potatoes. Sizzling skillets of thin local steak, sausage, green onion and chips arrive at your table steaming and crackling with menace. They are very hot. You can get burned. Everything is swimming in grease
15: Nem Chua Rán (fried sour roll)Nem chua rán (fried sour roll) is a speciality of Hanoi and believed to be first made by the Hong Chien Roll Shop at 11 Le Dai Hanh Street, Hanoi. The roll is made by putting cured pork with shredded pork skins, covering the combination with flour and then deep frying it all in oil. It’s eaten with chili sauce and raw vegetables.
16: Ốc (“Boiled snails”)Ốc luộc (“boiled snails”) are local snails prepared with fish sauce, ginger, chili, salt, and lime leaves. They are often sold in specialty shops (but sometimes also with other bivalves such as steamed oysters).
17: Nộm Bò Khô (“Dried beef salad”)Nộm bò khô (“dried beef salad”) is Vietnamese “sour salad” with papaya, dried beef, carrots, and marjoram. Vietnamese sour salads, or “Nộm,” are made by mixing peanuts, raw vegetables, garlic, chili and spices. There are many types of nộm.
18: Bia hơi (Draft beer)Draft beer is sacred to Vietnam, where tipplers wile away the hours sipping on this crisp, unpasteurized and unfiltered lager—its name roughly translates to “fresh beer”—that’s usually sold for about 25 cents a mug. Go on, have four. You’d need to drink gallons to get drunk.
19: Cà phê sữa nóng/sữa đáJumpstart your nervous system with a steaming cup of cà phê sữa nóng—that is, potent coffee mixed with sweetened condensed milk. It’s an electric jolt to the nervous system. (If you prefer your coffee cold, order cà phê sữa đá—with ice.)
20: Nước míaAttention, sweet tooth; Get your fix with fresh-pressed sugarcane juice served over ice. It’s oddly invigorating. Or maybe that’s the sugar talking.
21: Hoa quả dầm (Mixed Fruit with milk)Take advantage of Vietnam’s fruit bounty to savor a smoothie made with sweetened condensed milk, crushed ice and your choice of, say, strawberry, mango or lychee. Just whatever you do, stay away from us if you opt for the rank, custardy durian.