Eating street food in Hanoi

I will be honest. 

My influence to visit Hanoi was inspired by Mr Bourdain (again), not from the legendary visit that the world knew so much, on stools with Mr Obama over Bun Ca. But from No Reservations, after a whole day of crazy at work with a bowl of ice cream thinking how blegh the world could get. That episode, he was in Hoi An, cruising through the buzzing streets enjoying the good things in life; good food.

That looks so good I said.

There are so many good things in life. Like great new friends, new hair, new clothes, a good dinner, some good movies, and GOOD FOOD. This is a terrible introduction, but the food photos are coming, so please bear with me.

I wanted to be more impromptu and spontaneous in life, and this was that trip that I was. I decided on a few days before the actual date, and had very little research. Which is quite unlike me, I usually spend months ahead researching for the places I'm visiting, learning a thing or two about their culture (except for Shanghai of course, this span of a few weeks were the busiest I've been), their food and their language. SO - because I only had one goal in mind; food, and I had no knowledge about it, I decided I was going to ask for help. For the sake of food, I asked for help.

I met Tho online while I was researching for Hanoi street food. I emailed her about my intentions to write about eating street in Hanoi, or just eating in Hanoi in general and she wholeheartedly helped me out. From outlining the places to eat, down right to its location and photos of the places to some history about it. She was an angel.

In ALL of my trips, FOOD has always been one of the main underlying theme. I usually jot down notes on some of the things to try, and where I can try and get them, but in any case that I don't get to experience it, I would be fine with it and move on.

Until, this Hanoi trip. 

I decided, food would be my focus. I weighed in the idea that I would look like a balloon after this trip, but it didn't matter, I wanted to explore this very idea, and this very idea, I explored.

These were some off the food I've tried in Hanoi within the span of a few days. Some things have pork, please take note.

I arrived Hanoi approximately 12pm, just in time for LUNCH. So after check ins, and numerous messages with Tho, I finally met up with Tho, and there was no greater introduction to Vietnam food than the legendary Bun Cha. Never underestimate the connection of food two can make :p We walked towards the streets of Hanoi, zig zagged through the hundreds of bikes and back alleys. I will not remember this place, I told myself. 

Bun Ca at Old Quarter 

That setting, the insides of an alley, by the road on Vietnam's famous stool and small table, was a remarkable intro. This was Bun Ca [(Bun - round rice noodle and Ca (fish) with Ca Cuon (roll) Thit (meat)]. Tho carefully explained to me that the most important thing, "lies in the broth" - and this broth was magical alright. Freshly made and served while hot, it's a stew of fresh Vietnamese herbs, veggies, fried fish, pineapple and tomatoes. With a side of pork wrapped in freshly fried fish dipped into the famous fish sauce enjoyed best with slurps of this soup in between.

Fk, I made myself hungry.

We went to the one around the Old Quarter.

Lo and behold; freshly made bun ca, with cold Vietnam tea and fish sauce. 

^Ca Cuon Tit, pork wrapped in fish 

Sticky rice with meats

Along the streets towards coffee, I saw this lively shop selling sticky rice with savoury pork meats. I didn't get to try this because my meal times were so packed :p but it looks amazing!

Please try them for me!

Egg coffee at Mr Giang's

After lunch, I told Tho that I wanted to try the world's famous egg coffee I saw on Go Travel. Yup, you saw it, EGG COFFEE. We went to the original. Legend has it, Mr Giang (the creator) used to work in a renown international 5 star hotel, but in times of poverty, milk was scarce and was a very expensive commodity. So he improvised, and used eggs instead. And the rest as they say, was history.

I loved this cafe so much, there was a small alley to enter it, and once you're in you'd have to climb one floor up to an area with so much greens and plants, it's so beautiful.

 ^It's a lot brighter in real life than in my picture. But look at the greens! 

 ^Tho's wasn't coffee, chocolate I believe, and it's so delicious. Like a dessert coffee. 

My egg coffee had a soft and creamy texture, almost reminded me of Tiramisu.

We spent hours talking about everything. Our lives and the places that we have plans to visit. When we finally realized that it's time that we go somewhere else, it was almost sunset. So I asked her whether there's a place that we could just chill and catch up (even more) about Hanoi.

Rooftop cafe in Old Quarter / Hoan Kiem 

After a delicious lunch and some coffee egg I needed some walk and some fresh air. The walk around Hanoi is an amazing one. All the lovely street vendors have their own unique and charm without missing on Vietnams iconic symbol.

Seeing interesting things was the essence of my adventurous soul.

Couldn't stop snapping away :)

^Frogs for lunch / dinner? 

She brought me to one of the oldest rooftop cafe / bar in the Old Quarter. We climbed four floors up to a quaint area with a lovely view of the Hoan Kiem lake. It was probably one of the most relaxing times I was in Hanoi, (if I wasn't crossing Hanoi's traffic or eating).

I was pretty relaxed with Tho.

Our food journey continued. After some orange juice, we decided that it's time I braved the streets of Hanoi again, at night no less. I told my friends that the Hanoi traffic truly overwhelmed me in the beginning that I had such a troubled mind after a whole day of out. It took me a few days to finally be able to be at peace with it. I think it was just the everywhere of the traffic. And I was so invested in walking safe that I could almost never LOL. I stared at every one and everything that passes the traffic without realizing that I was actually so stressed about it. SO WEIRD.

You thought I'd traveled to so many places that I'd get used to epic traffics!! But no.

Snails + Snails Soup 

Anyway. We walked around Hoan Kiem lake and I saw snails!!! I was so fascinated by it I asked Tho to accompany me to try it.


Knee to knee, elbow to elbow with honks and screams of the vendors. Freshly boiled snails, oh my god. It's the second I've tried snails and both in very different experience - first in Paris (escargot) at a fancy restaurant near Notre Dame and then in Hanoi by the street which were both equally amazing!!

The thing that is used to pull the snail looked like a piece of glass which has potential to cut my mouth open but it didn't matter because it was all part of the experience! :)

 ^Whatever this sauce was, it was so amazing, I can still feel it in my tongue. It's like, lemony, spicy, and with a tinge of coriander or something. What is it!!! (I'll ask Tho) 

^The snail soup that is meant to be drank after the meal, to avoid heatiness. LOVED IT. WAS SO DELICIOUS. 

Since we were so full from a whole day of eating, munching and drinking we decided to just grab beer and other light snacks to continue the night. At this point, my pants was bursting and all I wanted to do was to lie down and crash and let my stomach jut out in all its glory (yes perks of staying alone). Life is short, chill.

Cold Hanoi Beer/ Quail and Cheese Sticks 

God bless them for pairing these cheese sticks and quail with beer. OH GOD. I couldn't have imagined another way of enjoying my first night in Hanoi at Old Quarter. SO MANY PEOPLE. My eyes were roving around looking at the throngs of tourists passing through every now and then. I'm sure most of them are in some kind of Hanoi food tour. The everywhere of the traffic, remember?

We ended the night with a nice cold beer, as one should, and some good old talk about everything :)

^I was told that the beer industry is booming in Hanoi, that they're thinking of billion dollars of return. 

Fried crispy spring roll

Next day, I was walking around the streets and saw one of my favourite fried spring roll (only tried at home) and couldn't find any reason not to grab it!! The lady was so kind to me (knowing that I am a tourist) that she told me that she'd reheat the spring roll, teach me how to eat it and gave me a bunch of fish sauce / tissue / tea to accommodate me. She even asked me to take lots of photos of her. Hehehehe, now if only I'd remember where her location was.......

SO HAPPY. It was so good, it had the tang foon (transparent noodle), lots of veggies and more taufus.

Anything from the street vendors 

I decided I needed to walk the entire day to lose all the weight I've eaten yesterday. I loved the smell of the streets in the morning, there're all kinds. It's so amazing.

Well. Trying to walk off food from yesterday is equally challenging ..... cause then I saw so many other interesting munchies T_T

How can I not!! They all look so amazing!! 

I decided to sit at one corner to finally overcome Hanoi's traffic. I started taking it in, one breath at a time, one friendly face at a time. Every other vendor (and Hanoi has a lot) that came passed by me, asking me to buy their food, I would nod to. Eventually I had like 2/3 items on my table and I'm like, how did this happened.

It was only 10am in the morning and there were selling mostly sweets, some drinks.

I am not too sure what this was, but this reminded me of one of the chinese celebration (someone, please help me, it's at the tip of my tongue but I still can't remember it), with the rolls and peanut fillings in it. This had corn, and it was creamy and gooey and delicious.

Bun Pho 

So I taught you about Bun Cha (which basically is fish) and the second day, I was adamant I wanted to try the meat version, beef or chicken. Bun Pho is famous worldwide. I have this impression that wherever I go around Hanoi / Vietnam, the Bun Pho would be just as good. I didn't have data or wifi most of the time to keep asking Tho, so I decided to just try it at one of the shop along Old Quarter.

And omg, it was so good.

I had trouble finishing the entire bowl of soup the first day I arrived Hanoi, and looking at how every local could, amazes me. But when I finally settled on this bowl, with calm and ease enjoying my no itinerary day - I truly could either. I finished this gigantic bowl of goodness!!

Loved the flat noodle, and those fresh Vietnamese herbs and veggies. They smell and taste SO GOOD.

^In some other day, I tried the chicken meat and it was just as good T__________T 

Coconut ice cream coffee 

Whoever invented coconut + coffee together, must have the best of lives because this sht is delicious. I decided to chill in some random coffee to enjoy some wifi, and decided to try this. It was all over in their menu in every cafe I went so I reckon this must be a thing.

There's something so therapeutic about drinking coffee ice cream at 3pm in the comfort of a small stool with a huge fan blowing to your face in the heat of Hanoi.

And Hanoi's traffic, is forever like a painting for me, I could just stare at it... and find joy and peace.

Banh Mi 

After a whole day of outing with Har from the HanoiKids organisation, I decided to find myself dinner - and there was no obvious option but Banh Mi. I wanted to eat this magical bread with the most exciting condiments for so long, and I finally stumbled upon a stall that truly caught my eyes.

She asked me what did I wanted.
I was like, I can choose all?
And she was like, you can...
Holy shit for only 2 USD? Anyway, maybe only a few.... (I didn't want to be greedy)

I thought the serving was so huge. I was trying to find ways to fit into my mouth, but this small skinny local guy infront of me devoured it like it was a small matter.

So I looked at the way he ate and emulated him. I may looked like a crazy tourist but I had to do what I had to do. I finished the entire banh mi ^_^

Veggies, meats, slices of chicken floss and a good ol Vietnam chili.
It's like a party in your mouth.

Vietnamese Fried Rice 

Vietnam is famous for producing rice and has multitude of agriculture investment and fields on this sustainable produce. So yes, rice is everywhere in Vietnam. The noodles are made from rice as well. Every morning, my hotel would ask me what kind of breakfast I would like. I had some pancakes and eggs in between, and one of the morning I had their freshly made fried rice with this amazing sauce.

The fried rice was so simple, mostly veggies and eggs but oh man. I finished it in one seating.

Local ice cream, from a local sundry shop 

I got super lost in the streets of Old Quarter one night, I got lost for almost 2 hours, thinking I could make my way alone from "recognising the food stalls and streets".

Clearly, I don't know Hanoi enough.

After the second hour, I realised this was a lost cause and started asking the locals to help me out. I only knew the street name where my hotel is located. Did I tell you how amazing Vietnamese are? And those in Hanoi especially? Everyone tried their very best to help me, and eventually a lady started Googling map it from her phone and used my phone to take a photo of the street names that eventually lead to my place.

Man, I was so grateful. I could've asked a cab and so forth, but I was darn sure that I was already so near!

Stressed and hot I decided, ice cream was the only way to cool me down.....

The original black Vietnamese coffee 

They have this amazing presentation of producing a good coffee, using their own Vietnamese coffee filter brewing straight good coffees to your cup. Have you seen it? Even the ones in KK uses them.

Fresh is an understatement, but it's dark and rich flavours are what makes them the favourite around the world.

Starbucks, Tho said. 
It's too bland for us. Our coffee is stronger and we liked that. 

Their coffees are strong alright. And I usually don't think I could take black coffees, but something about Vietnamese coffees that were easy.
Maybe it's the setting, it was still really good nonetheless.

I didn't put in sugar, because it really just changes the whole taste.

Fermented fried pork with Hanoi Beer

Towards my last night I wanted something to cool me down and reflect on the trip that was. I spent my entire trip mostly on food, visiting historical museums and sites (my favourite things) and gallery.

I thought about being a year older, it was a trip in conjunction of my birthday. I thought about the difference between loneliness and freedom, and what sets it apart. I thought about Ho Chi Minh (seriously), how one can truly be so different and special from others.

I thought about my family, my cats, my flowers and the people surrounding me, whether that was enough or where there more things I am looking for.

I thought about how only real friends, or people who are genuinely interested in my well being and people who are fond of my erratic writing and travels that would actually read this. This line, this part of vulnerability. Hehehe, so I thought about being more honest with my life. It didn't matter how it would make me look, I just needed to be more honest with my life.

A western couple sat next to me started asking me questions about the beer and food, I offered them some and had a few good hours chatting about a lot of things. They were from New Zealand and have been traveling for almost a month.

Very cool I thought.

And then I put a mental note; dear Jacqkie, never lose your sense of adventure. Even if you have to do it all alone. That's who you are.

Jacqueline Rowena @ Jacqkie.


Anonymous said…
OMG, my face looks like I was sleepy ::>_<::
Next time we should try something more delicious ;) Hehe

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