1. Pho noodle soup (Phở)
Pho noodle soup is well-known as a specialty of Hanoi, the national dish of Vietnam, a must-eat Vietnamese food. Eating Pho noodle soup is the first thing you should do in Hanoi. A bowl of Pho noodle soup can warm your stomach and satisfy your taste. Pho noodle soup is everywhere in Hanoi, it is sold at street food stalls in back alleys, on main streets, at local markets, at restaurants, etc. One of the highlights of this food is the tender and chewy thin flat Pho noodles which are cut from steamed rice sheets. The broth is the soul of the noodle soup, it is cooked delicately from beef bones, ginger, grilled onion, star anise, cinnamon, amomum tsao-ko. The cook should cook the broth over low heat and skim off the foam and scum regularly in order to make the broth clear and rich. To serve the food, put some Pho noodles into a bowl, cover the noodles with the broth, add beef, green onions, herbs, ginger (optional), chili peppers (optional). There are many choices for diners at Pho stalls/restaurant, you can choose toppings including lean beef slices, beef tendon, beef ball for your Pho noodle soups. They also cook Pho noodle soup with chicken instead of beef. This kind of Pho noodle soup is also delicious and worth a try. Pho is not only a food but also an important part of the rich culture of elegant Hanoi. A trip to Hanoi and Vietnam could not be complete if you miss this food.
2. Hot rice noodle soup (Bún thang)
Hot rice noodle soup is one of the most delicate and complex recipes among Vietnamese noodle soups. Similar to most of the noodle soups in Vietnam and the world, Hot rice noodle soup consists of noodles, broth, and toppings. The clear and rich broth is cook from chicken bone and penaeid shrimp. The rice noodles are thin, tender, a little chewy, and in white color. The noodles are covered with the hot broth and topped with finely julienned fried chicken egg, finely shredded chicken meat, Vietnamese pork roll juliennes, dried daikon redish, shiitake mushroom, chopped green onion, and chopped Vietnamese mint. When eating, Vietnamese people usually add vinegar (or lime juice), chili pepper, garlic, black pepper, fermented shrimp paste (Mắm tôm), scent of giant water bug (tinh dầu cà cuống) to the noodle soup to enhance its flavor and make it attractively fragrant. A portion of Hot rice noodle soup is colorful and seductively, chicken is in white color, eggs are in yellow color, Vietnamese pork roll is pink, vegetables are in green color, shiitake is brown, shrimp is orange. This is a wonderful blend of all ingredients, it is a worth-trying noodle soup in Hanoi besides Pho.
3. Snail noodle soup (Bún ốc)
A bowl of Snail noodle soup in Hanoi looks seductive and mouth-watering. It consists of the white, tender, a little chewy rice noodles, the flavorful, a little sour broth with a thin yellow, greasy layer on oil, the toppings such as red, sour, lightly sweet tomato wedges, chopped green onion, grey and black, crunchy and tender snail meat. The keys to this noodle soup are the broth which is cooked from snail and crunchy snail meat. The snail makes the noodles distinctly delicious. Besides snail meat, they also top the noodle soup with other toppings are crispy and buttery fried tofu, beef, green banana, pork fat. There is a variety of Snail noodle soups in Hanoi: Cold snail noodle soup, Snail noodle soup with beef, Snail noodle soup with green banana and tofu, Snail noodle soup with fried pork fat. In addition, aromatic and fresh vegetables such as shredded morning glory, bean sprouts, tomato, lettuce, shiso, etc.
I would like to introduce Cold snail noodle soup – the most special Snail noodle soups. This traditional food was created by people in Sec village about 50 years ago. The village is located in Hoang Mai District, Hanoi in the recent. Perhaps it is the only Vietnamese noodle soup which is served cold. The broth, toppings, rice noodles, dipping sauce are cold. They choose the snails which eat mosses in rocky clefts and taste crunchy, greasy. They do not cook the snails in water but steam them with the spicy and sour giấm bỗng – a Vietnamese rice vinegar made from Golden-flower glutinous rice. The sweet, sour, salty dipping sauce is also made from giấm bỗng.
4. Mock softshell turtle noodle soup (Bún giả ba ba)
Why is it called Mock softshell turtle noodle soup? Let me explain to you. In the past, Softshell turtle soup with green banana and tofu, which is served with rice noodles, is one of the most delicious and expensive dishes. Hanoi people have created a similar dish which is made from cheaper ingredients pork heel, pork rib cartilage, pork tail instead of softshell turtle. They call the dish Mock softshell turtle noodle soup which is not less delicious than that is cooked from real softshell turtle. It consists of sour and salty broth, pork heel, pork rib cartilage, pork tail, green banana, grilled tofu cubes, and shiso.
5. Domestic muscovy duck noodle soup (Bún ngan)
Cooked from duck, shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots (fresh or dried), the broth of Domestic muscovy duck noodle soup has a distinct flavor. It is greasy, salty, rich, clear, and light yellow transparent. A little fat of the duck floating on the broth makes the noodle soup more attractive. The whole duck which is used to cook the broth is cut into pieces in order to top the noodle soup. Other toppings are bamboo shoots, shiitake mushroom, duck blood curd, green onion, black pepper. Fresh, aromatic vegetables and herbs, pickles (daikon raddish, carrot, garlic pickles), lime wedges, chili pepper slices, dipping sauce (fish sauce, soybean sauce, etc.) are served with the noodle soup so that diner can add them to the noodle soup at their wishes. In Hanoi, some restaurants serve rice noodles, duck, and the broth with other toppings separately. The others serve all of them in one bowl.
6. Mock dog noodle soup (Bún giả cầy)
Dog which is the best pet in the world has been one of the foods fear factor in Hanoi. In the recent, most of the Vietnamese people do not eat dog anymore. Hanoian cooks are so talented that they can make the pork leg including pork heel – the main ingredient for Bún giả cầy tastes like dog. The pork leg should be roasted in hay or rice straw, on charcoal, over gas stove before cooking the broth. Galangal, fermented steamed rice, bamboo shoots make the broth and the pork leg taste uniquely flavorful. Herbs, chili pepper, dipping sauce could not be missed when eating this dish. The greasy, tender, sweet-tasty pork leg, tender but chewy rice noodles and the clear, rich, salty, a little sour broth, the crunchy bamboo shoots, the tangy herbs mix perfectly.
7. Meatball and elephant ear stalk noodle soup (Bún mọc dọc mùng)
Meatball and elephant ear stalk noodle soup is worth-trying in Hanoi. It includes a clear and sweet-tasty broth, rice noodles, pieces of pork legs, meatball made from ground pork and minced wood ears, elephant ear stalks, pork ribs, chopped green onion, (optional), pork heels (optional). Elephant ear stalks should not be cooked for too long so that it is still crunchy. Besides the elephant ear stalks, the crunchy meatball and cooked pork legs with tender meat and greasy, chewy skin are also highlights of this amazing dish.
8. Rice noodles with grilled pork patties (Bún chả)
Rice noodles with grilled pork patties is a delicacy of Hanoi. President Barrack Obama of America chose this food for dinner in Hanoi. This kind of food includes rice noodles, grilled pork patties, grilled pork belly, sweet and sour dipping fish sauce, and herbs. To make grilled pork patties, they mince pork shoulder, marinate it with spices, divide the mixture into small pieces, form them into rounds which are called pork patties. Grill pork patties until crispy outside and tender inside. The grilled pork belly slices are crispy, greasy, and tender. To serve, Grill pork patties and grilled pork belly slices are put into a bowl of warm dipping sauce. Some pickles (daikon raddish pickle, carrot pickle, kohlrabi pickle) are added to the sauce to enhance the flavor of the sauce. To eat, dip rice noodles and vegetables, herbs into the sauce and eat with the grilled pork. Rice noodles with grilled pork patties is not delicate but not simple. It is considered as the soul of Hanoi, a must-eat food in the capital.
9. Rice noodles with fermented shrimp paste (Bún đậu mắm tôm)
Rice noodles with fermented shrimp paste is a simple dish which includes rice noodles, fried tofu cubes, shiso, and fermented shrimp paste. To make the dipping sauce, beat the shrimp paste with sugar, lime/kumquat juice until it foams, then add minced garlic and chili pepper to the sauce. The tofu cubes are deep-fried right after the food is ordered. Shiso and the fried tofu cubes which are crispy outside and soft, smooth, buttery inside go well with the fermented shrimp paste. Rice noodles with fermented shrimp paste is one of the most famous stinky delicacies in Vietnam. From a rustic food in the countryside, Rice noodles with fermented shrimp paste has become one of the most favorite street foods in Hanoi as well as other provinces of the country. It is also on menus of many luxury restaurants which serve Vietnamese foods. Besides tofu, they serve this food with boiled pork, crispy deep-fried young sticky rice cake, fermented pork, boiled intestines, etc. Give it a try and you can not forget its taste and smell.
10. Pho roll (Phở cuốn)
Instead of cutting Pho rice sheet into Pho noodles, they use the Pho sheet to wrap stir-fried beef and herbs into roll. This food can remind you of the famous Vietnamese spring roll. While the spring roll is wrapped in sticky rice paper, Pho roll is wrapped in tender, a little chewy, white rice sheet. The roll is served with spicy sour sweet dipping fish sauce made from fish sauce, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, black pepper, shallot, garlic, green onion, coriander, green papaya, kohlrabi. This is not a difficult recipe but not less delicious than Pho noodle soup or Vietnamese spring roll. Pho roll originated in Ngu Xa Street which is near to Truc Bach lake. The street is the best place to find the best Pho roll in Hanoi. In this street, they also serve many great dishes from Pho noodles such as fried Pho noodles, Fried Pho noodles with egg, Mixed Pho noodles, etc.
11. Pork rib porridge (Cháo sườn)
Pork rib porridge is one of the most beautiful childhood memories of many Hanoian. It has been the most favorite breakfast thanks to being healthy, comfort, great taste, and cheap. To make the porridge, cook rice, pork ribs, and pork soft bone in water until the porridge is smooth, the pork ribs are very tender, and pork soft bone is tender and crunchy. To serve, top the porridge with youtiao, pork floss, ground pork, boiled quail eggs. The porridge should be served hot. What is better than eating a bowl of Pork rib porridge on cold days? Simple but not simple is what we can describe Pork rib porridge – the essence of Hanoi.
12. Dishes from dracontomelon fruit (Món ăn với sấu)
Small, round, yellow dracontomelon fruits bring Hanoi to autumn and have become poetic images for many poets and musicians. Dracontomelon fruit is used in Vietnamese cuisine as a souring agent and candied treat. The most delicious dishes from dracontomelon fruit are Braised duck and dracontomelon fruit, Pork rib and dracontomelon fruit soup, Shrimp and dracontomelon fruit stir-fry, Dracontomelon in syrup, Dracontomelon fruit in fish sauce, Salted or sugar dry dracontomelon fruit, etc.
13. Grilled beef guts (Lòng nướng Gầm Cầu)
Gam Cau Street in Hanoi, which is about 200m long, is famous with many restaurants which serve Grilled beef guts. In the evening, the street is busy and crowded with lots of customers coming to enjoy their favorite foods. The smell of Grilled dishes spread in the air, the sounds of people cooking, serving, ordering, talking, laughing and cheering are around the area. The beef guts are marinated with honey and other spices, then grilled on charcoal until well-done, brown and pleasant. The sweet, salty, crunchy Grilled beef guts go well with fermented shrimp paste and tangy herbs. They also serve various vegetables, soybean sauce, chili sauce with the Grilled beef guts. You can order uncooked marinated beef guts and grill it yourself at the table. If you do not have time and do not know the right way to grill them, just order the grilled guts and eat right away. Grilled beef guts is an example of Vietnamese dishes from often discarded parts of animals. Besides the guts, restaurants in Gam Cau Street also serve Grilled beef stomach, Grilled beef, Grilled beef organs, Grilled “tràng” – pork womb and fallopian tubes. Do not miss enjoying these strange dishes and immersing yourself in local life in Hanoi.
14. Uoc Le Vietnamese pork roll, Cinnamon pork patties, Fried pork patties (Giò lụa, Chả quế, Chả rán Ước Lễ)
Uoc Le village in Tan Uoc Commune, Thanh Oai District, Hanoi are famous for the best Vietnamese pork roll and Cinnamon pork patties. It has been said these dishes are served to the king at the festival of the village on 10th January in the lunar calendar thanks to its great taste. It takes so much time, skill, experience, patience, and hard work to make Uoc Le Vietnamese pork roll, cinnamon pork patties, fried pork patties. The main ingredient for Vietnamese pork roll is pork, Uoc Le people choose pork tenderloin and pork ham – the most tender and delicious part of the Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs which weigh only 35-40 kg. Tendons and fat are removed carefully, lean pork is sliced thinly and pounded by pestles which weigh up to 9 kg until it becomes pasty. It cannot be chopped or ground, as the meat would still be fibrous, dry, and crumbly. Season the mixture with the best fish sauce made by the villagers. Then, use apple banana leaves to wrap the mixture into rolls. The banana leaves should be poached before wrapping, young leaves are inside the old leaves. Boil the rolls in water for about 1 hour until the rolls turn plumpy and firm. Get the rolls out and put into cold water. Uoc Le Vietnamese pork roll is pink, lightly salty, crunchy, and unsticky. It should have tiny air bubbles inside.
To make cinnamon pork patties, they add cinnamon powder to the pork mixture while pounding. Bake the pork on charcoal, spread a mixture of honey and tawny daylily over the patties regularly while baking. The baked cinnamon pork patties should be yellow, crispy outside, crunchy and tender inside. It should smell as sweet as the mixture of cinnamon and honey. To eat, cut the patties into slices.
To make Fried pork patties, mix boiled fat cubes with pounded pork, form into flat pieces, steam them until tender, then fry them until crispy outside. This food is greasy, sweet-tasty, and crispy outstandingly.
Vietnamese pork roll, Cinnamon pork patties, Fried pork patties can be simply eaten with steamed rice (or rice noodles, steamed sticky rice), fish sauce, vegetables, and herbs. They are also served with various Vietnamese noodle soups, Wet cake, Stuffed rice pancake with pork, etc. Nowadays, foods from pork in Uoc Le village has been famous around the country. It is one of the best gifts to buy in Hanoi.
15. Phung fermented pork (Nem Phùng)
A beautiful Vietnamese folk song says:
“Nem Phùng ăn với lá sung
Để người tứ xứ nhớ nhung suốt đời”
(“Phung fermented pork with cluster fig
Make people in other regions remember forever”)
If you visit the ancient citadel of Son Tay which is about 40 km north-west of the center of Hanoi, do not miss buying and tasting the delicious Phung fermented pork – a specialty food of in Dan Phuong District of Hanoi. Main ingredients for this food is fresh pork (including lean pork, fat and skin), rice, sticky rice, cluster fig leaf. Steam the pork until well-done, then separate lean pork, fat, and skin, cut the lean pork and pork skin into juliennes. Then mix them with spices and “thính” which is made by toasting rice and Golden-flower sticky rice, then grind them until all the rice has been finely ground. Making “thính” is very important in the process of making fermented pork. The cook should stir the rice continuously so that the rice are not burnt and are fragrant and in brown-yellow color. Wrap the mixture in cluster fig leaves, guava leaves, and banana leaves into a square shape. The food will be ready in 1 day. The sweet-tasty lean pork, crunchy pork skin covered with the smelling “thính”, the sour taste have won the hearts of most people. When eating, Phung fermented pork is usually wrapped in young cluster fig leaves and dipped in spicy sweet and sour dipping fish sauce or chili sauce.
16. Fried fermented pork (Nem chua rán)
Spicy, salty, sweet, and sour Fermented pork is usually served with steamed rice or rice noodles. Hanoi people cover Fermented pork with wheat flour, fry it until crispy outside but still tender inside. Fried fermented pork is eaten with steamed rice (or rice noodles), vegetables, herbs, chili sauce and dipping fish sauce.
17. Fermented pork ear (Nem tai)
Instead of lean pork and pork skin, Hanoi people use pork ear to make Fermented pork from ear. “Thính” is also used to ferment ear strips. Pork ear is boiled, cut into strips, soaked in water mixed with lime juice (or vinegar) for 10 minutes in order to make it crunchy and retain its color. Then the pork ear strips are mixed with “thính” and salt. Fermented pork ear is salty, sour, and crunchy. Similar to Phung fermented pork, Fermented pork ear is simply eaten with steamed rice or wrapped with vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, pineapples, ming aralia leaves) in young cluster fig leaves and dipped in spicy sweet and sour dipping fish sauce or chili sauce.
18. Young green sticky rice and pork cake (Chả cốm)
The autumn brings young green sticky rice to Hanoi people. Young green sticky rice is a brilliant gem of Hanoi cuisine. Young green sticky rice is made by pounding sticky rice which is harvested 7-10 days earlier until the husks and the seeds are separated and the seeds turn flat. Young green sticky rice is used to make various authentic Vietnamese dishes such as Young green sticky rice sweet soup, Steamed young green sticky rice, Young green sticky rice and pork cake. Main ingredients for the perfectly delightful Young green sticky rice cake are ground pork, “giò sống” – pork which is pounded until pasty but still fibrous, egg, lotus leaves, and young green sticky rice. Mix all of the ingredients, form the mixture into patties, fry them until smelling, crispy and yellow outside, well-done and sticky inside. This kind of food goes well with steamed rice, rice noodles. It can be served with rice noodles, fermented shrimp paste, fried tofu, etc. which are parts of the famous Rice noodles with fermented shrimp paste and fried tofu. The unique flavor of this food has won the hearts of all ages including local people and visitors.
19. La Vong grilled fish cake (Chả cá Lã Vọng)
La Vong grilled fish cake recipe was created by Doan family which lives at 14 Cha Ca Street in Hanoi. Main ingredients for this food are naked catfish (or Siluridae, snakehead, devil catfish, cranoglanis sinensis) which has firm and sweet-tasty flesh. To make this kind of food, cut fish flesh into chunks 5 cm long, marinate the fish with galangal, fermented steamed rice, black pepper, fish sauce, fermented shrimp paste for 2 hours. Then grill the fish chunks until all of their sides turn crispy and yellow. When eating, stir-fry the fish with dill over an oven put on the dining table. La Vong grilled fish cake should be eaten hot with rice noodles, Vietnamese rice cracker, toasted peanuts, coriander, dill, onion, a sauce made from fermented shrimp paste, lime juice, chili pepper, wine, hot fat, sugar, scent of giant water bug.
20. Clam worm cake (Chả rươi)
Clam worm cake is a specialty food of Hanoi. It is made from pork belly, duck egg, chicken egg, wild betel, scallion, dill, ginger, black pepper, fish sauce, mandarin peel. All of the ingredients are ground or minced, the mixed together into a mixture. Form the mixture into patties, fry them until crispy and yellow. The cake is crispy outside, tender and greasy inside. It has a special smell of mandarin peel. Clam worm cake is eaten with rice noodles, vegetables, herbs, spicy sour fish sauce dip.
21. Mo tofu (Đậu phụ làng Mơ)
A beautiful Vietnamese folk song says:
“Đậu Mơ chấm với mắm tôm
Ăn xong buổi sáng đến hôm lại thèm
Tại sao anh lấy được em
Vì mê Mai Động, vì thèm đậu Mơ”
(“Tofu in Mo village dipped in fermented shrimp paste
Eat it in the morning, would like to eat it again in the evening
Why did I marry you
Because I love Mai Dong village and I would like to eat Mo tofu”)
Mo tofu in Mai Dong village, Hoang Mai District, Hanoi has been famous thanks to its great taste. Tofu is not a very difficult recipe. However, people in Mai Dong village make Mo tofu dedicatedly. Soybeans are soaked in water overnight, ground with water into a smooth mixture, then cooked until well-done. The mixture should not be cooked for too long or too short. Cooking the ground soybean and water mixture is one of the most important steps. Use sour water to deposit it, the smooth, tender, white precipitate is put into wooden molds with clothes. Then use heavy loads to press the precipitate in the molds. Warm, soft, smooth, white, mild-flavor, buttery. slightly smelling tofu is ready.
Mo tofu can be with fermented shrimp paste (or fermented acetes, garlic fish sauce dip), shiso, marjoram when it is still warm. Hanoi people also cut the tofu into cubes, deep-fry them until crispy and eat with rice noodles, fermented shrimp paste, and shiso. It is the famous Rice noodles with fermented shrimp paste and fried tofu.
22. Le Mat snake (Rắn Lệ Mật)
Le Mat village in Viet Hung Commune, Long Bien District, Hanoi is well-known for making money by hunting, farming and cooking snakes for many years. In Le Mat village, they soak snakes in wine in order to make snake wine, use snake skin to make belts, purses, shoes, etc. Restaurants in the village serve numerous snake dishes including Grilled snake with salt and black pepper, Stir-fried snake with garlic and onion, Fried minced snake, etc. Coming to the village, enjoying some scrumptious snake dishes, drinking some wine can make you forget all of the difficulties and troubles in your life.
23. Van Dinh duck (Vịt cỏ Vân Đình)
Located 40 km east of the center of Hanoi, Van Dinh District is one of the best place to eat duck dishes. Van Dinh ducks are grazed in the wild, they eat grains, shrimps, etc. So that a mature duck weighs about 1.2 kg. Van Dinh duck has thin, firm, tender meat and less fat. Its bones are tender in comparison to ducks which are farmed in other regions of the country. Boiled duck, Grilled duck, Duck porridge, Duck blood pudding are scrumptious dishes from Van Dinh duck which should not be missed in Hanoi.
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