Where to get the very best street food in Hanoi

Most visitors to Hanoi will sample the city's most well-known dishes: pho bo (traditional Vietnamese noodle soup with beef), bun cha (barbecued pork with rice vermicelli) and banh mi (baguette).

Beyond the three Bs, the capital's food scene is as diverse as it is adventurous. Here are Hanoi's best street eats, for both the brave and faint of stomach.

Banh cuon
(Steamed rice paper rolls)

Perhaps the most popular dishes to have for breakfast when you are in Northern Vietnam. These Vietnamese paper rolls are often stuffed with minced pork and mushrooms but could also be filled with egg. It is meant for dipping in nuoc mam (fish sauce) together with fresh aromatic herbs – a staple ingredient in Vietnamese food. Enjoy at Banh Cuon Ba Xuan in Hoan Kiem, while watching the dog owner attending to her huge steamer and convey the best rolls.

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Bun oc
(Snail noodle soup)

Forget chicken and beef – sea snail noodle soup is Hanoi's classic comfort food. A standard bowl comes with rice vermicelli (bun), tofu, sometimes beef and crab meat, and a heaping plate from the greens that is included with most Vietnamese dishes. Key ingredients in the broth are tomatoes, wine vinegar, and pepper, giving it a pleasant kick. It can be found all over Hanoi, but locals will recommend a bowl on Ngo Sy Lien alley, inside a shop tucked behind the marketplace of the same name in Ba Dinh district. Good bun oc shops are exclusively open during the night as this dish is traditionally served in evenings.

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Lau
(Vietnamese hot-pot)

You can't travel to Hanoi and lose out on hot-pot. Even though it may appear intimidating initially, it's could be the truest method to experience street food life in the city. Gather round the central pot of bubbling broth (often already prepared with tasty spices) and drop in a lot of whatever vegetables, meat and seafood are to your liking. Cheer with traditional rice wine until it's cooked. Choose Lau Hang Beo on Tran Phu street (Ba Dinh district) to experience the real thing. For the most daring, some restaurants near the West Lake concentrate on frog hot-pot.

Hanoi-style barbecue

Grab a plastic basket and some tongs; a Hanoi barbecue street food stall is a little just like a farmers market, but with more squid and cow udders. A popular barbecue in the Old Quarter at 66 P Hang Bong has a good selection of veggies, meat kebabs, and seafood skewers. After choosing from the mystery meats (there is nothing labelled), pull up excrement and obtain grilling on a single from the mini burners which are placed each and every table. Another barbecue at 61 P Quan Su offers tasty ribs, glazed okra, and funky-looking enoki mushrooms.

Bun ca
(Noodle soup with fish)

Just one of the soups in the 'bun' family (with rice vermicelli noodles) with fried fish pieces. Commonly enjoyed at lunch, here the broth is ready with vegetables often including a variant of 'morning glory' – a popular leaf commonly stir-fried or boiled. A mix of aromatic herbs, including cilantro and dill, result in the taste unique. To try probably the most fragrant bun ca visit Bun Ca Van on Quan Thanh, in Ba Dinh district. Ask for a 'thap cam' (mixed toppings).

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Banh xeo and nem lui
(Crispy pancakes and lemongrass pork skewers)

Most banh xeo places also serve nem lui, grilled pork sausages sometimes presented on a lemongrass skewer. P Doi Can, Ba Dinh District, has numerous street vendors that sell this popular dish, that is intended to be enjoyed in the evenings.

Mien xao luon
(Glass noodles with eel)

Like sliced pig-ear meat, eel is not an infrequent ingredient in Vietnamese salads. And no one serves it quite like Dong Thinh at 87 P Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem District. For mien xao luon, crispy eel is mixed with stir-fried glass noodles, egg, and bean sprouts. Other options include mien tron (noodles tossed with eel, cucumber, and herbs) and chao luon (eel porridge). A presentation case out front is kept filled to the brim with dried eel, and with the constant foot traffic it's not hard to see why.

Banh da tron
(Mixed flat rice noodles)

For a distinctive local food experience, head to 42C P Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem District. You will see a woman along the side of the road with a carrying pole and two baskets: one holds a steaming pot and the other is filled with raw ingredients. She carries this every single day, and mostly feeds hungry workers in offices throughout their lunch breaks. Her speciality is banh da tron: thick, flat noodles topped with sausage, fried fish cakes, tofu, peanuts and leafy vegetables. Thin glass noodles called mien are another option.

Banh tom
(Hanoi shrimp cakes)

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Banh goi
(Crispy 'empanadas')

For more fried goodies, head to a slightly off-the-beaten track spot, near the famous Hanoi Train Street. Around 10 Ton That Thiep street (the numbers of houses can be approximate in the area) in Ba Dinh District, a street food shop serves banh goi – a pillow-shaped pastry holding minced pork, wood ear mushrooms, vermicelli noodles and a quail egg – but also ha cao (fried dumpling), banh pho mai (fried cheese stick) and nem chua ran (fried fermented sausage). The store welcomes customers only from three to 7pm.

My ga tan
(Chicken noodles in herbal broth)

The chickens are stuffed into empty soda and beer cans with aromatic Chinese herbs. Next, the cans are put over heat, allowing the meat to soak up the flavours while it simmers. Egg noodles (my) are added to the stew, and Vietnamese recommend the soup's healing properties. Quan Cay Si restaurant at 29 Tong Duy Tan in Hoan Kiem District delivers the best in town.

Che
(Colourful sweet dessert soup)

To finish off with something sweet, try che, a 'sweet soup' made of layers including red bean and mungo bean pastes, glutinous rice balls in starch and herbal jelly cubes, topped with syrup and coconut shreds. This is actually the Hanoian version however, you will discover che across the country in many variations. On evenings and weekends, the Old Quarter buzzes with young people sipping lemon tea and spitting sunflower seeds, gathering at che places. A recommended address is Xoi Che Ba Thin at 1 Bat Dan in Hoan Kiem District. Order the mixed che thap cam and ensure they last with their town-famous jasmine syrup.

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