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    Taste Hanoi’s bia hoi street food culture with these essential dishes
    Pull up a plastic chair and break out the chopsticks
    The best street food in Hanoi
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    Hanoi

    Traipse through the Old Quarter and you’ll discover some of the best street food in Hanoi, where the smell of grilled pork and freshly baked French baguettes permeates every street food stall. As the food capital of Vietnam, Hanoi boasts thousands of hungry tourists and locals alike cramming onto plastic stools across the city – inhaling steaming bowls of rice vermicelli noodles or crunching their way through a freshly made banh mi.

    We’ve narrowed down some of the best Vietnamese dishes to try while you’re in the city, with a guide to Hanoi’s street food scene below.

    Bun cha

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    1. Bun cha

    This hearty bowl of noodles is one of Hanoi’s greatest claims to culinary fame and there’s something new to uncover with every bite. It features perfectly charred pork belly and meatballs, light vermicelli and a tangy dressing loaded with fish sauce, garlic and chili – topped naturally with a generous helping of bean sprouts and fresh herbs. However, there’s a methodology to eating bun cha – much like Japanese tsukemen, you dip your noodles into the sauce and then load up your bite with pickled veggies, herbs and meat. The humble bun cha even has a presidential connection – the late Anthony Bourdain whisked President Obama off to have this dish at a humble Hanoi hole in the wall (now fondly known as Bun Cha Obama ) for his culinary travel show Parts Unknown.

    Pho bo

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    2. Pho bo (Beef pho noodles)

    Unsurprisingly, pho is on this list. As one of Vietnam’s most popular culinary exports, this fragrant beef noodle dish is beloved in Hanoi and every stall puts their own spin on it – purists will especially note the nuances between northern, Hanoi-style pho and pho from the south of Vietnam. Here, you’ll find thick rice noodles, a herb-loaded broth and slabs of beef. There’s a variety of ways to enjoy your pho – expert eaters head to a stall for breakfast and squeeze a lime wedge over their bowl for a welcoming punch of citrus. Basil and coriander bring freshness to the slow-cooked beef broth, which is served alongside sliced chillies for those who want to spice things up a bit. Head to the Old Quarter’s Pho Suong or Pho Vui and fuel up with a bowl for a day of sightseeing.

    Banh mi

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    Banh mi

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    3. Banh mi

    Some of the best baguettes in the world can be found in Vietnam and the banh mi has a fascinating history, born following a period of French occupation. Nowadays, you’ll find carts and restaurants all over the country touting these delicious sandwiches and many can be found in Hanoi. While the protein fillings may range from pate and pork floss to lemongrass-marinated beef, you can expect crunchy pickled veggies and generous sprinklings of herbs to be a mainstay, resulting in a hearty sandwich. In recent years, Hanoi’s been at the forefront of modern banh mi with Turkish doner meat fillings at Doner Kebab Duc Long and a ton of vegetarian offerings throughout the city, all alongside old stalwarts like Hue Street Banh Mi. 

    Ca phe trung

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    4. Ca phe trung (Egg coffee)

    While this is technically a drink, you’ll find vendors all over Hanoi whisking up these creamy coffees. Settle in on a plastic chair and start your day off right with ca phe trung, a strong cup of coffee whisked with egg yolks and condensed milk for a sugary yet strongly caffeinated experience. While coffee purists might turn their nose up at ca phe trung, its fluffy meringue texture and dessert-like quality make it an ideal morning pitstop for those with a sweet tooth.

    Cha ca

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    5. Cha ca (Fried fish)  

    When a dish has an entire street named after it, it’s safe to say it’s a city-wide specialty. Although cha ca is a little more involved than a grab-and-go banh mi, it’s worth stopping for a little while to indulge in this fragrant fish dish. In cha ca, snakehead fish is marinated in turmeric, grilled over hot coals with dill and spring onions and then fried at your table. Served with vermicelli prime for dipping in a fish sauce-based broth, shrimp paste and fresh herbs, it’s a uniquely Hanoi dish that’s bursting with flavour. Head to the Cha Ca La Vong at 14 Cha Ca Street where the dish originated, and don’t be fooled by the numerous spots with the same name trying to feed off its fame.

    Banh cuon

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    Banh cuon

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    6. Banh cuon (Steamed rice rolls)

    For anybody who loves cheung fun, these Vietnamese rice rolls will be right up your alley. Typically eaten for breakfast, these pork and vegetable stuffed rice flour parcels are a northern Vietnamese delicacy and come with a generous helping of bean sprouts, herbs, sliced pork sausages and a dipping sauce made from – you guessed it – fish sauce. Keep an eye out for stalls with big metal steamers, as you’re likely to find these treats squirrelled away in them.

    Bun oc

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    7. Bun oc (Snails with vermicelli noodles)  

    For the more adventurous gourmet, bun oc is a popular noodle staple amongst the locals with an unusual star ingredient: snails. Featuring a crimson tomato and bone-based broth, bun oc can also be served with piles of tofu, fried bananas, Vietnamese sausage and herbs, alongside rice noodles. Served either hot or cold with fresh herbs, you’ll find people tweaking the dish to their preferences with dollops of chilli sauce or shrimp paste for an extra kick. In the mornings, you’ll see residents queueing up for a bowl of this stuff especially at places like Bun Oc Co Them, which has specialised in this dish for generations.

    More inspiration

    Hanoi travel information