Whether you’re an adventurous eater or prefer to stick to the local favourites, here’s a list of 10 things you have to eat in Vietnam and the best spots to find them in Hanoi.

Travelling is great for the chance to experience wonderful food. Vietnam’s food scene is a mix of flavours, aromas, textures and colours. From high-end tourist eateries to makeshift street vendors serving up the most bizarre concoctions, you’re guaranteed to send your taste buds on a journey. Come take a look at these ten things you have to eat in Vietnam.

1. Gỏi cuốn

things you have to eat in vietnam

These fresh spring rolls are always a winner. Lined with fresh greens and coriander, they are packed with steamed prawns, crab or minced pork and rice noodles. They’re tightly wrapped in rice paper and served with a rich peanut sauce.

Alternatively, nước chấm is the common dipping sauce, and no table is ever without a bowl.

These are a great alternative to deep fried spring rolls, especially on a hot summer day. Perfect as a snack or full-on lunch, you’ll love these bite-sized dippers at any time of the day.

Best Spots: Wild Rice at 6 Ngô Thì Nhậm, Wrap ‘n Roll, Quan An Ngon

Price: Around 60,000 VND

2. Bún Chả

Bun cha things you have to eat in vietnam hanoi

This is a Vietnamese speciality and at lunchtime you can see locals barbecuing pork patties on the street, the air filled with sizzling smoky goodness. Seared slices of pork belly and mini meat balls are served in bowls of warm broth.

Do it like the locals and grab some rice noodles, garnish with fresh mint and dig in. Order a side of crispy nem ran (fried spring rolls) for the full experience. Street-style bún chả is nearly impossible to find after 2pm, so get there early!

Best Spots: 216 Đội Cấn (Ba Đình), Dac Kim Bun Cha at 67 Đường Thành (Old Quarter)

Price: Around 40,000 VND

3. Phở

pho things you have to eat in vietnam pho

This iconic Vietnamese staple is found on literally every street corner. Pronounced “fuh”, this noodle dish is a breakfast favourite among the locals. It may look light but the dish comprises flat rice noodles in a clear broth of spring onion, cloves, star anise, ginger and coriander, topped with thinly sliced beef or chicken.

A great tonic for a hangover or the flu, a soothing bowl of phở will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Add some sliced chilli for an extra kick. Pull up a chair, street phở is where it’s at.

Best Spots: Phở Gia Truyền at 49 Bát Đàn, 10 Lý Quốc Sư Street (Old Quarter)

Price: Around 30,000 VND

4. Nộm Hoa Chuối – Banana Flower Salad

banana flower salad things you have to eat in vietnam

The key ingredients of lime and chilli add a zesty zing to this fresh composition. The crispy shallot flakes and chopped roasted peanuts add a nice crunch to every bite. You can order this salad with shredded chicken or beef and some places even throw in sliced mango – divine!

Banana blossoms are commonly found throughout Southeast Asia and have a slightly bitter taste. When added to fresh components of papaya, onion, carrots, mint and coriander, this salad is ideal as a tasty lunch or side dish.

Best Spots: New Day at 22 Ma May (Old Quarter), Sesame at 12 Đặng Thai Mai (Westlake)

Price: Around 60,000 VND

5. Chả Cá

Cha Ca things you have to eat in vietnam hanoi

This seafood dish of Vietnamese fish cakes is a firm contender with bún chả for the lunchtime favourite. Each bite bursts with intense flavours of dill, turmeric and fresh ginger. Served on a bed of rice noodles, chả cá is traditionally made with snakehead fish or catfish, topped with scattered peanuts, chilli and fried shallots.

Look out for the Chả Cá sign on any street, pull up one of those plastic stools and, without needing to utter a word, you’ll soon find a bowl of chả cá and a glass of draught beer in front of you.

Best Spots: Chả Cá Lã Vọng at 3 Chả Cá (Old Quarter), street vendors along Xuân Diệu (Westlake)

Price: Around 40,000 VND

6. Bún Bò Nam Bộ

things you have to eat in vietnam bun bo nam bo hanoi

This simple, yet elegant dish is popular in both the north and south of Vietnam. Beef strips are marinated in fish sauce and herbs, adding to the tangy richness of the sauce. Essential ingredients to a traditional bún bò nam bộ are lemon, fried garlic, chilli, bean sprouts and, yup you guessed it… roasted peanuts!

Get your chopsticks dirty and stir up all the ingredients, right down to that tangy sauce at the bottom of your bowl. Best washed down with an ice-cold beer – bottoms up!

Best Spots: 67 Hàng Điếu Street (Old Quarter), Zenith Yoga (for a veggie alternative)

Price: Around 50,000 VND

7. Bánh Xèo

Bánh Xèo hanoi things you have to eat in vietnam

These crispy pancakes are a signature dish originating in central Vietnam. With so many variations of this street food, each region has its own unique twist and style. Down south, don’t be surprised to find coconut, mushrooms and lotus tossed into your pancake. Across the country, pork, shrimp, mung beans and bean sprouts are folded in.

Initially a meal for the working class, bánh xèo has since claimed a spot on menus throughout Vietnam. While Hoi An is where you can typically find these giant crêpes in all their glory, the streets of Hanoi are littered with tucked-away places serving these delicious savoury pancakes. Lunch on the go, anyone? Definitely one for our list of things you have to eat in Vietnam.

Best Spots: Bánh Xèo Zòn Pancake (Old Quarter), Quán Ăn Ngon

Price: Around 40,000 VND

8. Vietnamese BBQ

things you have to eat in vietnam hanoi bbq

Vietnamese BBQ is, hands down, the ultimate street food. Wander down any street from 6pm and you’ll hear the sizzling of just about anything you lay your eyes on.

Aside from the standard chicken, pork and duck, there are also weird offerings that may appeal to your adventurous side. From snake, eel and chicken feet, to goat testicles – point to what you want and they’ll slap it on the BBQ!

Not your typical BBQ joint, “Chicken Street” is BBQ heaven. Located on Lý Văn Phúc, you’ll be treated to the tastiest chicken cuts, honey-glazed breads and roast potatoes. Don’t forget the mandatory beer that should accompany every BBQ.

Best Spots: BBQ Chicken Street on Lý Văn Phúc, BBQ Beef Delights at 45 Ma May Street

Price: Anywhere from 50,000 – 100,000 VND

9. Bò Lúc Lắc

Bo Luc Lac hanoi things you have to eat in vietnam

Literally translated to “shaking beef”, a plate of this saucy goodness is perfect for lunch or dinner. Succulent beef cubes are tossed in garlic, black pepper, sautéed onion and soy sauce. Then, typically served on a bed of watercress with a side bowl of steamed rice.

Best paired with a crisp cocktail or ice-cold Hanoi beer, this is a meal to be enjoyed as you watch the whirring of tourists and locals scooting by through the streets.

Best Spots: Cuisine Viet at 80 Ma May, Purple Cherry at Phan Đình Phùng Street (Ba Dinh)

Price: Around 60,000 VND

10. Sinh Tố – Smoothies

smoothie hanoi things you have to eat in vietnam

No matter where you’re staying, there’s bound to be a smoothie café right around the corner. Start your day with a fresh fruit smoothie, hell… have one for lunch, as a snack, sundowner, dessert, whenever. You can thank us later.

A refreshing blend of fresh fruit and condensed milk, flavours range from mango and kiwi to more acquired tastes like durian and jackfruit.

Bear in mind that drinks are often extremely sweet in Vietnam. Order your drinks không đường (without sugar) and you’ll feel less guilty about your calorie intake. Side tip – adding a sprig of fresh mint is always a winner.

Best Spots: Street vendors, Oriberry, Cộng Cà Phê (while you’re there try the coconut coffee, too!)

Price: Around 25,000 VND

With our list of things you have to eat in Vietnam, your foodie journey through the streets of Hanoi is bound to be un-phở-gettable!

Has our list of things you have to eat in Vietnam got you keen for adventure? Come check out Topedck’s Asia trips.

Nadia Marth
Nadia is an aspiring travel writer from Cape Town. Having recently spent a few years living in Southeast Asia, she’s got a serious case of the travel bug and has a weakness for Thai food. When she’s not planning holidays you can catch her at the theatre or taking her dogs for long walks on the beach.