Ones would immediately think about the big names like Phở, Bún Chả or Chả Cá when talking about Hanoian foods. There are, however, much more to this city’s menu! From main course, appetizer, desert to even beverage, here are some of the less-talked-about delicious food in Hanoi and they are definitely worth interrupting your journey in this beautiful city for.
Cà phê trứng (Egg coffee)
Wonderful inventions sometimes come from ideas that are absolutely crazy and non-sense. Cà phê trứng, a beverage made from the doubtful combination of egg and coffee, is one of those sensational inventions. It was first introduced in the now famous Giang Café located in narrow alley of the Hanoi Old Quarter. Cà phê trứng’s ingredients list consists of beaten egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and Robusta coffee. In some versions, butter and cheese are also added. The “liquid tiramisu”, as Cà phê trứng is sometimes described, does not have the taste of raw egg but instead something like vanilla. Its success not only resides on its light sweet taste but also on its unique texture – creamy and foamy. Usually enjoyed hot but Cà phê trứng is equally tasty cold when its savor is much like coffee ice-cream. The Cà phê trứng should be in everyone’s list of temptations!
Cà phê trứng is one of Hanoi's most-loved items to foreigners (Photo: Vietnammoi)
Nem chua rán (Fried fermented pork sausage)
This is a super star of Vietnamese street food and a specialty of Hanoi. Tasty, deliciously crispy and pleasantly spicy, the Nem chua rán is the result of mixing cured fermented pork, shredded pork skin, flour and some spices. They are then worked into cigar-like rolls, covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried. The secret is in the fermented pork (nem chua), a Vietnamese tradition in which minced pork is stored for a natural fermentation process for three to five days in a cool place. Understandably, the fermented pork may seem odd for some; however, after being deep fried, it is not at all unsanitary nor has a strange taste. It is rather the key for a good Nem chua rán – crispy on the outside and soft inside. Nem chua rán is often enjoyed with a mild spicy dipping sauce and a side of cucumber, papaya or even mango. It is a brilliant when combined with beer as well. Nem chua rán – Vietnamese snacks at their very best.
Nem chua rán on sticks (Photo: Lozi)
Phở cuốn (rolled ‘Phở”)
Phở cuốn is an amazing comfort food that is brilliant as both a main course and an appetizer. It is made by wrapping seasoned fried beef, onion, lettuce and other aromatic herbs in sheets of rice paper and is served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. It is a delicious completed and balanced bite of food, both in flavors (sweet, sour, and salty) and ingredients (meat, starch and vegetable). More importantly, it is a great creation inspired by the famous Phở. Its wrapping rice paper, when cut into strips, becomes the noodles that are used in the actual Phở noodle soup. Beef and herbs, the must-have ingredients in Phở, also make their presence in these beautiful rolls. It is truly a tasty and interesting experience!
Rolled Phở is Hanoi's ultimate comfort food (Photo: Internet)
Tào phớ (Hanoian douhua)
Tào phớ is a beautiful desert with an incredible subtle sweet flavor. Though originated in China, it is now enjoyed in many versions in many countries. Within Vietnam itself, Tào phớ varies significantly throughout the different regions of the country. The Hanoian version of Tào phớ has an amazing light flavor and aroma and it can be deliciously enjoyed warm or iced. A bowl of Hanoian Tào phớ simply includes pieces of soybean curd (or soft tofu) in the jasmine flower and ginger infused sugary broth. Later versions may involve adding jelly, coconut or other toppings; however, the humble Hanoian Tào phớ’s would always be most appreciated when being kept simple. Rain or shine, cold or warm, this refreshing desert would be a very pleasant addition to your journey around the pretty Hanoi.
Tào phớ is a very refreshing dessert (Photo: Lozi)
Bò bía (Honeycomb, coconut wrap desert)
Looking for a made-to-order sweet snack while walking around the streets of Hanoi? Bó bía ngọt would be a great choice for you. It is delicious, cheap, quick to make and easy to eat (no utensil needed). The typical large white boxes with the words ‘Bò bía ngọt’ in red, sticking to the back of many bicycles parking by the streets are where you can find these lovely snacks. They are sweet little wraps combining ingredients that may not seem to relate or go well together, yet produces something spectacular. A small piece of honeycomb candy, some shredded coconut and a sprinkle of black sesame seed are wrapped in a piece of soft crepe (made from rice flour) to make a complete Bò bía ngọt. One whole wrap is hand-made right when you order it and takes second to get done. It is a absolutely perfect combination of many elements in a desert. For texture, you have the crunchiness of pieces of honeycomb candy and sesame seed combines with the chewiness of the coconut altogether in the softness of the wrap. The sweet candy and coconut are eased out by the lightness of the wrap. Thanh Niên street – runs in between West lake and Trúc Bạch lake – is where you can find hundreds of the Bò bía bicycles. It is just a delightful bite of food that truly sweetens up your journey around Hanoi.
The bikes that sell bò bía are very recognizable (Photo: Lozi)
Bò bít tết (fried beef, gravy and eggs)
The most Western of the Vietnamese dishes, Bit Tet has the ability of providing pure bliss to those who try it. It is actually the perfect combination between the western originated food and local ingredients. Including a piece of beef steak, eggs, fries, pâté and a tasty gravy all served in a hot plate, it is the delicious Vietnamese version of the French biftek. The ingredients, of course, are cooked beef with the Hanoian style and some unique local ingredients are added. The tiny street of Hoe Nhai – locally called the “beefsteak street”- is the best place to taste this tempting dish which is usually served with bread (banh mi) to mop up all that savory gravy. Bit tet is the perfect choice for those who miss a little Western flavor but are also in love with the Vietnamese cuisine.
Bò bít tết is commonly served on cow-shaped cast iron pans (Photo: Lozi)
Nộm bò khô (Papaya beef jerky salad)
In between the rich nutritious meals during your time in Hanoi, a healthy salad would be a very reasonable option. Made with papaya, peanuts, several kinds of dried beef and of course, a delicious spicy and sweet dressing, Nộm bò khô is amongst some of the best salads in the Vietnamese cuisine. Its beef is cut into big thin slices, soaked with salt, sugar, oil, ginger and chili for about one night before being dried off in the oven. Such process allows the meat to be sweet, salty but still incredible meaty. It goes brilliantly with the crispiness of the julienned green papaya and some crunchy roasted peanuts and altogether, they are combined by a light dressing. As the other main dishes of the Vietnamese traditional gastronomy, this can be found in the Old Quarter, near Hoan Kiem Lake. Nộm bò khô is a wonderful way to add some vegetable into your diet while visiting Hanoi – a sweet and spicy wonder.
Nộm bò khô: a great way to start a meal or simply to snack (Photo: Youtube)