A foodie’s guide to dining hotspots in Hanoi

We were recently blessed with 5 days off from our hyperactive 2 year old, when both sets of grandparents, ie. My folks as well as the inlaws came to visit in KL. Both pairs of grandparents agreed to jointly babysit the rascal, so me and the hubs got away for a quick vacay in Hanoi.

YES! We couldn’t get out the door fast enough. Good and bad actually.

Can you say, “Hanoi Vacay…” and not break into a smile??

Now with so little time to plan, we realized we didn’t have any friends who lived in Hanoi and also didn’t have enough time to get our act together, to research and organize some serious, major foodie excursions in the exotic land of Hanoi. So it was then that we decided to get some insider tips on Hanoi though withlocals.com (a platform we had been keeping an eye on for a while).

vibrant and exotic.. what’s not to like about Hanoi?

Through this portal we quickly decided on a local host named Khanh to show us around Hanoi, and boy were we glad we did! Without wasting anytime at all, we were submerged into the local world of our tour guide. A personalized Hanoi food tour, if there’s a better way to put it. And let me tell you, it was awesome!

yum yum yummy xoi xeo

Our day started with an amazing breakfast – every foodie’s dream come true. Instead of bacon and eggs, it was rice. That’s right.. Sticky Rice! This dish is called xoi xeo – it’s a bright yellow, rice dish and you really can’t miss it. The colour comes from turmeric powder. The dish comprises glutinous rice, turmeric powder, mung bean, shallot and liquid fat. We were taken to a wet market early in the A.M for this. Totally worth the early morning start I tell ya.

Then we spent time exploring the area till it was time for lunch. Pho and Banh Mi of course were on the menu. How can you go to Hanoi and not try these?! Pho Bat Dan is as famous for its delicious beef noodles as it is for its long queue throughout the day. The beef served here is soft and succulent, fresh, cooked to perfection and well sliced.

un-pho-gettable PHO

The broth is sweet, all thanks to the beef bones being carefully stewed for hours. As for the Banh Mi, alongside classics like grilled pork, Hanoi banh mi vendors are creating new mashups such as creatively stuffing them with French fries and fermented sausages. We were taken by our guide to a couple of great places for Banh Mi. From Banh mi pa te, and Banh mi trung to Banh mi thit xien we stuffed ourselves silly.

Moving along and rather quickly, we found Khanh had more interesting places to introduce us to. Bún thịt nướng (Vietnamese Grilled Pork & Rice Noodles) is another must not miss.

simply delish Bún thịt nướng

Thịt nướng means barbecued meat Bún (pronounced more like boon) means noodles, and for this dish it’s a rice vermicelli noodle. The noodles are topped with grilled pork, fresh herbs like basil and mint, fresh salad, bean sprouts and chả giò (spring rolls). The dish is dressed in nước mam fish sauce, roasted peanuts, Vietnamese pickled carrots, nem nướng̣  ie. grilled garlic pork sausage or grilled prawns.

Just when you think you have no more space to breath, a great brew of Vietnamese coffee does the trick and goes down easy. Giang Café is a charming place hidden in the narrow streets of Hanoi’s old city. The cafe is famous for its egg coffee that tastes like tiramisu – smooth and delicious, this is a must try.

Also go to Cafe Pho Co housed in the narrow, cobbled streets of Hanoi’s old quarter.

coffee .. or tiramisu..? or both?

The beans are well brewed, characterized by a full-on aroma. From the rooftop of Cafe Pho Co the picturesque views of the Hoan Kiem Lake can be seen. Highly IG-worthy! Finally Cafe Nhi that’s not far from Long Biên Bridge, serves fah-bu-lous espresso-based coffee drinks, silky textured lattes plus also Vietnamese filter coffees. These are the bomb.

So imagine how much foodie ground we covered in just a day with Withlocals. It totally maximised our time spent and reduced the headache of getting lost and not knowing where to go. Khanh left us with a big smile and with a lot of extra tips for the rest of our Hanoi break. Taking this tour on the day we arrived was a good choice, as she introduced us to local stuff that we might not have tried. She was friendly and easy to get along with, and her English was also very good so no problems with understanding each other. The only problem? A distended stomach.. which is a good problem to have, if you ask me! I can think of worse things to suffer from, oh for sure;)

For the subsequent days, the local experience was no less amazing. In fact we had eaten so much in the first 2 days, we really needed to tailor and take the itinerary down a notch. The excellent point of using Withlocals is that the food tour is 100% customizable and the hosts can just change and adapt to suit your needs and all you need to do is just ask. 5 days flew by in a flash.

Only too soon we had to return to our screaming toddler. Where had the holiday gone?!

We will definitely be using this platform again for our future foodie escapades. Best time ever!



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