My husband and I were in Vietnam for 2 weeks in July, 2009.
Below is a review of some of the best places we ate at in Hanoi. I will post separate threads for the other destinations or it will get too long.
We ate everywhere; street food, markets, local restaurants and some tourist-oriented places. In Hanoi we stayed and the Elegance 4, on the edge of the old quarter and cathedral district, and most of these places are within walking distance.
Quon An Ngon Restaurant
We went here for our first meal with two young women from a group called "Hanoi Kids". They are college students who give free tours around the city in order to practice their English. It's very crowded when we arrive and we are seated inside and upstairs. Quan An Ngon is in a large, villa style house, and has numerous food stations which mimic street stalls. You can order from the stalls or do as we did, order from a large menu. This place is very popular with both tourists and locals.
As we were still pretty jet lagged, we let the girls order for us; Pho ga (Noodle soup with chicken), Pho xao gion (Beef with greens and soft noodles -what they called “dry pho”), Mi xao hai san (seafood noodles) and Nem cua be ( fried spring rolls). All that with 1 beer, 2 sodas and 2 cha drinks was 250,000 VND (about $14.20). The meal was good, but as it turns out, no where near the best one we’d have. Quon An Ngon (18 Phan Boi Chau St.)
For dinner, we walk down the street from our hotel and found “Pho 10″ (10 Ly Quoc Su, at corner of Chan Cam St), a simple street front place. I always thought pho was just for breakfast in Vietnam, but I guess I was wrong. This place, which does about 10 versions of beef pho only, was packed with locals slurping down their dinner.
The kitchen is a glassed in cube staffed by very young men serving up soup and a couple of fried noodle dishes. The servers are all young women in matching t-shirts with the restaurant’s name on them. As typical in most storefront restaurants in South East Asia, the owner, a woman of a certain age, sits at a desk near the front door, watching over all.
We both ordered “Pho Tai Bap” (Beef Filet Noodle) and a Bia Hanoi. All excellent. Unlike in the US, this pho was not served with a plate of herbs and vegetable garnish. Instead, it was simply garnished with fresh mint and there were crocks of chili sauce and pickled garlic slices on the table. A perfect, easy first dinner at 80,000 VND total. Highly recommended.
We ate here again a couple of nights later and it was just as good the second time.
Bun Cha Dac Kim
I still dream about this place and how good the bun cha was...
We go in and are ushered to a small room up a very narrow set of stairs. There’s no menu; we’re asked what we want to drink and then the food is brought to us. On the table already is a massive plate of greens and herbs, a plate heaped high with cooked rice noodles, and a bowl of sliced chilies and chopped garlic.
They bring us each a bowl filled with grilled pork patties wrapped in herbs and sliced grilled pork, swimming in a sweet/sour vinegar sauce. There’s also a huge plate of Nem Cua Da (fried pork filled spring rolls).
One of the women working there senses just the barest hesitation on our part and jumps in to show us how to eat everything. Some noodles in the empty bowl, top with a couple of spoon-fulls of pork and sauce from the other bowl. Add some garlic and chilies and a bit of greens. Mix it all up with chopsticks and enjoy! Later, we are relieved to know we’re not the only ones to receive such instruction; the Japanese couple who sits down next to us get the same.
Lunch for two (with a massive amount of food, too much to finish), 2 sodas, 130,000 VND. Bun Cha Dac Kim, #1 Hang Menh St, Hanoi. It's right in between Yen Thai (where the HE4 is) and Hang Non street.
Hang Be Market
Finally, we make it to the food market which is at the corner of Cau Go and Hang Be streets and forms an “L” about 2 blocks long on each side. It is outside, covered with tarps and awnings.
All kinds of food is sold here; meats, vegetables, seafood, flowers, cooked and prepared food. I am impressed with how clean it is. I’ve seen a lot of “wet” markets and this one is surprisingly tidy. It does not smell (which is a testament to how fresh everything is), there’s no slop on the ground, and very few flies even though there is plenty of meat sitting out unrefrigerated. Yet, this is clearly a local’s market, not one set up for tourists. In fact, as far as I can tell, we are the only non-locals there, which earns us a few curious glances, nothing more.
We wander through, checking out everything and stop at a woman near the center of the market making banh cuon. These are glutinous rice crepes, steamed on what looks like a piece of cheesecloth stretched over a pot of water. The woman spreads out the mixture, then lifts lets it rest for about 10 seconds and then lifts it up with a pair of chopsticks. The crepe is then filled with a mixture of pork and mushrooms. We decide to sit on the tiny blue stools and partake, right there in the market. We get one order, which is a plate of about 6 crepes served with a dipping sauce. They are wonderful and cost 10,000 VND for the plate.
Bun Bo Nam Bo
For a mid-afternoon snack, we go to one of the places for which I have a recommendation for Bun Bo. This place is right around the corner from the hotel, and even at 3PM has a fair amount of people in it, slurping down noodles. These were really tasty; dry rice noodles with beef, lettuce, green onions, and topped with fried shallots and peanuts. There’s a bit of sauce in the bottom of the bowl too, so it’s not completely dry.
Bun Bo Nam Bo, 67 Hang Dieu, Hanoi
If you'd like to see photos of all the food, or more about what we did in terms of sightseeing, it's all on my website at http://www.wired2theworld.com