Hanoi Vietnam Street Eats

(Last Updated On: August 15, 2017)

Hanoi is a jolt to the senses. It welcomes you in with its intoxicating smells, exotic and strange sights. At the same time warning signals go off, cautioning you to hold the place at a distance. There are the dense traffic with an endless sea of motorbikes seeming to follow absolutely no observable rules and the endless rows of people asking you to stop and look at whatever it is that they are selling. And then there are the wonderful vaguely familiar odors from the street vendors that beckon you to try a taste, but leave you hesitating and questioning what is actually on offer. Is that chicken, beef, frog or even dog? In Vietnam they have it all. And by the time we left, they also had us – we were completely won over.

Hoan Kiem Lake - An island of tranquility in Hanoi
Hoan Kiem Lake – An island of tranquility in Hanoi

One of the things that we loved best about Vietnam was the street food. This was particularly true of Sean, who likes to say “You know me, I’ll eat anything.” Brave words in Vietnam, and he was given ample opportunity to eat those words along with many many other interesting delicacies.

Typical Hanoi Street Food
Typical Hanoi Street Food – not sure if I’m ready for this…..

Within a short time of arriving in Hanoi we joined a Local Life Street Food Tour with Buffalo Tours (one of their Vietnam Tour options). We tasted things that ranged from the tame to those things that only, well, someone like Sean the adventurous eater, would be comfortable nibbling. And honestly, some of the things he gobbled down surprised even me.

We got the evening started by stopping by the street market to pick out some of Vietnam’s exotic fruit. Many of the fruit was new to us and it was a deliciously sweet introduction to the local life street food of Hanoi.

Smiling Buddah Fruit
Irresistible piece of fruit grown into the shape of a smiling buddha
Hanoi Street Eats
Our first taste of street food in Hanoi

Like most soups in Vietnam it was served with extra condiments on the side. We waited on the small, squat plastic stools that surround every street vendor and beer corner restaurant in the city.

Buffalo Food Tour Hanoi
Vendor keeps a close eye on our Buffalo Tour Guide as he prepares our soup

I enjoyed the soup but I’ll admit the texture is something that would take some getting used to. But the best part of this tasting was the huge smile that the vendor (who has been making this soup for all of her adult life) rewarded us with after we learned how to say “Thank you” in Vietnamese to her. Interesting how this small thing connected us to the experience just a little bit more.

Vietnam Food Tour
Rewarded with a smile from the soup lady!

Next we sampled a fried spring roll at the evening market where many locals were shopping for fresh meat, produce and seafood (along with sampling some of the same street food we were enjoying).

The fried spring roll was a hit with everyone on our food tour of Hanoi
The fried spring roll was a hit with everyone on our food tour of Hanoi

Then we stopped to try skewers of pork grilled with a sweet spicy chili sauce grilled over charcoal. This was my favorite bite of the evening. The marinated pork, and perfectly cooked to order – tangy, tender, and delicious, especially with the extra spicy sauce added just before it was taken off the grill.

Grilled Pork with Spicy Chili Sauce
Grilled Pork with Spicy Chili Sauce
Hanoi Street Food Grilled Pork Skewer
Grilled pork skewer with spicy chili sauce – as good as it looks

At this point we joined the crowds of people enjoying some of Vietnam’s favorite beverage – fresh beer. Huge crowds of locals actually spill out onto the streets each evening to drink a glass or two (or more),  each of which run about 30 cents US. Learning the price made Sean like it even more. We paired the beer with fried pork balls and pork skin steamed in banana leaves, which we learned are standard drinking snacks at what are known as “beer corners” throughout Hanoi.

Hanoi Fresh Beer
Beer does taste better when it’s 30 cents per glass
Hanoi Bar Snack
Salty fried pork – the perfect Hanoi bar snack food
Pork steamed in a banana leaf
Pork steamed in a banana leaf

From here, things got a bit more adventurous when our guide asked if we wanted to try baby quail. And of course, Sean did.

Next we headed off a street vendor that was serving up a selection of barbecue options that were grilled and then finished cooking on a mini grill on each table. We selected some bacon wrapped mushrooms, beef, salmon, bok choy, french bread slathered with honey, and a whole frog. Well, the frog was just for Sean, and – yes, while I sat in stunned amazement, he ate the whole thing. Ribbet!

Hanoi Street Grill
Selection of food to finish cooking on our own table top grill
Hanoi Grilled Frog
Sean had this frog all to himself

The last bit of the evening was also unusual, not for what it was, but where it was served. In order to find it, we strolled along the lake after the guide expertly ushered us across yet another Hanoi road mobbed with scooters. As we learned, when crossing the street you find your moment and set out into the swarm of traffic, being careful to walk in a straight line and making a mental agreement with  yourself and the motorist that you will continue moving until you reach the other side. Somehow if you do this the rider will move around you and you will have mastered the zen of street crossing in Vietnam. My personal strategy was to cling to Sean’s arm and just try my best to keep moving and not to look. That seemed to work too (or I’m sure I’d be writing a very different story).

Once across the street the view of the lake was a nice re

Hanoi Traffic
Don’t worry, they will work around you

ward. We made our way along and entered what seemed to be a parking lot. Here there were dozens of scooters parked in front of a vendor selling ice cream – in just one flavor – coconut. Our first notion of the communist nature of Vietnam. Everyone is treated equally, and while you may not have a lot of choices, at the end of the day, you will not be lacking. And in this particular case, the choice and the flavor was really, really good.

Pin it for later:Hanoi Street Eats

Related stories about SE Asia that you might enjoy:

The Most Dangerous Place in Bangkok

Thailand – Should I Confess?

Bangkok’s Best Flavors Brought Home

A special thank you to our friends at Buffalo Tours, Asia Small Group and Custom Tour Specialists, who hosted us on this Local Life Hanoi Street Eats TourOur opinions, as always, remain our own.

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17 thoughts on “Hanoi Vietnam Street Eats”

  1. Street food is the best way to get a good handle on the cultural norms surrounding food. I’ve also found it to be the most economical and delish! Thanks so much for sharing, now I am fully starving…need a quick trip to Vietnam I guess:)

  2. I spent three months in Vietnam and loved that fresh beer! You’re right, it’s wonderfully cheap and I just love the idea of sitting out on the street on those tiny plastic stools enjoying a good old pint! Well done for eating the frog Sean (also one of my favourite snacks and a dish which is really popular in Cambodia too)

  3. I would have joined for the experience, and that’s about it. I will get yelled at here, but I really do not like Asian food. I find it all tastes the same. And while to most it is full of flavor, to me it has too many flavors – so many that I can’t distinguish one from the other and eventually don’t know what I am eating. I am also easily grossed out. That chicken (is that a chicken) and that frog look horrifying to me! I am a picky picky picky eater, I know. I think it is sad to be like this, but I can’t help it!

  4. Wow, you guys are much more adventurous eaters than we are! If I ever make it to Vietnam, I may just stick to the “beer corners.” The salty fried pork balls look good though. Would love to toss back a few fresh beers while snacking on those.

  5. It looks like the Youtube video is set to Private, though I would love to watch it 🙂 Sounds like quite the adventure – I’m usually good with eating meat if it doesn’t look like the animal lol so I’m not sure how I would go with that frog either 😀

  6. Great post! Wish to visit Hanoi one day. Well, I won’t say I’ll eat everything but I’d like to try the street food there. The skewer food looks like satay. Thanks for sharing your adventure. Awesome pictures!


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