Recommended Places and Food in Hanoi By Local

As a city lying on the fertile field of Hong River, Hanoi keeps a-thousand-year cultural history of Vietnam and withholds unique attractive East Asian cultural values. Many valuable historic remnants were left in Hanoi since the year 1010 when King Ly Cong Uan moved Vietnam’s capital from Hoa Lu (Ninh Binh province) to Thang Long (Hanoi’s former name). 

In this article, I will recommend you some must-visit destinations and must-eat food in Hanoi that should be in your bucket list when travelling to Hanoi. 

I – Best Season To Visit Hanoi:

There are four seasons in Hanoi,mostly humid and hot with a lot of rain. In the summer, it is quite hot and rainy, but cold and dry in the winter. The spring and autumn, with comfortable weather, play the role as a transiting season and enrich climate diversity for the city. Every season of Hanoi is glamorous and worth exploring.

For instance, if you visit Hanoi in the spring from January to March, you will experience the exciting atmosphere of traditional Tet festival (Lunar New Year) in the light rainy weather with blossomed peach flowers coloring all streets with red and pink. As for romantic people, please come to Hanoi in July and September and you will be amazed by the leave-changing mosaic beauty of such streets as Phan Dinh Phung, Hoang Dieu, Kim Ma, etc.

Phan Dinh Phung street. (Photo: hanoihotels.info)

II – Must-visit Destinations in Hanoi:

Here, I will skip some popular destinations like Hoan Kiem Lake, Old Quarter, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, etc.

1/ Imperial Citadel of Thang Long:

In 2010, it was 1000 years since the day King Ly Cong Uan moved the capital to Hanoi, Thang Long royal castle was recognized by the UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee as the World Cultural Heritage. Although Thang Long Citadel was torn down throughout history, fortunately its main entrance to the Forbidden City (‘Cấm Thành’) – Doan Mon Gate is still remained. The Imperial Citadel of Thang Long is one of the regrettable things of Hanoi people, and Vietnamese people as general. If it was still in its complete shape, it would be comparable to the Forbidden City of China (‘Tử Cấm Thành’.)

  • Address: Quan Thanh District, Ba Dinh, Hanoi.
  • Opening hours: 08:00 – 17:00 every day except Monday.
  • Entrance ticket: 30.000 VNĐ ($1.32) (for students is 15.000 VNĐ ($0.64).
  • Public transportation: Bus number 22, 33, 45, 50.
Photo: TourHanoi

2/ St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church:

Catholics is the second biggest religion in Vietnam after Buddhism. From the sixteenth century, the European missionaries began to introduce Catholics to Vietnam. Over 5 centuries, Catholics became familiar with a large Vietnamese community. The religious values also left for Hanoi some beautiful architectures carrying uniqueness of European Gothic architecture, namely St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church, Ham Long Church, Cua Bac Church, Phung Khoang Church, An Thai Church, Thinh Liet Church, and Ha Dong Church. Out of those, St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church is the most famous one.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church was built in 1884 and consecrated on Christmas day in 1887. It is one of the first western architectures that were reconstructed in Hanoi. Its original name was Saint Joseph because Pope Innocentinus XI wanted to honour Saint Joseph as a saint protecting Vietnam and neighbouring countries. However, people usually call it ‘Nhà thờ Lớn’ (the Big Church.) It was also a cathedral of the Hanoi archdiocese.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church. (Photo: timeoutvietnam)

One interesting point to attracting tourists to St. Joseph’s Cathedral Church, which also has led to unique trademark of Hanoi people, is ‘Trà chanh nhà thờ’ (Church’s Lemon tea.) This area has become a familiar place of young Hanoians. With a cup of iced tea, sitting opposite to the church, visitors can feel relaxed enjoying the whole view of the church in ‘one of a kind’ area of the capital. In addition, there are famous night street food nearby, including cheese sticks, roasted fermented pork roll.

  • Location: Nha Trung street, about 5 minutes of walking away from Hoan Kiem Lake.
  • Small tip: Visitors can choose visiting Hoan Kiem Lake, Ngoc Son Temple, and rent a cyclo, which is always available on two side of pedestrian zones, to go to the Big Church.

3/ Temple of Literature:

In Hanoi, there is a place considered as the soul of Hanoi, the heart and symbol in the mind of Hanoi people. That is the first university of Vietnam – The Temple of Literature. Built in 1070 (King Ly Thanh Tong,) it was originally the school for princes and the place to worship Confucius scholars and sages, namely Khong Tu (Confucius), and Chu Van An.

The architecture of the Temple of Literature is unique with Confucius style. The most outstanding of the whole relic site is 83 Stelae of Doctors on turtles (only 1 stelae has only turtle). Those stelae were carved the names of the doctors who had passed the exams in Han language. According to archaeologists, the oldest stelae was constructed in 1484, and the newest in 1784. Those stelaes did not only have historical value, but also philosophical, architectural, and art values.

>>>We have a full article about the Temple of Literature, please click here.

Stelae of Doctors on turtles. (Photo: dkn.tv)

The relic site of the Temple of Literature was placed 23th on the list of National Monuments in Vietnam. If you have a chance to visit Hanoi, should not miss this place.

  • Location: 58 Quoc Tu Giam street, Dong Da District, Hanoi City.
  • Opening hours: 
    Monday – Friday: From 7:30 – 18:00 (I checked it from Mon- Fri not Thurs)
    Saturday – Sunday: From 8:00 –  21:00.
  • Entrance ticket: 30.000 VND/1 time ($1.32), 50% off for the disabled, students, the elder from 60 years old to above.
  • Public transportation: bus number 2, 23, 38, 41.

***From Hanoi, it is easy to visit other provinces like Sapa, Moc Chau, Cao Bang, etc.

II – Must-Eat Food in Hanoi:

Hanoi is not only famous for interesting places, but also for various cuisines which have all the quintessence of Hanoians. Let’s move on those already popular dishes, which had been introduced from the past Vietnam Track’s articles such as pho, bun cha, bun thang, cha ca La Vong, bun dau mam tom, banh tom Ho Tay, etc. Here, I will recommend you some other delicious dishes that you must try in Hanoi:

1/ Bún ốc (snail vermicelli soup)

Bun oc is easy to find because of its popularity; from street booth to restaurants, they all serve it.  The main ingredient is vermicelli noodles and snails, which have been cleaned. A bowl of bun oc is always colorful with distilled tomato and yellow banana. The taste is a perfect combination between soup with a little bit of greasiness, sour, and smell of vinegar. With thin slice of banana flowers and vegetables, the bowl becomes full of different flavors.

Bún ốc. (Photo: i.ytimg.com)

Recommended restaurants:

Ms. Beo at Hoe Nhai street,

Ms. Luong at Khuong Thuong street, 530 Thuy Khue,

Tinh Que restaurant at Cao Dat street,

Inside Dong Xuan market,

Around Tay Ho (West Lake).

2/ Banh cuon (Rolled rice crepes)

Banh cuon is made from rice flour through the skillful hands of the cooks to create a very thin and soft layer. Banh cuon has different types to keep up with the various tastes of people such as Banh cuon without filling, banh cuon filled with wood ear mushroom, banh cuon filled with egg, or shrimp, salted shredded meat, roasted cinnamon pork, etc.

However, the only thing to make banh cuon delicious is sour and spicy fish sauce, which is the cook’s secret. Using chopsticks to dip a piece of banh cuon in the sauce then put it straight into your mouth will give you an unforgettable experience.

Bánh cuốn. (Photo: i.ytimg.com)

Recommended restaurants:

Banh cuon Phuong, 68 Hang Cot (Hanoi),

Banh cuon Ms. Thoa at Ham Tu Quan street,

banh cuon Thanh Van at Hang Ga street.

3/ Pho cuon (rice noodle rolls)

If you already felt familiar with the pho with broth, then pho cuon (rice noodle rolls) will be an interesting thing for you to try when visiting Hanoi. It is different from pho with broth, but rather similar with banh cuon (rolled rice crepes). However, the flour is tougher and thicker. Inside the roll is fried beef, egg, vegetable; and it is served with sweet and sour fish sauce. The most delicious pho cuon is at Ngu Xa village, near Truc Bach lake; it is also the original place of the dish.

Phở cuốn.(Photo: chiecthiavang.com)

Recommended restaurant: Hung Ben restaurant at 33 Ngu Xa, Hanoi.

>>>For drinking beer, here is a good place to check out.

>>>Hanoi has a very special tea, click here to discover.

Writer: Linh Dang.
Translator: Diem Nguyen.

Vietnamese School Snacks

You may have known, and even tasted some popular Vietnamese cuisines like Pho, Banh Xeo, Bun Cha, Hu tieu, etc. These food usually appear in the daily lives of every Vietnamese. But how about Vietnamese school snacks, are there any uniqueness compared with other countries? I bet there are. If you do not believe me, please explore with me the world of school snacks in Vietnam! You may be amazed by the diverse Vietnamese cuisines.

The difference in regional culture and climate will create different snacks for each region in Vietnam. However, the common points of these snacks are the convenience, deliciousness, and more importantly, low price. Below is the list of five most popular snacks among Vietnamese students for many years.

  1. Mixture Rice Paper (Bánh Tráng Trộn)

    Mixture Rice Paper. (Photo: jamja.vn)

This is one of the most popular snacks in Vietnam, especially in Southern region. Until recent years, this snack has found its way to Hanoi and quickly gain popularity among young Hanoians.

As the name implies, mixture rice paper includes rice paper as the main ingredient, mixed with mango threads, dried beef threads, dried small shrimps, dried onion, quail eggs, lemon/ kumquat juice, soy sauce, and chilly sauce. These ingredients make the snack have the mixture of different tastes like salty, spicy, sweet and sour.

  1. Fruits with Chilly Salt (Hoa Quả Muối Ớt)

Mango with chilly salt. (Photo: i.ytimg.com)

This food is far more popular among girl students and can completely be made by themselves with easy recipe. As a country with tropical humid climate, Vietnam has various types of fruits. But only sour fruits, crunchy and not too sweet, become a target of Vietnamese girl students. The most commonly chosen fruits are green mango, guava, etc. Green mangoes are hard but easily sliced  to pieces, and then mixed together with the chilli salt (or ‘Muối Ớt’ in Vietnamese.) This cuisine is easy to prepare in just a few minutes, but its attractiveness is irresistible.

  1. Fried Fish Balls/ Meatballs (Cá Bò Viên Chiên)

Sticks of fried fish balls and meatballs are popular snacks after school. After consumers order, the sellers will put fish balls/meatballs sticks into an oil pan and cook them for some minutes. After well cooked, added with chili sauce (tương ớt) and hoisin sauce (tương đen,) hot sticks of fish balls and meatballs are ready to be enjoyed. Imagine when the weather is cold, groups of students standing around the sellers, waiting for their orders, trembling when each cold breeze flies by while chatting joyfully with each other. It is Vietnam. Interesting, right?

  1. Bean Curd with Coconut Milk

Bean Curd with Coconut Milk. (Photo: Lozi.vn)

This cuisine is favored in both winter and summer. Made from soybeans, the taste of bean curd is cool and sweet, softer and smoother than normal tofu. An bowl of iced bean curd in summer and a hot one in winter, accompanied with coconut milk and bubbles would make your stomach satisfied.

  1. Melon/Pumpkin Seeds (Hạt Dưa, Hạt Bí)

You may notice the appearance of these seeds in many Vietnamese households during Lunar New Year. Melon seeds and pumpkin seeds are usually placed on a plate and served during talk with guests. As its outer is a hard shell, ones must use their teeth flexibly to extract the inner part of the seed. Truthfully, the popping sound of cracked shells becomes the engine of New Year conversations. And when every Lunar New Year passes, melon and pumpkin seeds are indispensable snacks at class. The seeds then become the engine of the chitchat among students.

Hopefully this article brings you more interesting and useful information about an unique feature of food culture in Vietnam. How about you? How are school snacks in your country? Please share with Vietnam Track.

Writer: Linh Dang.
Translators: Diem Nguyen, Nhat Nguyen.

Bun Dau Mam Tom – Daydream Dressed Like Nightmare

Bún đậu mắm tôm’ (Rice vermicelli with shrimp paste and fried tofu) is guaranteed to be one of the most memorable dishes of your life. Once you have tasted it, you would never forget it. It will forever be engraved in your mind with one or two of the following impressions: terror and/or fascination.

Bún đậu mắm tôm’ is a simple traditional food in the Northern Vietnamese cuisine. The main ingredients of this dish include fresh rice vermicelli, golden fried tofu, shrimp paste with lemon and chili sauce served with fragrant herbs such as shiso, marjoram, basil and lettuce,etc. Like many other folk dishes, its affordable price makes ‘bún đậu mắm tôm’ very popular among all classes of society, from the working class to the top-notch one.

Ingredients

Bún đậu mắm tôm’ is very different from normal food because of the specially made ‘mắm tôm’ (shrimp paste) which has one of the most extreme tastes in Vietnamese cuisine. It is not surprising that few foreigners could eat this extraordinary dish, whilst almost every Vietnamese (especially Northerners) love it so much.

‘Mắm tôm’ (Shrimp paste)

Known as the soul of ‘Bún đậu mắm tôm’, shrimp paste is a sauce made from shrimp and salt through the process of fermentation to create the unique taste and color. Not only in ‘Bún đậu mắm tôm’ is shrimp paste also used in many other traditional Northern Vietnamese dishes such as ‘bún riêu’ (rice vermicelli with crab soup) and bún thang’ (hot rice noodle soup).

Photo: https://chinhgoc.vn

There are usually three forms of shrimp paste: dense, thick (mushy) and liquid. These three forms are only different in the proportion of salt and the process of sun exposure.

In the beliefs of Vietnamese people, shrimp paste has the effect of banishing evil spirits. It is believed that devils are afraid of this kind of sauce, so shrimp paste eaters will not be harmed by the devils. Placing shrimp paste in the house will avoid the appearance of ghosts. Not only people of the lowlands like to eat shrimp paste, but also many ethnic people in the mountainous.

Some mountain ethnic people even have the custom that no matter how poor they are, there always must be shrimp paste to consecrate the deaths of their father because shrimp paste is often considered as luxurious, since the mountaineers live so far from the river where the shrimps are caught.

‘Bún tươi’ (Fresh rice vermicelli)

In Vietnamese cuisine, rice vermicelli is a thin form of rice noodles, round, soft and white fillet made from dried rice starch through the molds and boiled water.

Photo: http://diendanrao.com

In short, ‘bún’ to ‘bún đậu mắm tôm’ is like burger to hamburger.

‘Đậu phụ chiên vàng’ (Golden fried tofu)

Tofu is a traditional food of several Asian countries such as China and Vietnam. Tofu is originated by China, made by soy beans, grinded then soaked in water. The starch then flows into water, coming together in the shape decided by the creators, while the waste is filtered out.  The common shapes are squares, circles, or rectangles.

Photo: http://comnieucaophat.com

When the products are finished, they can be cut into rectangles and fried with oil in a big pan.

‘Rau thơm’ (Fragrant herbs)

There are many kinds of fragrant herbs can be eaten with ‘bún đậu mắm tôm’ such as shiso, marjoram, basil and lettuce, etc. All washed, fresh and clean before served.

Photo: https://laodong.vn

Originally, there are only those simple ingredients in ‘bún đậu mắm tôm’ in order to make it as cheap and accessible to as many laborers as possible. However, as time flies and thanks to the development of the country, today’s Vietnamese can eat ‘bún đậu mắm tôm’ with the combination of a few additional delicious ingredients.

‘Thịt heo luộc’ (Boiled pork)

Boiled pork is pork boiled and chopped into thin slices.

Photo: http://eva.vn

‘Chả cốm’

This is my favourite ‘chả’ in the world. The taste of its is indescribable. Trust me, tasting is believing.

Photo: https://lamthenao.com

Where to eat?

The are many famous ‘bún đậu mắm tôm’ eateries all over Vietnam. If you are in Saigon, do not hesitate to check out the amazing ‘Bún đậu Cầu Gỗ’ hawker stall, my favourite ‘bún đậu mắm tôm’ destination.

Photo: http://www.dinhthanhhai.com

Adress: 202 Nguyễn Trãi, Phạm Ngũ Lão, Hồ Chí Minh

Opening hours: 8:00am – 11:00pm

Phone: 090 833 57 78

Price: ~70.000/person (3.07$)

If you have any problem travelling in Vietnam, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more assistance. We would be thrilled to help.

Ngọc Lê

Traditional Vietnamese Family Meal

A family meal is one of the unique Vietnamese traditions, which emblematizes the beauty and longevity of Vietnamese culture. It carries the meaning of reunion and creates strong bonds among generations in the family. Continue reading “Traditional Vietnamese Family Meal”

Nem Nuong – A Da Lat Specialty Should Not Be Missed

It will be such a pity if you travel around Vietnam – an S-shaped country without paying a visit to Da Lat, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Viet Nam. Here you can enjoy not only the beauty of nature but the food culture as well.

It will be such a pity if you travel around Vietnam – an S-shaped country without paying a visit to Da Lat, one of the most popular tourist destinations, located at 1500 meters above sea level in the Southern part of the Central Highlands. Due to its unique climate, this city is well-known as “the City of Spring”. Da Lat not only appeals visitors by glorious flowers and poetic landscapes, but also by its special food, especially grilled pork rolls (nem nướng).

Continue reading “Nem Nuong – A Da Lat Specialty Should Not Be Missed”