Top 5 Dishes in Hanoi

by on March 9th, 2011
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Xoi Xeo

Chances are you will encounter this dish in almost every outdoors market. There are even two reataurants dedicated fully this dish in the Old Quarters. Xoi xeo is sticky rice topped with ground de-hulled mung bean and fried onion. Sometimes it can be served with eggs or steamed chicken breast on request. The serving is really filling and it is good for any time of the day but most Vietnamese have it for breakfast or lunch.

Xoi Yen is a all time local favourite sitting just North of Sword Lake on Nguyen Huu Huan street. Ask anyone in the area and they all know what you are referring to. The price varies, without chicken, a bowl of Xoi xeo costs you about 50 cents. Have it with a glass of soy milk and you have more energy boost than a box of granola bars!

Banh Cuon Vietnamese Steam Rice Rolls

Banh Cuon (Vietnamese Steamed Rice Rolls/Crepes) is the perfect holiday detox food. After the last Thanksgiving holiday back in Detroit, Michigan we needed something light, delicate, and yet flavorful to detox after our feast. So when my mom asked us what wanted to eat the weekend after thanksgiving dinner, we immediately requested some banh cuon. Banh cuon is a very light crepe often with ground pork, minced wood ear mushroom, and onions and eaten with Vietnamese ham (cha lua), steamed beansprouts, and cucumbers. Another variation arising from a village in Northern Vietnam famous for their banh cuon is called banh cuon “Thanh Tri” a style where the crepe is not rolled but kept in sheets without any filling, and sprinkled with fried onions.

Vietnamese banh cuon is different from the rice rolls found at Chinese dim sum, cheong fun, because the banh cuon crepe is extremely thin and delicate and not topped with sweet soy sauce. The reason for this thinness is the process of how it’s made. Banh cuon can be made extremely thin because it’s steamed over a fabric covered pot which can quickly cook the rice flour, keeping it moist and workable. My mom bought these pots that are specially outfitted with a metal ring where a fine nylon/cotton cloth is tautly stretched across and placed on top of the pot. A very thin layer of batter is poured on to the cloth and evenly spread and steams paper thin, and in less than a minute, a flat and flexible bamboo stick is used to lift off the delicate rice crepe

Pho Hanoi

Hanoi’s cuisine is famous nationwide with many specialties, but the most well known dish is Pho, a rice noodle soup often eaten as breakfast meal at home, food stalls, roadside inns, or in the restaurants.

The soup includes rice noodles, thinly sliced meat and clear broth made by simmering beef bones, oxtails, flank steak, serving with onions, basil, lemon or lime, bean sprouts and peppers. There are several varieties of Pho such as Pho Bo, containing beef, and Pho Ga, containing chicken.

Pho is best tasted when it is still hot. The sweet taste of broth, savory smell of meat and the softness of noodles mixing with each other create the unique perfect flavor for the special food that can be only best enjoyed in the capital of Vietnam.

Cha Ca La Vong

“Cha ca” is a favorite dish of Hanoian. Located in Cha Ca street, Cha ca La Vong (“cha ca” means grilled fish) is the famous restaurant to many Hanoian as well as visitors from all over the world.

The food is supposed to have been created by the Doan family. According to Mrs. Ngo Thi Tinh (a descendant of the 4th generation of the family), the family started the business of selling “cha ca” to earn money to support the family members and to have a meeting place for the Vietnamese people who wanted to fight against French colonialism.

The family food became a specialty of Hanoian people. There’s a statue of La Vong (an ancient Chinese poet and revolutionist) fishing by a stream on display in the restaurant. This is the symbol of a talented and patient man who knows to wait for the right moment to come. The patrons called the restaurant “Cha ca La Vong”.

Connoisseurs usually wait until it become cool to go to enjoy the taste of Cha ca. The grilled fish must be made from a kind of fresh water fish called hemibagrus because it has very few bones and the flesh is very tasty. If hemibagrus is not available, we could make do with mudfish or snake-head fish. Some connoisseurs may request for a special kind of fish called Anh Vu, which is available only in Viet Tri city at the turning point of the Bach Hac river.

Thin slices of Anh Vu fish are rolled with a kind of herb called “soi” then grilled to give an excellent flavor. To make grilled fish, thin slices of fish have to be mixed with ginger, saffron, fermented cold rice, pepper and fish sauce; then placed on bamboo skewers and grilled on a burning charcoal stove right on the dining tables.

Banh Tom Tay Ho

Who doesn’t love anything that’s battered and fried? Banh tom is another Vietnamese dish originating from Hanoi and is made of deep fried battered sweet potato and shrimp. Along the Ho Tay (West lake) in Hanoi, you’ll find the original Banh Tom Ho Tay Restaurant as well as numerous other restaurants serving this delicacy. The orange color is from the natural flesh of sweet potato and a little bit of turmeric powder in the batter. Often served as an appetizer, banh tom is commonly wrapped with lettuce, herbs, and pickled vegetables and dipped in nuoc mam cham.

Sweet Potato Shrimp Fritters (Banh Tom) makes 12

Printable Recipe

* 2 large sweet potatoes (cut into french fry like slices)

* 12 large head and shell on shrimp, deveined (you can also use head and shell off as well, but we prefer everything intact for more crunch!)

* 1 package of tempura batter (several different brands are available in Asian groceries- just follow package instructions-but instead of water, we substitute half water/beer)

* Pinch of salt and pepper

* 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric powder

* lettuce, herbs such as basil, mint, perilla, Vietnamese balm, pickled carrots and daikon

* nuoc mam cham

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into thin french fry slices and set aside. Prep the shrimp and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, mix the tempura mix with water, beer, salt, pepper, and tumeric powder. The mixture should be gooey and thick like the consistency of Elmers glue. Add the sweet potatoes and coat well.

Heat frying pan to medium high. Shape the well coated sweet potatoes into a platform for the shrimp, about 4-5 pieces and place in frying pan, making sure they stay close together and not spread apart. Immediately coat a shrimp with a little batter and place on top of the sweet potatoes, pressing it firmly down and holding it there for a few seconds with some tongs. The shrimp will stick onto the sweet potatoes, but you might want to spoon over some hot oil the shrimp to cook the batter sealing the shrimp on.

Fry to golden brown on each side and drain on paper towels. Serve immediately or you can make some in advance and quickly heat it under the broiler to regain that crunch.

Wrap with lettuce, herbs, and dip with nuoc mam cham. Sweet, savory, crunchy and delicious!

This article written by Lanh Nguyen from Vietnam Heritage Travel

For original article, please visit:

Vietnam Culture Tour

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