Everywhere We Ate: Hanoi

2:18:00 PM

You'll never go hungry in Hanoi. I don't care what your budget is or food preferences are, there's just no way you'd go hungry in Hanoi. Food is stupid cheap whether on the streets or in sit-down restaurants, and Vietnamese cuisine is hardly ever tiring with its fresh and flavorful take on many Asian favorites—not to mention its world-famous coffee scene.

Disclaimer: This Everywhere We Ate isn't going to be as extensive as previous episodes but I got some of the basics covered. As I mentioned in the series introduction, I traveled to Hanoi alone. It was fun for the most part but eating is an activity I enjoy with close friends and family, so I didn't have the appetite for feasting.

Nonetheless, I have a few helpful tips about dining in Hanoi, so let's get to it!

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What I had: Pho ga [say fuh] or chicken noodle soup
How much it cost: 35,000 VND (1.6 USD or PHP 75)

Pho may be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to Vietnamese food. Like its noodle soup cousins ramen and ramyeon, the humble pho has claimed a presence in Manila's food scene in the last few years, albeit a quieter one. Until this trip, I was a pho virgin and I'm happy that my first experience is as authentic as it can be: right in the streets of its capital city.

And pho ga was a good enough introduction for me. I love the broth and, with the exception of the chicken breast meat (I prefer dark), everything that was in it. Its soulfulness and warmth provided comfort for the cold weather. You can have beef with your pho and other variations, and it's sold off the streets (best place to have it) for less than two dollars.


Cong Caphe

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What I had: Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk
How much it cost: 35,000 VND (1.6 USD or PHP 75)

Cong Caphe is one of the most favorited coffee places in Hanoi—partly, I presume, due to it being one of the most Instagram-worthy spots in the city. (Let's be real. We coffee people like our cafes as pretty as we like our coffees strong.) Their main branch is in the Old Quarter but the one I visited is in Hanoi Creative City.

I had Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk—usually taken iced, but I got it warm since it was too cold that day. It came out in a teeny, tiny teacup which I thought was a ripoff but as it turns out in Vietnam, size isn't everything. That coffee was hella STRONG, like an uppercut I didn't see coming! I couldn't even taste the sweetened condensed milk! No wonder the standard cup sizes (tall, grande, venti) that Starbucks had us used to don't exist in Hanoi—you don't need that much to get worked up in Vietnam.

Cong Caphe - Hanoi Creative City
1 Luong Yen, Hai Ba Trung, 
Hanoi, Vietnam


Anh Nguyen

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What I had: Doner kebab
How much it cost: 25,000 VND (1.21 USD or PHP 56.57)

I discovered Anh Nguyen upon the recommendation of the Russian expat I told you about earlier. I was craving for banh mi and this he said was the best that you can have in the Old Quarter. He may have said it with bias, considering that it's not exactly banh mi as we know it. This is actually Vietnam's version of the doner kebab, which is made with pork instead of beef+lamb and is topped with sour vegetables, grilled inside a French baguette. A modified banh mi, if you will.

I loved every bit of it. The stuffing was bursting out of the bread, and they weren't stingy on the meat and vegetables. So filling and so, so good and so, so, so impossible to keep the ingredients from staining your shirt. (It's that packed.) I still think about this beautiful piece of doner kebab today, and it makes me sad to think that I won't find something like it here.


Especen Hotel

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What I had: Ham omelette, black coffee and fruit yogurt parfait
How much it cost: USD 3 (PHP 140)

Since we were leaving early for Halong Bay the next day, I chose to have breakfast in the hotel. I didn't really want to think about what to eat so I went with the ham omelette and black (instant) coffee. The omelette was cooked to my liking, which surprised me since hotel food usually sucks, and the fruit yogurt parfait was heaven in a cup. Not too shabby for a three-dollar breakfast.


A photo posted by Danielle (@awsmchos) on

What I had: Spring rolls, steamed vegetables, steamed shrimp, sweet and sour tilapia, fried pork, fresh cucumber
How much it cost: Included in the day tour package

We had a simple, satisfying (almost-generic Southeast Asian) spread for the lunch that kicked off our Halong Bay tour. The spring rolls were the best I've ever had in my lumpia-eating existence but everything else was just okay. You get what you pay for in a budget travel package and as long as I'm not getting diarrhoea, I'm good.


Cafe Giang

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What I had: Ca phe thrung or egg coffee
How much it cost: 25,000 VND (1.21 USD or PHP 56.57)

You won't be hard-pressed to find a cafe that sells egg coffee in Hanoi these days, but I feel like the trip wouldn't be complete without going to the place that started it all: Cafe Giang. The original recipe was an idea of a former Metropole hotel bartender, Nguyen Giang, who came up with it when milk was scarce in Vietnam. Needless to say, it was a hit that continues to fascinate and satisfy locals and tourists alike.

If you're wondering what goes in a serving of egg coffee, here's what I found from their website: egg yolk, Vietnamese coffee powder, sweetened condensed milk, butter and cheese. When I first knew of it, I wasn't sure what to expect either but I'm happy that I took my chances. It was the best cup of coffee that I had during my entire trip to Hanoi. What you get is a thick, sweet custard-like froth that floats on top of rich, strong Vietnamese coffee—a brilliant mix of flavors and, if I didn't start feeling the kick, I would've gone for seconds.

Cafe Giang
39 Nguyen Heu Huan,
Ly Thai To, Hoa Kiem,
Hanoi, Vietnam


Bun Ca Ta

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What I had: Bun cha or noodles with grilled pork
How much it cost: 60,000 VND (2.69 USD or PHP 121.40)

Bun cha is served the way you see it in the photo. You get a plate of glass noodles, a bowl of broth with grilled pork and a hefty serving of greens. I'm not sure if there's a right a way to eat it but what I did was to grab a handful of noodles (using chopsticks, of course) and dumped it in the broth along with some greens, soak it for three or five seconds then slurp it all up—rinse, repeat. The broth is based on fish sauce, vinegar and sugar, which makes it sweet and sour. For me, what makes bun cha really special is the grilled pork. The meat was well-done and bursting out with umami, I feel like it could've been a dish on its own.

You can find bun cha anywhere but not anytime in Hanoi. I didn't look into the explanation but apparently, bun cha is a lunchtime-only meal. Even specialty restaurants close after 3PM.

Bun Cha Ta
21 Nguyen Huu Huan,
Hoan Kiem,
Ha Noi, Vietnam


Oriberry


Everywhere We Ate: Hanoi | Awesome in Manila

What I had: Hot chocolate
How much it cost: 40,000 VND (1.79 USD or PHP 84)

The last thing I had in Hanoi before I left for my flight was this cup of hot chocolate from Oriberry, a cafe right round the corner from my hotel, and some Vietnamese chocolate cookies. I included this because it is, by far, one of the heartiest cups of hot choco that I've had, like, EVER. I had another one that's on the same level during our stopover on the way back from Halong Bay. Vietnam not only knows how to make its coffee, it does hot chocolate well too!

Oriberry
6 Au Trieu Hoan Kiem,
Old Quarter (near the Saint Joseph Cathedral), 
Hanoi, Vietnam


And that's it! I know it's not quite an exciting travel food report but I didn't want to eat for the sake of eating, when I didn't really feel like it. Still, I hope you got some ideas on what you shouldn't miss when you dine in Hanoi. 

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1 comments

  1. i cant believe the prices, parang mas mahal pa yung tea na nabili ko dito.... i would consider going to hanoi next time. Knowing that it's something asian, i think it's kinda expensive but my Gawd, i'm blown, i hope you can share your travel guide and tips for us who's interested in going to hanoi too someday! :)

    Nice one dani!

    ReplyDelete

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