Thanks for Vietnamese people’s knack for turning humble ingredients into a sublime combination of flavor, Ha Noi streets are now home to hundreds of food stalls that can satisfy both the curious and foodies with Viet Nam culinary specialties.
Here are Ha Noi 3 iconic rice noodle dishes that hanoireviews has summarized for you to add to your Ha Noi food tour bucket list:
This world-renowned dish can be found almost everywhere in Viet Nam but it has become a cult status in Ha Noi. A standard bowl of Pho comes with thick, flat rice noodle, beef or chicken, green onion, wedged lime and a heaping basket of herbs, which accompanies a lot of dishes in Viet Nam cuisine.
Key ingredients in the broth are bones, fish sauce, dried peanut worms and some spices that are kept secret and can only be passed on to the next generation of the family that owns the recipe. That may sound complicated and mysterious but the more effort you put in the process, the more wonderful the result will be. Nowadays, since fresh ingredients are increasingly hard to find and also to save time, many restaurants in Ha Noi turn into using mi chinh (monosodium glutamate), a common seasoning in Viet Nam, instead of relying heavily on bones to have the savory flavor of the broth.
A bowl of Pho Ga in Hanoi (Source: Internet)
If you are allergic to mi chinh or just want to know how an original bowl of pho should taste like, pay a visit to Pho Danh, a 40-year-old food stall on Tran Hung Dao street, serve exclusively chicken soup (pho ga). Mr.Danh is the sole owner of this tiny restaurant, he doesn’t hire anyone to assist him with the business since he would like to monitor every step of the process to make sure every bowl of pho reaches his standards. The broth of Pho Danh is made by stewing chicken bone and some secret seasoning that only Mr.Danh knows. He doesn’t add any mi chinh, fish sauce dried squibs or peanut worms to the broth because he said those spices would leave a sour aftertaste that a true bowl of pho should not have.
This snail soup is a contradict to pho in the way that it has a bit of everything within a bowl of bun oc. The key ingredients are of course snails, some cubes of deep fried tofu, crab meat or medium-rare beef. The perfect kind rice noodle for bun oc is the one with small strand so that when they pour the broth on top, the noodle will absorb it. Every bowl of bun oc is served with greens, garlic vinegar, pepper, and chili so that each diner can adjust the flavor of the dish to suit their taste. The main ingredients of the both are bone, tomatoes, and vinegar. The traditional way of making the broth requires giam bong, a byproduct of making rice wine. Regular vinegar is an acceptable substitute however it will not bring about the signature taste of bun oc.
A bowl of Bun Oc in Hanoi (Source: Internet)
A famous address serving bun oc for the city-dwellers is Bun Oc Co Hue on Dang Dung street. The broth is a perfect combination of sour, spicy, savory and sweet flavor. The stall has only big snails and they are always generous with a number of snails in each bowl. To maintain the quality of snails, the snail is extracted from the shell only when they take the order as snail meat can get dry and lose it savory water if it is left outside for too long. This tiny restaurant is fit in two baskets and Mrs.Hue used to carry it around by a bamboo pole.
This dish used to be the number one comfort food for Ha Noi dwellers so it can’t be missed in any Ha Noi food tour. The broth is made from rice-paddy crabs and me (a traditional spice made from cooked rice or rice noodle). Each bowl of bun rieu is served with wedged tomato, crab meat, fried onion and sauteed crab fat. Some people like to add a bit of mam tom (sauce of macerated shrimp) if you can’t stand the smell of mam tom, feel free to leave it out.
A bowl of Bun Rieu in Hanoi (Source: Internet)
Many vendors in Ha Noi now offer some varieties of the traditional dish. Beef, tofu, gio (a kind of Vietnamese meat loaf) are usually added to bun rieu. Banh Quay (they are like donuts but are not sweet) is served with the dish as well, the most common way to eat banh quay with bun rieu is to dip the stick into the hot broth so that it absorbs the flavors of the broth.
Since bun rieu is so popular in Ha Noi, it can be found anywhere. However, there are a few vendors that offer a more flavorful bun rieu bowl such as Bun Rieu at 41 Quang Trung, the vendor at 16 Quang Trung or in Van Chuong alley.
With the 3 iconic rice noodle dishes in Ha Noi, food lovers now have more choices for a hearty meal on their way to explore the capital city of Viet Nam or some more addresses for their Ha Noi food tour destinations.