We were pretty excited about the food in Vietnam, and I wouldn’t say it was bad, but I would say we were a bit let down. We definitely had a few amazing dishes and treats, but overall we found most of the food to be lackluster. Perhaps our expectations were too high, or we just didn’t know where to go to get the best pho…but we did enjoy Hanoi’s robust market scene with lots of unique food (some a little too unique for our tastes, if you know what I mean. Frog legs and chicken feet, anyone?).
We did have an amazing meal at Cha Ca La Vong a restaurant famous for one dish: cha ca la vong, which is made by you, at your table, and is a legendary Hanoi recipe. A hotplate and pan plus all the ingredients (fish, scallions, sauce, turmeric, dill, and peanuts) are given to you and you sauté it yourself. Delicious and fun!
We also enjoyed our meal at Koto, a charming cafe across the street from the Temple of Literature (read more about that here). All the servers are local young people from under-privileged backgrounds being trained in the food and service industry. While the clientele were mostly foreigners, the food is authentic and tasty–there are great smoothies and juices and Manor had a yummy tofu dish. And we felt good about supporting them.
Of course we did have pho, Vietnam’s national noodle soup dish. It was hearty and soul-warming, always a good thing. You can find pho almost anywhere.
Hanoi is full of little outdoor “cafes” with miniature plastic tables and stools lining the sidewalk. I’m not sure what the deal is with the tiny furniture, but we knew we had to sit at one. When we saw people eating what looked to be some kind of fruity dessert we plunked down and ordered one. It was simple and yet so delicious it ended up being one of our favorite things we ate in Hanoi: cut up tropical fruit (dragon fruit, papaya, pineapple, mango, etc.) with condensed milk. So yummy!
Vietnam used to be a French colony, so there is some pretty legit French food in the city. While we didn’t indulge in a fancy French dinner, we did hit up a bakery that really impressed us with their croissants and other pastries. Although not authentically French, after so much Asian food it was nice to have a European treat!
We also enjoyed some great ice-cream at Fanny’s, a Hanoi institution.