Hanoi is undoubtedly an exotic city with vibrant culture and history. Walking around the streets, you can find many places of interests. But probably, what you find to be the most common are street vendors.
They are now parts of the culture and identity of the city.
Those are mostly women flocking from other rural areas to the capital. They dress shabbily and wear painstaking expressions with heavy burdens on their shoulders. They sell goods of all kinds: daily accessories like combs, hair ties, nail clippers; food like seasonal treats, fruits, sweet soup and all sorts of wonders; and beautiful flowers even. There are three major types of vendors: These informal workers can be on the move with their bike or just by foot with the goods in their bamboo baskets; some settle down with a stable stand and a stack of plastic chairs for customers; and there are some small shops that expand on the pavement – a very casual and popular happenstance.
Vendors in Hanoi
Street food vendors, as strange as it sounds, do have regular customers. With the benefits they bring – no delivery fees, competitive prices and usually fast servings – it is not odd that many choose these vendors over major stores.
Also, you can almost always bargain for a cheaper price. You will notice that bargaining is common in Vietnam and even foreigners can do that too!
The only thing that concerns most people, international and domestic travellers, is the questionable hygiene standards. But for the food, most people will agree that it is worth the risk.
So here are some popular vendors to get you started!
Hang Than street: Caramel pudding
There are four shops near the corner of Hang Than and Hoe Nhai street.
You will find mostly teenagers sitting on the pavement on colorful plastic stools with bowls of goods. The locals very much enjoy the caramel pudding combinations here with fruits, violet glutinous rice jelly. The treats are homemade mostly so it could be a safe bet for those who fear for their health.
A caramel pudding serving
The most popular treat is probably crème caramel, or “kem caramen” in Vietnamese, a must-eat when travelling in Hanoi.
There are also other choices like yoghurt, coconut jelly and mango sweet dessert (”chè xoài”).
These bits can be takeaways but if you do not mind squeezing in with the crowd then happily take your seat.
Ly Van Phuc street: BBQ treats
You simply just cannot miss this place if you are trying to sample Hanoi street food.
Ly Van Phuc street is also known as Chicken Street by many locals.
If you come here in the morning or early afternoon, you will not find much besides some pedestrians on the street. There seem to be no shops or whatsoever on this seemingly idyllic street.
Ly Van Phuc’s grilled chicken legs
It all starts in the evening, at around 6 pm, when you can see the smoke start rising with the heavenly smell and the sizzling sound of the grilled meat. All the vendors here offer pretty much the same menu: grilled chicken breasts, drumsticks, thighs and wings, grilled bread with honey glaze (“bánh mì nướng mật ong”) and grilled potato chunks. You can also order some drinks: most offer some soft drinks, beer and mineral water.
Trang Tien street: ice cream
Located on the street of Trang Tien are some vendors that sell ice cream. Everyone knows about them.
But the most famous one must be the biggest one at the end of the street, having spent its 50 years with the locals.
The price is cheap, from 10000 – 20000VND. And unlike other places, you do not actually have a place to sit down with your ice cream but instead can walk around the famous Sword Lake, or “Hoàn Kiếm” Lake, nearby.
And if you are just wandering around the Old Quarters and wondering what to eat, you can try Bò bía (10000 – 20000VND/serving), grilled meat by stick – thịt xiên nướng (10000 – 20000VND/stick), Bánh rán (2000-5000VND/each), and Tào phớ (10000 – 20000VND/serving), to name a few. You can find these treats at mobile vendors on the streets on the go.
A Tào phớ vendor
Still feeling confused about what to eat and where to eat? Need not to worry.
You can always book a mini Hanoi food tour! The local guides usually know the best places in town and they can also help to arrange your trip to make it more enjoyable.