1 Bánh cuốn nóng. Probably the stand out dish of our whole trip to Vietnam. Steaming hot rice pancakes with pork, coriander and crushed peanuts. Beautiful. We ate these from a slightly dubious looking (don’t be put off…) back room at 14B Bảo Khánh. Look out for the flat pancake grills and super smiley staff.
2 Ca phe trung at Giang. For top notch cap he trung (AKA egg coffee) – a mix of coffee powder, condensed milk, egg yoke, butter and cheese – stop by Giang on Nguyen Huu Huan in the old quarter. Up the rickety stairs you’ll come to what its website calls ‘a bleak exaggeration of communist-era non-chic’. However you choose to describe it, it’s a true taste of Vietnam. Lining the same seats are numerous coffee shops perfect for pulling a pew for a front seat view on the city.
3 Street Food Tour. Event the most intrepid travellers will need a little assistance finding some of the best, tucked away eateries in the city. Hanoi Street Food Tour helped us uncover plenty of Vietnamese delights in the back alleys and front rooms of Hanoi’s higgledy-piggledy centre. From bún riêu cua (Vietnamese crab noodle soup) and bun cha (grilled pork noodles) to kem xoi (sticky rice and ice cream) their tour was well worth the $20 a head.
hanoistreetfoodtour.com 74 Hang Bac Street (Kim Tours Building).
4 Beer Corner. Tourists and locals alike mix after dark at beer corner – the intersection of a Hien and Luong Ngoc Quyen. Grab a plastic chair, sink to the ground with a cold tankard of local draft (or Beer Hanoi if you’re not feeling brave) and watch the chaotic world spill out as darkness falls. Expect to see balloon sellers, street food hawkers, over-animated bar owners, motorbikes and trails of tourists thronging before you. From summer rolls to Pho Lo all the food we tried ticked the box.
5 The Temple of Literature. The Temple of Literature is a tranquil spot and welcome break from the ubiquitous buzz of motorbikes and tooting horns. The country’s first university was housed here in 1076. Now, come at the right time and you’ll see scores of immaculately turned out Vietnamese teens collecting their doctorates and posing for photos.
6 Chợ Châu Long wet market. Eels, turtles, crabs and fish slither and splash at ankle height. Elderly ladies wobble past on even older bicycles, stacked high with fresh herbs and often a live chicken or two thrown in for good measure (or balance?). Both this and the smaller wet markets are well worth a look.