Hanoi is the land of noodles and dumplings in daunting variety. At least, that is what British visitor David Bobby had concluded local culinary after his three-week trip around the capital city.
David says departing Hanoi without sampling local delicacies means you have not yet truly visited the city. His praise for Hanoi’s noodles and dumplings seems endless. He advises foreigners to set their preconceptions aside and dive right to enjoy the tastes and flavours of Hanoian cuisine.
David notes local women are always busy thinking about what to cook for their families, often two or three days ahead. He is impressed by the way Vietnamese women buy fresh food and cook meals every day. “Sometimes I ate fast food when I traveled abroad just for convenience. But I’ve never done this in Vietnam—the looks and smells of local dishes are impossible to resist,” David says.
He says 30 percent of the food’s deliciousness is communicated through its appearance alone, with the remaining 70 percent pure taste.
David has a list of noodle and dumpling suggestions that stand out for him through their taste, their preparation, and their methods of eating.
David regards Hanoian Phở as Vietnam’s most famous dish, a meal consumed not only for breakfast but also for lunch and dinner. There are many types of Phở—rice noodles in savory broth with a variety of meat and herbs. For local customers, a slice of lime, some onion, and a little chilly are indispensible additions to a proper bowl of Phở.
David is also interested in Bún Chả, which is favoured by almost all foreign visitors. It is made from rice noodles with barbecue pork, often combined with Nem (spring rolls). Bún Chả demands a special fish sauce with sliced green papaya and fresh herbs.
Alternative Bún dishes for foreign visitors to try include Bún đậu mắm tôm (rice noodles with tofu and shrimp sauce), Bún thang (rice noodles with chicken, sliced fried egg, and pork) and Bún ốc (rice noodles with snails).
In addition, there are different kinds of savoury cakes and dumplings like Bánh tôm (prawn pancake), Bánh bột lọc(boiled cake with pork, shrimp, and vegetables), Bánh cuốn (steamed rice pancakes rolled with pork and mushroom), and Bánh gối (pillow-shaped dumplings made of pork, mushroom and vermicelli).
“Hanoi’s tasty food has made my trip all the more interesting,” David says, adding the best dishes are often served either in luxury restaurants or even on the pavement—where any passersby can stop and enjoy.