Hanoi Restaurants and Dining

(Hanoi, Vietnam)

The Vietnamese are big eaters and seriously into noodles. Well, what Asian country isn't?! Eating out is a pastime in Hanoi and noodle restaurants are ten-a-penny, being known as 'Pho Ca'. Pho is the ubiquitous noodle dishes - usually eaten on diminutive tables and chairs on pavements, and seasoned with the famous 'Nuoc Mam' or fish sauce, which is found in almost every dish.

On the whole Vietnamese dining is one of Asia's most varied and palatable. Coffee shops and cafés seriously outnumber full-service restaurants in Hanoi and you will find the majority in the Old Quarter.

Local dining specialities include chicken noodle soup and other variations, as well as dog and snake. The latter can be had in specialised eateries, but for snacks and coffee, head for the Luong Ngoc Quyen / Ta Hien crossing in the Old Quarter. A word of warning to animal lovers, Vietnamese routinely eat dog, and this means wandering merchants can be seen rounding up street dogs and cramming them all into a tiny cage to sell to restaurants. You might even see dead dogs displayed at markets.

What to Eat and Where

One of the best ways to get a real feel for Hanoi is to eat out at one of the street kiosks or basic restaurants in the Old Quarter. There are literally hundreds of places to dine and you can have everything from noodles and rice dishes to the aforementioned dog, as well as snake, but also filled baguettes or even Western goodies. Prices here are among the best in town and Hanoi certainly can't be beaten on choice.

For a more romantic setting, head down to the shores of the serene Hoan Kiem Lake, where there are endless 'pho noodle' joints serving beef or chicken Vietnamese noodle soup. The 'pho ga' (chicken noodle soup) is a particularly popular dining speciality in Hanoi.

As tourism has opened up in the past decade there has been a number of upmarket European restaurants opening up, with a little effort you can chance upon a few by wandering the Old Quarter.

Cafés and coffee shops are a big deal in Hanoi, as with any other large Vietnamese city, although more so here. There is one on every street corner in the Old Quarter where you can eat breakfast, lunch or dinner. The selection of coffees is surprising, while Beer Hoi is a local favourite. Most cafés close by about 21:00. The larger restaurants and similar dining establishments generally open later and are known to levy service charges.