We have been in Hanoi for 2 weeks now, and I think we have done a fair job of eating the city up! Since we had a really easy and relaxing day just around the house and neighborhood, I have decided to dedicate today's post to some of our favorite eats!
The fruits here, and I imagine its the same in most South East Asian countries, are exotic and scrumptious. We have been really enjoying our fruit eating here. I am so glad that the kids have been up for trying all these new fruits, and some of them have easily become new favorites. I will have to look around and see if I can find dragon fruit back in the US, because by far the dragon fruit with the white inside (they is also a red/pinkish version) is our family's all time favorite. Check out the captions in these pictures if you like to know what you are looking at :) Not pictured here are the lychee and also the fresh and delicious clementines.
Oh my goodness...the coconut water! The fresh coconut water from green coconuts cut open right in front of you...mmm mmm ... yumtastic! Truly the best coconut water I have ever had in my life. 1 coconut costs $1. Beware of tourist traps...don't pay more than a $1, which is about 20,000 Vietnamese Dongs. They even chop it open after you finish drinking so you can scoop up some of the inside, but to me this kind of coconut wasn't the most delicious for eating.
We tried a few fast food type restaurants, and Rolling BBQ wins our vote. The food is delicious, plenty, and really well priced! They also give a rewards card, which can be great if you are staying in Hanoi for more than just a couple of days. After you fill it up, you get a 100,000 ($5) voucher, which is about what we pay to feed our whole family when there.
Random Midday Snacks
There are a lot of yummy options on the street for mid day snacks. It is very common to see street vendors with lots of yummy things walking around. They are of course eager to approach tourists and charge a pretty penny (usually we counter their first offer with 25% of what they asked for, and settle between 25-50% or not at all). Try to find out the right price from the locals and make sure you don't overpay! Usually the street vendors, especially where you will find a lot of locals eating, are much more fair and humble and provide reasonable prices you can only bring down a little (by about 10-15%).
Some of our favorite midday snacks were grilled corn (you can also buy the steamed version) and coconut ice cream (from Kem Ho Tay - An ice cream right by West Lake before the Pogoda Temple).
We also loved the bubble waffles from Mr. Xoay, but we often had it after dinner rather than mid day.
Last but certainly not least we loved the juice and smoothie from Vu Canu. It is also a chain and some what similar to Jamba Juice but with much fresher fruits and no powders! :) Also one large cup will set you back between $1.50 to $2. Mmm Mmm...yummy and healthy!
The Cho Hom market in Hang Bai is really amazing and definitely must see spot for visitors to Hanoi, though it's about 1km outside the old quarter. Asides from all the clothing, accessories, fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, and fabric, you can also find a few spots with prepared food. Despite the fact that these goodies below were deep fried and definitely not good for you, they are so delicious and should be tried at least once! Sadly, I do not know what the round rolls are called, but they are just dough with something sweet and creamy inside. The spring rolls are also scrumptious and filled with noodles, veggies, and meat.
Local Cheap Eats in Hang Bai
We really loved the location of our apartment. Being outside of the Old Quarter really exposed us to some truly local "restaurants" and culture (and prices!). Some of our favorite places to eat at were So 7 Nguyen Du where they serve pho and fried rice! Here, 2 huge rice dishes with meat and 1 pho will set you back $6.
And as you might know from one of our previous posts, Pho Ga is another one of our local favorites. They do not serve rice dishes, but in addition to the pho they can make fried noodles. Here, 2 fried noodles dishes and 1 bowl of pho will set you back $5.
Both places have delicious and good quality food and we loved eating with all Vietnamese people. Though perhaps I didn't enjoy all the staring...but I didn't mind. :) These are local spots after all. We even had someone ask us if we were visiting or if we live in Vietnam! Talk about blending in!!
A few more...
The night that I lost my phone, we ate at a burger place, called Fry Burger, with the best burger and french fries we have had in Vietnam. I don't have any pictures because I was too pre-occupied with my smooth move of losing the phone.
We also drank a few great cups of coffee at some cafes around town. One of our favorites was Urban Station Coffee. The kids loved the hot chocolate here and we enjoyed our lattes. But I wouldn't necessary say it's a must visit. It does have good prices though.
There is also a restaurant near us that we really enjoyed and later found out it is actually a chain. It is called 123 and has a lot of delicious rice dishes for very good price. It was huge, but very full, and again we were surrounded by locals here.
The final place I'd recommend is a chain called Gecko Cheap and Cheerfu Restaurant. It is very much catered towards tourists, so the prices aren't spectacular (compared to the local eats). But with that said, the prices weren't that bad, and it was the only place we were able to find a good Western style breakfast, with yummy pancakes, eggs, toast, and more. They also had pretty good pizza and burgers when we went for lunch. It is a good place to go when you truly need a break from Vietnamese food!
Where NOT to eat
I would advise against eating at these places mostly because they seem to charge a lot of money for the amount and quality of food. They are definitely more for tourists, as the food is pricey for what you get. Save your money, ignore trip advisor reviews and eat among the locals. We have been eating local food for almost 2 weeks and we have been loving it. I wish someone had told us not to go to some of these places:
Wrap and Roll (More on this restaurant covered in this blog post)
Lotteria (A burger and chicken fast food chain with not the best prices and not that great of a quality)
ABC (This is the first restaurant we ate at in Hanoi so we didn't really know any better, but looking back I would say the quality isn't that great, though the prices were fair)
Wrapping it all up...
Don't be afraid to eat the local food just because the "restaurants" looks like a hole in the wall with some small tables and stools. The local food is great, delicious, and often very healthy (and of course cheap).
It would be a shame to come all the way to Vietnam and not eat the way they eat here. We had several meals in the touristy old quarter, and none of them were as good as the little places we found near our street.
For those who can't possibly be bothered with local food or are too afraid to try the deliciousness, don't worry, you wouldn't starve here. There are plenty of Italian, Japanese, Korean, and American restaurants here. If you are not a big restaurant person then you can eat at KFC or Pizza Hut and drink coffee at Starbucks, and it will be cheaper than in the States, but don't expect to pay local prices!!
We have definitely been spoiled by the prices of food here...hoping Thailand will be similar...but I am sure we are in for sticker shock once we get to New Zealand and Australia!!