I’ve been living in Hanoi for over 10 years, and I think the Michelin Guide missed the city’s 5 best street food spots – DAVID RAUDALES


Businessman, musician / former Full Stack Developer


I’ve been living in Hanoi for over 10 years, and I think the Michelin Guide missed the city’s 5 best street food spots

Bún Cá Sâm Cây Si can be found in an alleyway in Hanoi and serves a traditional fish dish that isn’t even featured in the Michelin Guide.

Joshua Zukas

 The first Michelin Guide to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City was launched in June.The list includes street food, but it only features established spots serving well-known dishes like phở.These five street food experiences in Hanoi should have made it onto the list.

When the Michelin Guide to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City dropped earlier this year, they really stirred the pot. Exasperated netizens took to social media and ruthlessly criticized the list, with a lot of anger targeted at the street food recommendations. “It’s a scam,” a food blogger friend told me. “Michelin wanted to create controversy,” said another. “It’s how they get the spotlight.” Both friends wished to remain anonymous.

When I asked locals about the Michelin street food recommendations in Hanoi on the record, their words were more measured.

“The list is pretty predictable,” said Văn Công Tú, who has led street food tours featured by news agencies such as The Guardian, The New York Times, and CNN since 2008. “It includes many of the street food vendors who already had a level of fame in Hanoi, places that have been on online lists and in guidebooks for a long time.”

“Michelin were not wrong when they chose places that have been around for generations,” countered Trương Quang Dũng, chef patron at Chapter and Habakuk, two restaurants featured in the guide — neither of which are street food. But Trương expressed disappointment that the Vietnam guide failed to uncover lesser-known spots. “Actually, some of the most interesting street food in Hanoi is not in the guide,” he told me.

I agree.

When selecting establishments, inspectors at the Michelin Guide consider five criteria: ingredient quality, mastery of flavor, harmony of flavors, chef personality, and consistency. The focus is, understandably, on food.

As a travel writer based in Vietnam for over 10 years, I strive to recommend spots offering a unique dining experience — not just good grub. I take the food into account, but I also consider the atmosphere, the setting, the location, the story behind the establishment, and the uniqueness of the experience. With that in mind, here are my top street food spots in Hanoi.

1. Fish noodle soup in an alleyway next to a shrineFish soup with rice vermicelli noodles and topped with deep-fried fish, dill, spring onions, and other greens at Bún Cá Sâm Cây Si.

Joshua Zukas

Embedded in an alleyway, Bún Cá Sâm Cây Si has specialized in bún cá — a dish that didn’t even get mentioned in the Michelin Guide — for more than 20 years. Bún cá is fish soup with rice vermicelli noodles and topped with deep-fried fish, dill, spring onions, and other greens. Order it here with a side of nem cá, a kind of fried fish cake.

The hearty broth, crunchy fish cake, and animated alleyway are reason enough to eat here, but the bigger draw might be the setting. Next to Bún Cá Sâm Cây Si is a shrine to venerate the goddess Bà Đông Cuông, who neighborhood residents believe inhabits the adjacent tree. The family running the street kitchen live behind the shrine, and trust that if they continue its upkeep, the goddess will bless their business.

Address: Ngõ Trung Yên, Hoàn Kiếm

Opening Times: 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

2. Bowl of phở in a family’s bedroom The dining room at Phở Bưng Hàng Trống doubles as the family’s bedroom and a space for the family altar.

Joshua Zukas

Squeeze through an alleyway between two souvenir stores, climb a flight of stairs, and squat on tiny plastic chairs before tucking into a bowl of phở bò — beef noodle soup. Like all classic Hanoi phở, the broth is clear and austere, but boils away for most of the day to develop depth. On a good day the broth arrives perfectly seasoned, but there’s pickled garlic and chili sauce to add a bit of kick.

This eatery existed for more than two decades on the street, but the family moved the business into their home during one of the government’s routine crackdowns on sidewalk street food, which is technically illegal. The dining room doubles as the family’s bedroom, living room, and space for the festooned family altar, offering a rare glimpse of what it’s like to live in the Old Quarter.

Address: 5 Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm

Opening Times: 3 p.m. (sometimes 4 p.m.) until they sell out (usually around 7 p.m.)

3. Flat rice noodles near two of Hanoi’s most storied streets Phở Hạnh is near the corner of two of Hanoi’s most storied streets.

Joshua Zukas

Many visitors leave Vietnam thinking that phở is noodle soup, when the word actually refers to a repertoire of dishes. One is phở trộn, a broth-less bowl of flat rice noodles topped with meat, deep-fried shallots, peanuts, greens, and a sweetened fish sauce. Dine on the chicken version of this dish, which isn’t featured in the Michelin Guide, at Phở Hạnh.

Phở Hạnh is near the corner of two of Hanoi’s most storied streets: Thuốc Bắc and Lãn Ông. Thuốc Bắc means “northern (or Chinese) medicine” and Lãn Ông means “lazy old man,” named after a sluggish but prodigal 18th-century doctor who lived and practiced in the area. These are some of the only streets in Hanoi’s Old Quarter that still sell the type of products that the streets were originally named after. As you slurp up noodles, the scents of medicinal herbs and spices flavor the air.

Address: 65 Lãn Ông, Hoàn Kiếm

Opening Times: Around 6 p.m. until they sell out (usually around 11 p.m.)

4. Rice paper rolls with minced pork prepared live Bánh Cuốn Nóng Hồ Tây serves the best bánh cuốn, steamed wet rice paper rolls with minced pork and mushroom

Joshua Zukas

The Old Quarter is the focal point of street food in Hanoi, but that shouldn’t prevent more intrepid exploration. North of the Old Quarter, Bánh Cuốn Nóng Hồ Tây serves bánh cuốn, steamed wet rice paper rolls with minced pork and mushroom. As a side you can order an egg, also rolled in wet rice paper, and some chả, a kind of sausage infused with cinnamon or young green sticky rice.

Part of the fun of eating bánh cuốn is watching the chef pour the rice batter into the large cloth steamer pot and then rolling the rice pancake into delicate parcels. Not only is this place tastier than in the restaurant recommended in the Michelin Guide — in my humble opinion — but here you can sit at the same table as the women, who say they’ve been making bánh cuốn for 40 years, and watch as they assemble the dish.

After breakfast, cross the road to Duy Trí (43 Yên Phụ), a traditional coffee shop in a tube house that has been around for almost a century.

Address: 34 Yên Phụ, Tây Hồ

Opening Times: From 6.30 a.m. until lunchtime

5. Glass noodles with goose near the railway tracks Nhà Hàng Thanh serves miến ngan, glass noodles with goose.

Joshua Zukas

Yet another dish ignored by the Michelin Guide, miến ngan is glass noodles with goose, usually served in a rich, pungent broth flavored with bamboo. If a noodle soup doesn’t appeal, order miến ngan trộn and the broth will arrive on the side.

Aside from serving some of the best miến ngan in town, Nhà Hàng Thanh’s appeal lies in its proximity to the railway tracks. If the guard blocks entry to the infamous Hanoi Train Street or the experience feels like a tourist trap (which it is fast becoming), settle down here for dinner instead. You can still watch Hanoi grind to a halt when the train rumbles past at 7 p.m., 7.45 p.m., and 8.30 p.m. daily.

Address: 3 Trần Phú, Hoàn Kiếm

Opening Times: All day and into the night

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