I’ve never thought of myself as a fussy eater until I started perusing menus in Vietnam in preparation for my recent trip. I then came to the surprising realisation that there are heaps of things I can’t (or won’t) eat. I don’t eat pork. I don’t eat seafood (except calamari but apparently that doesn’t count). I don’t eat innards or offal (just no!). I don’t eat mushrooms (c’mon people it’s fungus!). I don’t like soup. And I can’t eat eggs. These items dominate Vietnamese cuisine, so I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t find anything to appeal. Given my long list of don’ts (I also can’t stand avocado but it seems the Vietnamese can’t either so that was never an issue), it’s a little surprising that I ended up at Bun Bo Nam Bo Hanoi to try my hand at authentic Vietnamese street food. How did I fare? Read on for all the details …
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Vietnamese Street Food In Hanoi
Everyone says you need to eat Vietnamese street food in Hanoi. And I mean everyone. It’s almost the number one ‘must do’ while in town. I’m all about throwing myself into the local culture so I was prepared to give it a go as long as I could appease my ‘don’t eat’ list. It’s easy to find Vietnamese street food in Hanoi. In every doorway, on every street corner, and down every alley food is being prepared literally on the street. The fancy ones are elevated off the footpath but for many the prep surfaces are literally the ground on which you walk. All around me pots were bubbling, pans were sizzling and meat and veg were being chopped in the midst of daily life in a bustling city. The somewhat dubious hygiene standards made me nervous. Very nervous! Especially since we ran out of time to get the CDC recommended vaccinations for Hepatitis A and Typhoid, both of which can be contracted from contaminated food or water (I know! I know!). But the FOMO was real. How could I miss this quintessential Hanoi experience? I couldn’t, but I did set out to find a street food experience that came with the least possible amount of risk. I turned to my trusty friend TripAdvisor and found Bun Bo Nam Bo Hanoi. It’s rated 38 Of 1949 Restaurants in town and even features on many of Hanoi’s organised street food tours. With over 2100 reviews and not a single mention of food poisoning (or worse!) I figured it was worth taking a chance.
Bun Bo Nam Bo Hanoi
Bun Bo Nam Bo Hanoi is authentic street food without pulling up a tiny plastic stool in the gutter and watching your food being prepped on the footpath. Situated on busy Hang Dieu St, it was just minutes away from where we stayed at the Hanoi Glance Hotel. On approach, all you can see from the unassuming street front is the kitchen. The compact space consists of two burners and a stainless steel bench. There is only room for one and the servers help prepare the dishes from the corridor that leads to the seating area. Well you know what they say about too many cooks spoiling the broth … sorry couldn’t resist! It makes for a rather chaotic arrival and the entry was jammed. We peeked over the crush and were disappointed to see the handful of seats at the communal tables were already full. We were tossing up a take away when the cook pointed at us and said simply ‘upstairs’ while simultaneously summoning someone to show us the way.
Once inside we were lead to the last two vacant seats right at the front. Watch your head going up the stairs. The ceiling is incredibly low and The Hubs took a hefty whack to the forehead much to the amusement of our server. Even I had to duck and I’m only 163cms! We couldn’t have asked for a better table. We had the perfect view of the very active kitchen below and we wasted no time ordering a couple of coldies. I’m not normally a beer fan but the choices were limited so I went with the flow.
Checking the menu doesn’t take long. There are only five food items on offer which is typical of the tight menus for Vietnamese street food outlets. Take your pick of Bun Bo Nam Bo, Ga Ham Thuoc Bac, Nem Chua, Gio and Banh Bao. Handing out the menu is clearly a formality. It is so much of a surety that diners will order the Bum Bo Nam Bo that when our server returned moments later he simply asked how many. The Hubs tried to order his without cilantro (coriander) but the language barrier and look of confusion on our servers face made him abandon any attempts to customise the dish and we simply said ‘two please’. I settled into watching a never ending stream of piping hot bowls being prepared below as we waited for our lunch.
Within minutes two steaming bowls were placed in front of us. Bun Bo Nam Bo is noted on the menu as a salad but that is a rather misleading description. Soup would perhaps be more fitting, but even that misses the mark. Bu Bo Nam Bo is a traditional layered dish that makes beef the hero. The broth in the depths of the deep bowl is made of fish sauce, sugar, lemon and chili and has deliciously light sweet and sour undertones. The sauce is topped with marinated beef, vegetables, noodles and crushed nuts. The Hubs wasted no time in stirring all the ingredients through to enjoy his soup style whereas I held back and ate each element off the top with just the smallest bit of broth in each spoonful. It was absolutely delicious. The beef was melt in the mouth tender, the noodles were perfectly cooked and the nuts added the perfect crunch. The serving size was substantial and we couldn’t get through it all.
We were intrigued by the one dessert on the menu and decided to give the Banh Bao a whirl for only VND5,000. It’s described as a dumpling cake but it has a doughnut like texture that was a let down after our fabulous lunch so we left the majority on the plate.
The bill was just $20 in total for two mains, two beers and a dessert the share. If you want to try Vietnamese street food with less risk, Bun Bo Nam Bo Hanoi might be perfect for you. While there are no guarantees, I came out unscathed and thousands of Trip Advisor reviews can’t be all wrong. Having fared so well with my first dabble with Vietnamese street food I was bolstered to try Pi Banh Mi in Hoi An and it was also fabulous.
Have you tried Vietnamese street food in Hanoi? What was your favourite? I would love to hear you thoughts in the comments below …
Until Next Time …
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Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I paid for my meal at Bun Bo Nam Bo Hanoi in full. As always, all opinions are my own. This post contains some affiliate links which will earn me a few cents to contribute to the running of this site if you make a qualifying purchase at no extra cost to you.