On my first visit to Hanoi, I wasn’t really impressed with the food. To be fair, we were only in Hanoi to get to Ha Long Bay so we didn’t really explore the city and just ate what was within close walking distance to our hotel. Since then, I’ve heard so many people rave about the food in Hanoi and my friend wanted to try some different foods that I thought a Hanoi food tour would be the perfect thing for us.
Normally, I don’t do tours but if I’m eating weird street food, it’s better to go with the professionals. Kevin, our tour guide is a foodie and a chef. His passion for food and Hanoi really shines thru. I found Kevin’s Street Food Style Tour via his amazing reviews on Tripadvisor. I contacted him via email and he said he would cater his Hanoi food tour to what we wanted, exotic foods with some local specialties mixed in. Perfect!
First stop was at a candied fruit stand. This is something I would have never tried on my own, mainly because I had no idea what it was. He gave us long sticks to skewer the different fruits and we just started eating. Hands down favorite was middle row all the way to the right, it was a candied kumquat. Very delicious. But I also tried the plums in ginger, and there was some fruit in vinegar that I really liked, it was the salty sweet combo and you can’t go wrong with mangos and chili. I really wanted to try everything but was already worried about being too full.
Nancy loves Vietnamese pancakes. I find them very hit and miss. I’ve had some I loved and some I didn’t like at all. Jordan and I just had some in Ho Chi Minh City that I didn’t like, I told him they weren’t crispy like they should be and barely had any meat. Kevin took us to his favorite Vietnamese pancake place, which is now my favorite Vietnamese pancake place. The pancakes were extremely crispy and flavorful. You wrap them in rice paper, with some fresh herbs, roll them up and dip in the sauce. I had to fight so hard not to stuff myself. They were so good! I want to go back and have more of these.
I added the signs for the food if I had them so if you ever want to do your own Hanoi food tour, you know what to look for.
The same shop also sold some empanada like dishes. Kevin called them empanadas but I don’t know what the Vietnamese name for them was. Kevin told us it was dog meat but that didn’t deter Jordan, who dug in and said it was very good. It was pork. The filling reminded me of egg roll filling. I only ate one because I was saving precious stomach room.
In the stall directly across from where we just ate, a lady was serving snails. Normally, people eat snails the french way, drowning in butter and garlic. I’m very much a fan but the star of the show is the butter and garlic. Here, the snails seemed like they were roasted and then added to the soup before it’s served. The snails didn’t really have much flavor. The star of the meal was the soup. On first bite, I was unimpressed. The second got better. By the third bite, I was hooked.
The soup contained green bananas which has a yucca like texture to me which I loved, tofu which I didn’t, green onions, tomatoes and topped with some pickled star fruit. Not ingredients I would put together but the soup was amazing. We all agreed, we would go back for more. It was tough not finishing my bowl of soup but the Hanoi food tour continues.
I’ve had green papaya salad in the past and have really enjoyed it. I find green papayas and green mangoes very similar. Normally when I have it, I order it with shrimp. In Hanoi, the traditional version is served with beef jerky. You know how much I love beef jerky. The beef jerky had a hint of sweetness which really enhanced the salad. I loved it.
Kevin wanted us to try these egg pancake looking things but wouldn’t tell us what was in it until after we ate it. It tasted ok, there was a hint of dill and a hint of citrus but nothing I would write home about. Turns out the filling was sea worms. Now you know why he wouldn’t tell us ahead of time. Definitely a miss for me on the Hanoi food tour.
Kevin is so passionate about food that he loves to share his knowledge. He told us about the various herbs and what they’re called and just shared as much knowledge as he could.
We stopped at a fruit stand so he could have us try some different things. This is a custard fruit because the inside has a custard like consistency. Almost like durian in texture but way better in taste. My mom has served it to me before but she didn’t know how to translate the name of it.
They were cleaning frogs right there. There’s a bag on the ground full of live ones. It’s about as fresh as you can get.
I didn’t really love this dish, it was similar to a crepe but made with a rice flour and filled with meat. It was just ehh to me but the others enjoyed it. On the side is some pork loaf.
Any guesses what the boys are eating here?
If you guessed dog intestine, you would be correct. Yes, you read that correctly. Dog is a something that’s not eaten regularly by the Vietnamese and definitely not by Buddhists. The intestines were filled with some nuts, blood and herbs. I had to be coaxed into trying this. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be but it wasn’t good.
We also tried some sliced meat and liver from the dog. The liver tasted like liver, the meat, again, not very good. It’s served with shrimp paste and raw lemon grass as well as other herbs. All designed to cover the taste. If you need to cover the taste so much, why eat it?
I’m sure many of you have heard about balut, which is a duck egg that’s been fertilized so that there is a baby duck in it. I have grown up eating them and love them. They’re sold everywhere here. What I never had until I came to Vietnam was fertilized quail eggs. This is perfect for those who are more squeamish because it’s so small and you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth. Jordan prefers this over duck eggs.
The steamed clams were probably, maybe, it’s a tough decision, my favorite thing on the Hanoi food tour. The clams were steamed with pineapples, ginger and peppers and some of the fish sauce dipping sauce. The broth was absolutely amazing. We were scooping up the broth and slurping it down. So much flavor!
I don’t like coffee so I didn’t order one but this was pretty amazing. Coffee in Vietnam is as much a way of life as Starbucks is in Seattle. They take it seriously. The egg cream was like eating a dessert. You can either eat the egg cream and then drink the coffee or mix them together. You can have it either on ice or hot. Both were delicious but they had different consistencies. This was Jordan’s favorite on the Hanoi food tour. We went back the next day for more. Here’s a recipe if you would like to try and make this at home.
The grilled shrimp were so meaty! Such a simple meal, yet so good.
I had bun cha the last time I was in Vietnam and loved it. In the states, most Vietnamese restaurants serve bun but not this version of it. It’s a bowl filled with noodles, meat and veggies and you pour your fish sauce on, mix and eat. With bun cha, it’s more of a deconstructed dish. Everything is separate and you put it together at you table.
What I love is, you get a broth which in this case had minced pork as well as grilled pork and some green papaya with your bun cha. Sometimes I don’t feel like I get enough fish sauce to cover my noodles at home. That’s not the case here. I soak my noodles, it’s more of a soup and it’s oh so good! If you see it on the menu, give it a try. I had no room to try the egg rolls in the background, he said there was crab in the filling.
Kevin really is fantastic, since he pays for the food as we go, you would think he would try to limit our eating but he was constantly asking us if we wanted more. He also gave money to a street vendor who came up to our table trying to get him to buy gum. He didn’t want any gum and I don’t know what he said to her but I was impressed. She was aggressive and it would have turned me off but he was extremely compassionate and generous. If you ever plan on doing a Hanoi food tour, he is the guy to contact. This is his website: http://tinhkevinstreetfoodstyle.com
One last stop on our Hanoi food tour was for some ice cream popsicles. He recommended the lemon menthol so that’s what we all chose. It took a couple of bites for me to start to enjoy the menthol taste but soon I was hooked. The outside was popsicle and the inside was ice cream. Best of both worlds and a great way to end our culinary adventures.