We have been to Vietnam before, precisely twice to Ho Chi Minh City, commonly known as Saigon and famous for the pivotal role it played in the Vietnam War, in the past two years. Both times we had a great stay and we had discovered the beauty and peculiarities of the Vietnamese kitchen together with the unique and picturesque realities of the Vietnamese lifestyle.
Reason why we were both very exited for our first trip to Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam located in the far north of the country, known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences.
For this four days trip we chosen a hotel (http://hoteldelopera.com/) located near the Opera House, in the heart of the trendy shopping area, few steps away from the beautiful Hoàn Kiếm Lake, also known as Hồ Gươm, is a lake in the historical center of Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. The lake is one of the major scenic spots in the city and serves as a focal point for its public life:
This hotel is perfectly located and, taking the lake side walk, the Hanoi Old Quarter is reachable in just ten minutes. Here the noises and colors of Hanoi local life shows at its best, specially in the evening hours, when people of every age hit the streets in search of goods, foods and drinks.
For the first night of our arrival we decided to book an amazing private Hanoi Street Food Tour, three hours dedicated to taste ten different dishes and specialties, walking into a labyrinth of hidden streets and alleys. A great chance to discover every corner of the Old Quarter while getting comfortable with the local dining scene. The tour was booked with the best rated agency (http://www.hanoistreetfoodtour.com/), specialized in such services:
The night-life of Hanoi offers lots of bars and clubs for every taste and generation. We always fancy to smoke some Hookah and have some refreshing drinks before bed time, plenty of choices few steps away from one another.
The first morning of our second day could not start without tasting the breakfast dish for excellence in Vietnam: Pho, a noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles called bánh phở, a few herbs, and meat, primarily made with either beef or chicken. Pho is a popular street food in Vietnam and the specialty of a number of restaurant chains around the world. Pho originated in the early 20th century in northern Vietnam, and was popularized throughout the rest of the world by refugees after the Vietnam War.
We opted for one of the best option made with beef called Pho Bo (Bo=beef) prepared by following a very traditional receipt and respecting a very light version of the broth, this made by boiling huge beef’s bones for hours and hours (https://goo.gl/wRAczd):
What’s better than one soup? Two soups! Walking distance from this popular Pho Bo restaurant there is another iconic place that serves another famous Vietnamese soup (https://www.facebook.com/bunchahuonglienobama/), this time based on different types of pork meats: Bún chả, a Vietnamese dish of grilled pork, pork meatballs and noodle, which is thought to have originated exactly from Hanoi. This place was chosen by Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama for their midday snack as well, making this hidden little restaurant a place of pilgrimage.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing by walking around the Old Quarter, admiring traditional local food markets and the everyday life that makes Hanoi such a chaotic but, at the same time, very charming city.
When evening came we were already hungry and in search for some new dining adventure. We had previously reserved a very unique restaurant that serves the authentic Vietnamese BBQ (https://goo.gl/Go5rS7). Located in the heart of the Old Quarter, it is impossible to be missed: from meters away the scents of the bbq will guide you to the right spot with your eyes closed. A very spartan place, where mostly locals dine in groups and where napkins and cans are simply throw on the floor. The experience is simply amazing and the meat worth all the messy situation that surround the diners:
The day after a great meal deserves a great lunch, and nothing is better than the original Vietnamese sandwiches famous all over the world (https://www.facebook.com/banhmi25/): Banh Mì, the word for bread, or more specifically the baguette, that was introduced by the French during the French colonial period. The bread most commonly found in Vietnamese cuisine is a single-serving baguette that is usually airier than its Western counterpart, with a thinner crust. Unlike the traditional French baguette, the Vietnamese baguette is made with rice flour along with wheat flour. This unique mixture makes the Banh Mi extremely light and crunchy:
We felt in love with Vietnam one more time after this trip, and we hold Hanoi in our hearts thanks to the friendly and energetic welcoming by the local Vietnamese population and the fantastic, unique, Vietnamese cuisine. We can’t wait to go back!