Why is it that food and community make the best memories? We joined a walking group street tour in Hanoi with Hanoi Street Food Tours with fantastic group of fellow travelers and together we were able to experience the authentic street food of Hanoi. I was already a big fan of street food tours after our great experience in Saigon, and Hanoi Street Food Tours did not disappoint. Our group was about 10 people, mostly couples and we had 2 tour guides. We followed our guides quickly and closely through the small streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Whenever we were about to cross a street, the lead guide would call out “sticky rice!”, meaning we were to stick close together to avoid being hit. Appropriate and effective.
Our first stop on the tour may have been my favorite, bun cha! Delicious barbecue pork and rice noodles. So flavorful and yummy. But I learned my lesson from our last food tour and I DID NOT fill up at stop number one. We have seven places to hit on this tour! But I could have eaten so very much more. Our second stop was an interactive stop. We learned how to take thinly steamed rice flour wraps off the top of the steaming pot. It was incredibly tricky and required coordination and timing. I was quite terrible. But thankfully the end result was tasty regardless when the soup was all mixed together!
Our third stop our tour guide called “married women food”. I was confused. Was there really a dish in Vietnam that only married women ate? Then, we arrived. It was assorted fried foods. Meaning who cares how much fried & fatty & greasy food you eat, you are already married! This somehow feels anti-feminist. Either way, the fried treats were great. My favorite, not surprisingly, was the spring rolls. I could live off spring rolls, I think. And I’m already married, so who cares if I get really fat, right?? No, that’s not OK.
We continued our walk through Old Town, and I was thankful for the breaks between meals. We definitely ate a lot of food, but there was a good amount of walking as well. So it balances out, right? At our fourth stop, we got crab noodle soup. It was light, but filling. Everyone in our group devoured it immediately. Stop number 5 was a sweet spot, combining black rice with yogurt and fruit with yogurt and mixed together with ice. It was cool and fresh and perfect for a hot humid night in Hanoi. We actually found this place again a few nights later and ate even more. This was a great treat.
For stop number 6, we switched it up and stopped for a beer on tap! Vietnam has ridiculously cheap beer, and our frothy mugs were only 5,000 Vietnamese dong each. That’s 25 cents. For an entire cup of beer. It’s literally cheaper to drink beer than water in Vietnam. I feel like this could be a contributing factor to the rates of drunk driving in the country as well.
For our final stop, we finally sampled two Hanoi classics, banh mi and an egg latte. Banh mi is a baguette sandwich, usually served with pâté and vegetables, which we ate many times in Hanoi. And the egg latte is a Vietnamese coffee served with egg white to make it creamy and frothy. It sounds bizarre but it was delicious! I’d seen it on other food blogs, and was hoping we could find this treat. It was a perfect stop to end the night.
We left completely full and with new friends. I love how travel is a universal experience, and when you meet someone else on the road, no matter where you started from, you can have shared experiences. As we all ate and drank together, we shared tips from our time on the road, laughed at our cultural mistakes and talked about home. While I am a planner and a scheduler by nature, so many of the beautiful experiences one has while traveling, cannot be planned or scheduled. I’m so glad we experienced the street food of Hanoi with this group of people who will forever be part of our travel stories.