If you’re looking to save a little money for extracurricular activities while in Hanoi, turning to street vendors is a cost-effective solution. It’s been said that street food portions are too small for an entire day’s worth of nutrition. This would be true by your standard 3-meals-a-day model, but what if you tossed that notion aside and enjoyed up to, say, 5 smaller meals? Now we’re talking nutritional science, economic thinking, and local exploration on your foodie adventure.
A renowned place to test this hypothesis is Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Street food here is abundant, downright tasty, and inexpensive – dishes usually range from 3 to 5,000 dong (mere cents). Here are a few suggestions to stretch your fare.
If you’ve partaken at all in the Hanoi nightlife or are suffering from jet lag, you might be feeling a bit drowsy in the morning. A phenomenal remedy for both is to fill your belly with a brothy concoction such as pho. This noodle soup provides the carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, and vitamins you need to walk about wide-eyed through the gorgeous Old Quarter and once again enjoy your surroundings. It’s a classic Vietnamese breakfast, and you won’t regret blearily ambling down the street for it.
Brunch: Xôi xéo
So, you’ve had breakfast but by now you’re feeling like you could use something a little more substantial. Chances are you’ll encounter this savory dish in almost every outdoor market—there are even Old Quarter restaurants solely dedicated to this local favorite. Xôi xéo is simply sticky rice topped with ground mung beans and fried onions. Sometimes it’s served with eggs or even steamed chicken breast. The meal is filling and good any time of day—but many locals have it for breakfast, lunch, or in your case, brunch.
Lunch: Bánh cuốn
It’s lunchtime now, or a little after if you mustered the energy for a few activities. If you’ve ventured outside the Old Quarter to see a pagoda, tour a palace, or even enjoy a cycling ride, refueling is definitely in order. The French influence on Vietnamese cuisine is apparent in this dish, as it’s essentially a steamed rice-flour crepe stuffed with pork, wood ear mushrooms, and minced shallots, served alongside a mixture of fish sauce, sugar, and lime. Most street chefs make this dish right out in the open – or even at the doors of several restaurants. So if you see steam rising ahead of you, it’s (probably) not a mirage, it’s lunch.