Besides being sold on streets, all these places have one thing in common: they are groups of shops selling one type of food. Usually one family starts the business with an innovative idea and the neighbours follow their examples. As time go by, these shops have achieved an almost equal status and gained recognition among street food-lovers. However, one disadvantage they all bear is the absence of English in their menu (sometimes there is no menu at all), even as they all locate right in the heart of the Old Quarter. It may be difficult to communicate since the shops are designed for locals, yet if you desperately want to taste a bit of Hanoi’s life, where food is abundant, tasty and cheap; they are there for you to try.
Caramel Pudding (Hang Than): There are about three or four shops selling homemade caramel pudding and yogurt close to the corner of Hang Than and Hoe Nhai. It’s easier for takeout but if you don’t mind a bit squeezing, of course you are welcome to sit down. They are master at mixing yogurt and caramel pudding with fruits, nep cam (violet glutinous rice) and all kinds of yummy jelly.
Hoa quả dầm – Fruit salads (To Tich): Specific types of fruits vary according to the season, but since you are in a tropical country, the beauty of diversity is a wonder. The general idea is medium sized pieces of different taste are topped with condense milk and served with a separate bowl of ice.
Nem ran – Fried pork roll (Ngo Tam Thuong): The whole alley is devoted to this food. Pork roll wrapped in banana leaves are either fried or BBQ at your request. A small portion of hot sauce is served together with a plate of either cu dau (pachyrrhizus) or mango. You can always ask for soya sauce if the sauce is too hot to bear! French fries and sometimes chicken wings are available as well.
Ngo Hang Chieu: Unlike the other three addresses, Hang Chieu valley is a well-known destination for those who want to try different dishes at once. Little shops here are like heaven for those who want to access local food in an authentic way. It is a bit crowded, especially around lunch time. You will see most of the common noodle soup, banh xeo (Vietnamese pan cake with shrimp and bean sprout inside), che (sweet beans and jelly) and many others.
Mon nuong-Ly Van Phuc: tucked away in the middle of the lengthy Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Ly Van Phuc easily stands out for its rising smoke from the many BBQs standing next to each other. Local specialty of the BBQ here is chicken feet, though if the idea of trying one is too intimidating, you can always get chicken drumsticks or ribs, which are equally delicious. These exquisites are often served with a plate of fresh vegetables and chilly-based dipping sauce. In cold nights, what can be better than 2 grilled chicken skewers and 1 cup of rice wine? Try it and love it.
All shops mentioned above open all day, 7 days a week, but don’t try your luck after 10pm.