What to do in Hanoi: Food Tour around Old Quarter
Even before my first trip to Vietnam in 2011, I’ve had many a bowl of Pho and Banh Mi from all over Metro Manila. So when I’ve finally set foot in Ho Chi Minh City, I really had high expectations about the Vietnamese dining scene. And true enough, it did not disappoint.
Imagine having the liberty to indulge on a warm bowl of beef pho and spring rolls by the side street anytime – even for breakfast! Isn’t that a treat? Well, let’s just say I enjoyed the experience so much that I vowed to go back for more. But this time around, in Hanoi. And with only three full days and a million things to do, we did what an avid foodie is meant to do. Go on a legit Hanoi Food Tour!
Hanoi Food Tour (Old Quarter): What to Expect, Meetup, and General Itinerary
Before we go full swing into the amazing food, let’s touch on some 411 about this Food Tour we booked through Klook. This Hanoi Food Tour will take you on a 3-hour gastronomic journey around the charming streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. We were expecting a group of 10-15 based on the reviews and were pleasantly surprised there were only four of us in the group – the other 2 being Filipinos too nonetheless!
Guests are picked up from their respective hotels, as long as it’s within the Old Quarter. And the tour boasts of everything Hanoi is known for. From spicy noodle soups to fried meats, pancakes and sweet desserts like tapioca – this food tour around Hanoi’s Old Quarter will let you experience it all. The tour is, of course, a walking tour. So do bring a fan, water bottle, face towel, and be in comfortable clothes and walking shoes. The tour is led by an English-speaking guide and he/she will touch on the Old Quarter’s history and cultural landmarks alongside. With that said, LET’S DIG IN!
First Stop: Xoi Che Ba Thin
Our first stop in this Hanoi Food Tour took us to the most unlikely place: Dessert. Yes, an actual Vietnamese dessert place within the Old Quarter for our first meal. Opened in 1922, Xoi Che Ba Thin is a famous dessert place in Hanoi serving “Xoi Che”. Which is basically sticky-rice covered in fragrant mung-bean sauce. AKA sweet soup. 🙂
What started in a basket, is now a classic favorite amongst locals and tourists alike. We quietly took over one corner of the small dining area while the sole server made our orders. Alex, our tour guide, ordered two (2) variants for us to share.
One sweet (mango) and the other, savory (ginger). I personally found both delightful as they reminded me of the Filipino champorado. Only, with lighter, refreshing flavors.
Second Stop: Banh My P
Next on our Hanoi Food Tour is my personal favorite: Banh My P. And what’s not to love? A hole-in-the-wall shop serving what I deem to be the best banh mi I’ve had in my life. So while the storefront may not be much from the outside, what they have is certainly made to delight.
A crunchy baguette filled with a very flavorful mix of lemongrass beef, daikon, carrot, cucumber, and coriander. But you really want to know the secret to Banh My P’s best taste? It’s because of the liver pate and omelette, that’s for sure.
Fancy some spice? Get some chili and garlic sauce from the back and drizzle on your Vietnamese sandwich!
After finishing our banh mis, we quickly made a pitstop to a local beer shop nearby. Loved the draft beer and freshly fried peanuts!
Third Stop: Sticky Rice Bowls
Our feet then took us to a busy street for our next top in this Old Quarter Hanoi Food Tour. And the meal? An interesting dish called Xoi Xeo or sticky-rice bowls. In a nutshell, I liken Xoi Xeo to the Chinese “Matchang” I’ve grown up with in the Philippines. In essence, Xoi Xeo is sticky rice topped with egg, shallots, and meat (pork/chicken).
We got the last two orders for the night (Thank God!) that had chicken as meat. And how do I describe the taste? A pleasant juxtapose of savory, salty, aromatic, and crunchy flavors and textures.
We then paired our meal with some local beers from the convenience store next door.
Fourth Stop: Fried Finger Foods at Quán Gốc Đa
A ten-minute walk through the bay’s promenade took us to our fourth stop for the night: Quán Gốc Đa. The stall is quite near to St. Joseph’s Cathedral. And they serve some of the best finger food not to be missed in your Hanoi Food Tour. That includes the famous Banh Goi, the Vietnamese version of empanadas.
Of course, we didn’t stop there. Because Alex ordered the whole fried food she-bang. So we also had fried spring rolls (the best ones ever!), shrimp, and fish (?). It’s served with a sweet-sour vinegar dipping sauce and a HUGE bowl of greens. So delicious that we didn’t mind the rather “chaotic” ambiance. (Hey, chaotic can be good right?)
We also saw some very enticing fried street food too along the way. Fried worms, anyone?
Fifth Stop: Chicken/Beef Noodle (Pho Ga/Bo)
By this time, I was already nearing food coma. But I simply couldn’t finish the night without having a good bowl of Pho! Luckily, Alex took us to a low-key pho shop for our fifth stop of our Old Quarter Hanoi Food Tour. Maybe it was the alcohol slowly taking over that I forgot to take note of the shop’s name. So my apologies for that, hehe.
Normally, I would have the Pho Bo (Beef) but we specifically asked if we can be served the Pho Ga (Chicken Noodle Soup) that night. And… it was delicious! A light and refreshing take on the usual richly-flavored pho.
Oh and did you know there’s a proper way of eating pho? Apparently, the first step is to mix all the ingredients of your pho evenly. To eat, take a combination of the ingredients together with your chopsticks and dip them into the sauce. Then in between bites, scoop up broth with your spoon and repeat till you finish your bowl.
Sixth Stop: Egg Coffee
After three hours of eating, chatting, and walking, everyone was ready to cap the night. Well, not until we get a taste of the much talked about Egg Coffee.
We headed back to the promenade. And we entered a tiny alley leading to what seemed to be a ‘dodgy-looking’ apartment. We climbed up the stairs and were led to the cafe with creaky floors and dark interiors. But surprisingly, the place was packed to the brim with customers.
It was at this point that I realized, “You really can’t judge a book by its cover, can you?” Every cup looked delicious. And more importantly, everyone seemed to be having a great time. I was ready for my cup of joe! 10 short minutes later, our orders came. Four great-smelling coffee cups with charming latte art on top.
And so how did their Egg Coffee taste? Life-changing. Smooth in texture, creamy almost custardy in taste. Steph on the other hand, tried the iced version. Mainly because she wanted to be freshened up and found it extra delightful as well. I could have easily had a second cup if it wasn’t growing late at night.
Definitely the sweetest way to end our amazing Hanoi Food Tour at the Old Quarter! And honesty one of the best tasting, most immersive food tours around the world I have done in my life. ‘Till next time, Hanoi!
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