July 29 2014
Vietnam Travel Diary-cover

I take my food research pretty seriously when we travel. Equipped with a long list of restaurants and food to try, we never face a problem of desperately looking for a place to eat. Happy tummy all the time!

‘Go where the locals eat’ is my philosophy to food travel. If you see a long queue of locals, don’t even waste your time snooping around, just get in the line. We once queued for 30 minutes at 6:30 in the morning in Hanoi to eat the best pho in town, and it was well worth the wait.

I’m also enthusiastic to try everything that meets my eye, even fried grasshoppers and scorpions. Hanoi is a street food heaven. The streets hidden alleyways are bursting with street food vendors with their makeshift ‘restaurant’ area with a portable kitchen and miniature stools. Eyeing all the offerings in the street, I could not makeout the food they were serving but was curious to try everything.

Here comes Mark Lowerson to the rescue! Mark is an Aussie blogger living in Hanoi and operates a private street food tour for serious food enthusiasts who want to experience the authentic taste of Hanoi. He picked us up from our hotel for an afternoon of street fooding. Away from busy touristic streets, to took us off the beaten tracks and went deep into the alleyways and markets to sample his local favorites.

With a genuine passion for food and a background in hospitality, he described each food item like a Food Network chef. We drooled, oooohed and ahhhhed the entire time, and I’m about to do the same to you. Here is a look at Hanoi street food by my preferential order.


Fried crab spring rolls is my way of describing this. The parcel is held together by rattan string that is cut once cooked. It is served with fresh herbs and salad, vermicelli noodles (optional) and dipping sauce made with fish sauce with papaya slices and chilli.


Although the name says ‘Pho’, this is not your typical pho since I wouldn’t call it a soup. It’s a bowl of steamed noodles topped with roasted pork and topped with dried shallots, peanuts and lots of herbs on top. It is poured with this magic crack sauce with a little bit of the pork broth. This dish is best downed with Hanoi beer.


We took a break from walking in the sun and had a refreshing iced tea. It’s a simple concoction of palm sugar syrup, lime and green tea. The vendor makes a batch of this syrup in glasses and then fills it with green tea and garnishes with lime slices. Simple enough to do at home.


Deep into a small alleyway, Mark took us to sample Banh Bao Chien which he described similarly to a Scotch Egg. It’s a Vietnamese fried sweet bun with pork filling and quail egg in the middle. It’s dipped in another variation of dipping sauce made with fish sauce.


Che is a traditional dessert ‘soup’ with a variety of topping to chose from that includes mung beans, kidney beans, jelly, fruits like lychee, jackfruit, stinky durian. It’s topped with jasmine water and ice- delicious!


This glorious looking dish is the Vietnamese’s take on papaya salad. The papaya salad combines a mix of local herbs and greens, shredded carrots, spicy dried cured beef, topped with roasted peanuts and deep-fried garlic. Wonder why it’s not on top of my list? The cured beef was so spicy, it almost choked me to death.


When Mark took us to this street food vendor, I thought he was just showing us this goory bat looking thing in a can but nope, it was our next pit stop. Ga Tan is far from disgusting; it’s actually a medicinal chicken originated from China. Once taken out of the can, you are served a bowl of chicken with goji berries, lotus seeds, dates, mushroom, and other things I don’t know about.


The last food item on the tour and by far one of my favorite coffees from my trip, this egg coffee is more of a dessert for me than a beverage. Mark took us to Giang Café that’s been making this signature coffee since 1946. You can have it hot or cold, this coffee is a delicious mix of eggs, milk and coffee and has a thick consistency. It felt more like drinking really good tiramisu.

More street food eats in Vietnam on Mark’s blog Stickyrice


  • potsandpatterns

    ok… im all about being adventurouss… but Ga Tan!!!
    i need the bathroom!!
    great post and pics

    • Joanne

      Ga Tan always comes as a surprise; even for me when I first saw it, but it doesn’t actually look like that once served: they take it out of the can, and serve it on a plate, without the legs and all; and it was unique in taste. The can and legs thing is really just for show.
      The ICED LEMON TEA is an amazing summer drink.
      Karen, do you think you could maybe do a post dedicated to Summer Drinks?

    • The presentation is horrendous and would never even try this if it wasn’t for our guide. They take it out of the can and serve it in a plate that looks like a gold old regular chicken.