VietnamFood & DrinksWhat to Eat on Food Tours in Northern Vietnam (Part 1)

What to Eat on Food Tours in Northern Vietnam (Part 1)

When discovering Vietnamese foods, you will find a little bit of all four tastes – salt, sour, sweet, and bitter – combining well, creating each region’s unique dish. People’s way of cooking and recipes also vary across the country. Let’s find out what to eat in Northern Vietnam.

What to Expect – What to Eat in Northern Vietnam

On your food tours in Northern Vietnam, chances are you’ll run into mild, spicy, and colorful dishes. Most people in the North of Vietnam do not like their foods too fatty or too sweet. The taste is straightforward; if it is salty, it will be salty; if it is spicy, it will be really hot. One of their favorite ingredients is shrimp paste. The foods we suggest below are easy for you to find in some local markets in the North, like Dong Xuan Market, Hang Da Market, and Cho Hom Market.

However, in the mountainous areas where ethnic minorities live, and the climate is cooler, the cooking is even simpler. People usually use a range of wild vegetables, herbs, and spices in their dishes to bring out the original delicious flavor of the meat. You can also find these foods at their local market sessions.

What to Eat in Northern Vietnam


food tours northern vietnam pho

Northern style Pho, commonly known as Pho Hanoi, is a famous brand of Northern Vietnamese foods. It is also one of the most well-known dishes of Vietnam in the world. Most Vietnamese use Pho as breakfast before going to work, but you can enjoy it anytime because many stores open from early morning to late evening. This is great for your adventure on what to eat in Northern Vietnam.

See Where to Have the Best Pho in Hanoi.

Pho Hanoi originated in the early 20th century, the first appearance in Hanoi. There are two popular kinds of Pho: chicken and beef. The savory and aromatic soup, soft white noodles, juicy meat, and cooking skills combine to make the quality of a bowl of Pho.

Price Range: VND 30,000 – 60,000/bowl

Bun Dau Mam Tom (vermicelli with shrimp paste and tofu)

food tours northern vietnam bun dau

Talking about Hanoi, visitors will think of Pho first. But another traditional food that also appears long ago, and that is Bun dau mam tom (vermicelli, or thin rice noodles, with fermented shrimp paste). In Hanoi, there is even a street dedicated to producing rice vermicelli called Hang Bun Street.

A typical Bun dau mam tom tray includes vermicelli, a small dish of shrimp paste, fried tofu cubes, slices of boiled pork, and some Vietnamese herbs. People usually eat Bun dau mam tom at lunch, but recently, you can also find it sold in restaurants in the evening. It is served mainly in local markets and small stores along the streets because the pungent smell is not suitable for closed rooms.

Price Range: VND 30,000 – 60,000/set

Bun cha (vermicelli with BBQ)

food tours northern vietnam bun cha

It is another dish with Bun. Bun cha is usually served in a bowl of light fish sauce (the fish sauce is mixed with water, some slices of turnip cabbage, and carrot and boiled like a broth) with grilled pork patties, a dish of vermicelli, and a bunch of Vietnamese herbs. You can also order a crab spring roll to go with it. Eating Bun cha at noon is best because this is when the Bun has just been freshly made.

Price Range: VND 30,000 – 60,000/set

Banh Cuon Thanh Tri (Stuffed pancake)

food tours northern vietnam banh cuon

The ingredient of this pancake is rice. Each pancake is spread into paper-thin, and a little bit of green onion oil is applied for the aroma. To get the best taste of Banh cuon, you cannot miss the sauce, and at Thanh Tri town, the dish is even more delicious accompanying the sauce seasoned carefully with the special fish sauce (their secret recipe) with vinegar, add a few slices of fresh peppers. Banh cuon can be served with roasted cinnamon pork and hot steamed shrimp.

Price Range: VND 30,000 – 40,000/dish

Cha Ca La Vong (Grilled fish)

food tours northern vietnam cha ca

Cha ca La Vong is a marinated fish paste, grilled on charcoal and then fried. The fish used in the dish must be fresh, little, and little bones. People must choose the fish carefully to keep the dish’s original flavor. Not all types of fish is suitable for making this dish. This grilled fish can be served with rice or rice noodles; add some pieces of herbs and crushed peanuts.

Price Range: VND 30,000 – 60,000/bowl

Com (green sticky rice)

Green sticky rice is Hanoi’s specialty. In autumn, people usually have to bring green sticky rice as a gift for their friends and family. The smell and the taste of this kind of food make many local people feel homesick when they are away from home. Not only is that a great addition to what to eat in Northern Vietnam, many tourists also buy Com as a specialty souvenir.

The most famous green sticky rice originated from Vong village. Green sticky rice tastes the most attractive during the sticky rice harvest in autumn. It is not only baked to make a sweet treat but also made into many other delicious dishes such as rice noodles, fried rice, grilled rice nuggets, and rice nuggets, contributing to the diversity of Hanoi’s cuisine.

Price Range: VND 15,000/cake, 200,000/kg of green sticky rice

Banh dau xanh Hai Duong (Mung bean cake)

Mung bean cake is a must-try dessert in Vietnam because of its natural flavor. Made from mung bean powder and pure sugar, the cake is simple and not too sophisticated, but it still contains the typical taste of the northern region. The sweetness of the cake goes perfectly well with the bitter green tea, a standard drink in Northern Vietnam.

Price Range: VND 30,000 – 40,000/pack

Thang Co (Horse meat hotpot)

Unlike popular dishes that can be found easily across Northern Vietnam, thang co is more commonly found in the Northwest mountainous region. It is a type of soup cooked with horse meat or beef. The original version of this dish made by the ethnic communities in Vietnam could be pretty hard to enjoy because of the smell of horse meat. Fortunately, some restaurants have added ingredients to reduce this smell so everyone can enjoy it.

Price range: VND 100,000 – 400,000/hotpot

Thit Trau Gac Bep (Smoked buffalo meat)/strong>

food tours northern vietnam smoked ox meat

The buffalo meat is marinated and smoked on the stove until dry, like beef jerky. Vietnamese usually use it as a snack or eat with rice at lunch and dinner. The meat is flavorful, but you can dip it in hot sauce, lime-salt-pepper mixture, or sweet-sour fish sauce to enhance the taste.

Price range: VND 900,000/kg

Xoi Ngu Sac (Sticky rice)

Xoi Ngu Sac is a popular dish in the Northwestern holidays, especially with the Thai in Yen Bai. You can see the typical colors of sticky rice, such as red, purple, yellow, green, and white. The talent of the ethnic people is the use of natural materials to dye sticky rice. Each color represents ambition, wealth, health, nature, and pure love. You can also eat this sticky rice with Thit Trau Gac Bep (Smoked buffalo meat).

Price Range: VND 10,000 – 30,000/set

Other Honorable Mentions for What to Eat in Northern Vietnam

Bun Rieu (Vermicelli Noodles in Crab Soup)

Though popular nationwide, bun rieu has its origin in North Vietnam

Popular in: Hanoi

Egg Coffee

Within Vietnam’s rich coffee culture, egg coffee is a must-try in the North

Popular in: Hanoi

Cha Muc (Squid Sausage)


Popular in: Hai Phong, Ha Long

Banh Gio (Pyramid Rice Cake)

Banh gio is ideal for breakfast or a filling midday snack

Popular in: Hanoi

Summary of What to Eat on Food Tours in Northern Vietnam (Part 1)

The North of Vietnam, the region with the longest history in Vietnam, preserves so many features of food that represent Vietnamese culture and lifestyle. These foods should definitely be on the list of any travelers who are considering exploring tasteful and appetizing food while enjoying the breathtaking landscape. There is a lot more to the dishes in Northern Vietnam, from noodle soups for cold winter days, cool and refreshing Bun for hot summer days, or sweet treats to exotic meat in the mountainous areas. These dishes are only a part of all the signature dishes.

You may also like:

Part 2:  What to Eat in Central Vietnam

Part 3:  What to Eat in Southern Vietnam

What do Vietnamese eat for breakfast

What to expect in Ho Chi Minh City food tour

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