Almost 2 weeks into our Vietnam trip we found ourselves in Hanoi. We found ourselves there because we bought plane tickets. Plane tickets to Hanoi. 

Immediately Hanoi asserted itself as the best city in Vietnam. “Enjoy the excitement of Ho Chi Minh with the relaxed attitude of Hoi An!” it yelled. “Walk as many of my streets as you want and I dare your eyes not to pop out of their sockets as they marvel at my people’s clearly superior way of living!”.

Just one hour passes and we start wishing we had added another week to our trip just to hang out in Hanoi. We need to soak up as much of this amazing city as we can in the few days we have here. We also need lunch. Bun cha time!

Just around the corner from our hotel is Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim. We set out in the afternoon on the hunt for pho, only to find that all the pho spots had shut early. So we stumbled into Bun Cha Nem Cua Be Dac Kim (67 Duong Thanh St) with little idea of what bun cha was other than a fun dish to say over and over as loudly as possible. 

We sit down and are quickly served a plate of rice noodles, some herbs, lettuce and two bowls filled with a sweet vinegary broth. One of these bowls has some green papaya chips floating on the surface while the other is swimming with charcoal grilled pork and pork patties.

After pretending that we knew what we were doing and trying to wrap the noodles, pork and herbs up in the lettuce and stuffing into our mouths, we notice the locals doing it the right way – you pick up some noodles with your chopsticks, dip them into the sweet broth, add some herbs and slurp some pork, herbs, noodles and broth at once. It’s amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa etc.

We also order some fried crab spring rolls (nem cua be) which are as crunchy as they are crabby. They’re real good slurped up with the broth too.

2010 marks the 1000th year since Hanoi was established and the West Lake was all fancied up with balloons and drinking Bacardi like it was its birthday.

Every bench around the lake is taken by body of water enthusiasts, who sit amongst countless couples tying the knot and taking pictures.

There are at least 6 couples getting hitched in this photo!

All laked out, B and I head back to our hotel for a siesta before we embark on another nightly food pilgrimage. This time we’re going to chow down on a recent craze in Hanoi – a greasy combination of a kebab and a banh mi. Seriously!

The doner owner at Cafe Goethe (56-58 Nguyen Thai Hoc St) shaves some pork from his glistening pork pyramid and puts it on a Vietnamese roll with lettuce, tomato, mayo and pickled red cabbage. If it was a lot later and I was a lot drunker I would probably proclaim this as the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten, but sober at 7pm it tastes pretty great too. 

Around the corner we buy another banh mi kebab from a street cart that has no name but proudly displays its certificate in public health inspection out the front. Maybe its name is APPROVED?

By 8pm we’re two sandwiches deep, clearly it’s time to eat a massive bowl of pho. Hours of stressful “best pho in Hanoi” Google searches lead us to Pho Gua Truyen (46 Bat Dan).

There’s a line out the front which is crazy because apparently Vietnamese folks don’t queue for NOTHING. So naturally we’re excited about these noodles.

Huge hunks of aged beef hang next to the counter, dripping fat on to the floor. The aged beef is called chin but out of habit I order pho tai, which comes with rare beef. When our bowls are sat down in front of us I’m disappointed, but still pretty eager to get my slurp on.

Why would I be disappointed? This pho is the real deal, super flavoursome, great noodles and a generous helping of tender meat.

The sriracha chili sauce sits in buckets on the table. Maybe it was made at the restaurant? It’s thinner than what you get in the bottles and a little feistier too.

Out of respect, I finished that bowl of pho to the bottom. It’s important that you do that when pho is good. And this bowl was great, but as we walked back to our hotel I couldn’t stop thinking about how good the pho chin with the aged beef would’ve been. For the next four nights I slept uneasily, pondering over what could have been.



So of course I smashed my bowl with much respect. But in a rare feat of being able to eat as much as her fat boyfriend, Bianca respectfully finished her bowl of noodles too! The pho chin was that good!!


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