6 must-eats in Hanoi's Old Square

By Alex Tran, Thanh Nien News

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1. It is disturbingly hot during this time of the year in Hanoi. But, thankfully, people in the capital city have come up with drinks and desserts that help cool off. Among them is a mix of yogurt with purple sticky rice and ice shavings, known as sua chua nep cam in Vietnamese, which is a must-eat.
 
The rice, or nep cam, is not fermented like the one sold in Ho Chi Minh City. So it can be bland for some people, but it is a perfect match with the yogurt. Condensed milk added on top is a plus for those who have a sweet tooth.
Sua chua nep cam can be found at street stalls near the Big Church. There you can also find Hanoi's signature cold drink sau da in which the sweet and sour syrup from preserved fruits, scientifically named Dracontomelon duperreanum, is served with ice cubes.
2. One of the most famous sellers of nem vuong, a Hanoi specialty often described as "square spring roll", is located on Dao Duy Tu Street. It is not a fancy restaurant, but just a street stall recognizable by its baskets of ready-to-be-served "rolls".
 
An order of nem vuong is served in a small tray along with rice vermicelli, fresh herbs and a dipping sauce of sweet and sour processed fish sauce.
Compared to the rolls sold elsewhere, nem vuong here has a thicker wrapper made from rice paper. But, it is crispy and does not hide the taste of the crab meat inside.
3. Also on Dao Duy Tu Street is an eatery that sells che, a Vietnamese term for any sweet beverage, dessert soup or pudding. The place is small and there are less than 10 dishes on the menu, but it is always crowded.
 
Its che are not only tasty, but look attractive like a bowl of che chuoi in which slices of grilled banana are arranged like a flower with little pink pearls of jelly in the middle. The banana is wrapped in sticky rice before grilling and served in coconut milk.
4. If you like bun cha or grilled pork meat served with rice vermicelli, fresh herbs, and processed fish sauce, you should not miss Dac Kim, a little eatery on Hang Manh Street.
 
Thanks to a homemade recipe, the seasoned meat's flavors here are remarkably different from anywhere else.
5. Mien tron muc or cooked glass noodles topped with strips of deep-fried squid and slices, fish paste, and shredded water spinach is another must-eat in the Old Square. An eatery in a very small alley named Trung Yen is famous nationwide for this dish.
 
Do not forget to add some soya sauce, vinegar or processed fish sauce to the mixture and stir before eating.
6. Ever heard about bun thang? It is a dish of rice vermicelli with plenty of toppings: chicken, fried chicken eggs, cha lua (Vietnamese pork roll), long coriander, Vietnamese coriander, and nam huong (shiitake mushroom), all shredded or cut in strips. There is also salted duck egg cut in half, shrimp floss, and tom he (a species of prawn).
 
The best bun thang can be found at eateries along Cau Go Street.

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