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Vietnamese cuisine is a real treat and one of the highlights of any visit to the country. In Hanoi, adventurous eaters can taste everything from boiled duck fetus eggs to shots of blood from a freshly killed snake — both are considered delicacies — but if you’re not quite ready to stomach Vietnam’s more exotic specialties, fill up on our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for some of the best food and drink experiences in Hanoi:
1. Banh Mi. We find ourselves daydreaming about the banh mi sandwiches served in the Old Quarter, where the fresh, piping-hot baguettes rival any we’ve had in Paris. Cheap and filling, banh mi are commonly made with Laughing Cow cheese spread, cilantro, long slices of cucumber, chiles, pickled veggies and pork belly, chicken floss or liver pâté.
2. Pho. Along with banh mi, this savory rice-noodle soup is one of the most internationally recognizable Vietnamese dishes and certainly one of the tastiest. Hanoi is actually credited as being home to the very first pho restaurant in the country, and today you won’t have to walk too far to find a bowl of it at a restaurant, café or street stall. Ingredients vary, but locals prefer it with either chicken or thin slices of beef in a rich beef broth; garnish it with bean sprouts, chiles, hoisin sauce and fresh Vietnamese herbs.
3. Bun Cha. Like many Vietnamese foods, this north Vietnamese specialty may be a simply prepared dish relatively short on ingredients, but the taste is both satisfying and surprisingly complex. Accompanied by sides of rice noodles, fresh vegetables and usually fried spring rolls, bun cha are grilled, barbecued pork balls mixed with various herbs and spices and served with a spicy fish sauce-based dip. Many street vendors tend to only serve it around lunchtime.
4. Bia Hoi. Literally translated “fresh beer,” bia hoi refers to both the light, refreshing drink as well as the atmospheric spots it’s served in — clusters of plastic tables and chairs in side streets and alleyways packed with friendly locals. Enjoying a cold pitcher of this cheap, unpasteurized beer on a humid evening is a classic Hanoi experience.
5. Ca Phe Nau da. If you like your coffee sweet you’re going to love the iced coffee available throughout Hanoi. Typical Vietnamese-style coffee is made by slow-dripping ground coffee through a metal filter into a glass of sweet condensed milk. It’s then mixed up and poured over ice in another glass.