Hanoi is a street food paradise. The mazelike alleys of the tourist-heavy Old Quarter and the more traditional Truc Bach lake area are crammed with stalls and makeshift storefronts, all bearing toy-sized plastic stools and advertising what they sell with bold signs out front. Many vendors sell only one or two dishes, and since Vietnamese uses a Roman script, it's easy to tell what they are, provided you know the some basic street food vocabulary.
Pleasantly overwhelmed and short on Vietnamese language skills, I turned to Aussie expat Mark Lowerson, aka Sticky in Hanoi, who, along with his partner Tu (aka Vietnamese God), runs street food tours of the city. The tours are very small, very personal, and ideal for intrepid eaters looking to branch out beyond pho and banh mi (no offense, pho and banh mi). I was particularly interested in seeking out regional Hanoi specialties, so Mark cherry-picked a few stops for dishes I didn't find elsewhere in the country.
Armed with a clearer culinary understanding and some shiny new food phrases post-tour, I continued eating my way across the streets of Hanoi with a newfound appreciation for what I was actually chewing. Here's a look at some of the fare that makes Hanoi's diverse street food scene so delicious.
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