Peckish at 3 am? No worries, downtown Hanoi has pho and banh mi stalls still open.
Hanoians have a predilection for a late bite, and eateries and restaurants are glad to oblige by remaining open. There are those that take the concept of ‘late’ to its logical extreme and open only at 1-3 a.m. and close around dawn.
Pho stall on Hang Bac Street
A serving of a bowl of pho, some breads and iced tea costs VND50,000 ($2). Photo by VnExpress/Lan Huong.
When the corner of Hang Ngang and Hang Bac streets in Hanoi’s Old Quarter becomes deserted is also when the stall begins to buzz. It has been around for decades with just two large broth pots and a row of plastic tables and chairs. The sign says it is only open from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. every day, but the owners often close early after selling out quickly.
The stall only serves two kinds of beef: red wine stew and stirred half-done beef. Both are soft but have their own distinct taste and are served with pho noodles, green onions and breads. There is a trick to making the flavor of the pho stronger: add a few spoons of garlic vinegar and chili sauce.
The excellent service scores extra points for the eatery. It also serves free iced tea with the pho. Many enjoy having a chat at the stall even after they are done with the food because the atmosphere is so friendly.
Banh mi stall on Cao Thang Street
A banh mi without the tea costs VND20,000 ($0.86). Photo by VnExpress/Lan Huong.
It is not unusual to pass by the corner of Tran Nhat Duat and Cao Thang streets at 3 in the morning and see a line of people outside a stall waiting to get their banh mi. A banh mi is a baguette with various savory ingredients.
The stall, open from 3-6 a.m, is the go-to banh mi place at this hour for young people.
After waiting for around 20 minutes a crunchy, aromatic banh mi is guaranteed. The ingredients are the star of the dish: Vietnamese pork sausage, pork cake and pate stirred with butter before being stuffed inside. The seller also adds some herbs and cucumbers. Additional chili sauce is also a favorite for many.
‘Must-wait’ pho on Hang Chieu Street
A glimpse of the street stall. Photo by VnExpress/Lan Huong.
Another pho stall not too far from the banh mi haven is dubbed ‘must-wait’ phobecause one almost always has to wait to get a bowl. It was opened 20 years ago to serve mostly shoppers at the market and early risers who finish their morning exercise. Now, it attracts all kinds of Hanoian night crawlers.
The stall is at the corner of Hang Chieu and Hang Duong streets in the Old Quarter and very easy to find with its bright white lights and two rows of plastic chairs and tables.
It is rarely uncrowded, and so it takes 30-45 minutes for your order to be served.
The two main dishes are well-cooked beef pho and red wine beef stew which cost VND45,000 to 50,000 ($2.2).