• Dishes from the north of Vietnam

    Photo by Christian Berg

The food of north Vietnam is renowned for its lightness and delicacy. The Red River Delta creates a fertile farming area, freshwater fish are caught in the lakes and rivers, and the highlands are rich in rice, herbs and vegetable crops. Because of the quickly changing temperatures in the north, Vietnamese here favour dishes that are balanced, healthy and nourishing. Here are four standouts to sample.

Cá Quả Hun Khói - Smoked snakehead fish with salt

north vietnam recipes

Up and down the country, Vietnamese men are avid fishermen. Fish are usually easy to catch for families living along rivers and canals. This dish, cá quả hun khói, is rarely found in restaurants or outside of Vietnamese homes. A snakehead fish is smoked for two weeks, to allow the full aromatics to develop. At Lam Điền Restaurant, the fish is grilled, then served with slightly bitter lemon leaf and natural salt. Each bite is moist and full of salty goodness. 

Gà Hầm Hạt Sen - Stewed chicken with lotus seeds

chicken with lotus seeds

As the year shifts through the seasons, the weather in the north of Vietnam changes continually, with rain and sun often in the same day. This hearty, enriching chicken dish is considered just the thing to eat when the weather acts up. To make gà hầm hạt sen, the entire chicken is stewed on the bone until soft, then cooked with lotus seeds and mushrooms. The broth is reduced to a golden yellow. The Vietnamese say eating this dish will make you feel instantly healthy and restored.

Vịt Hấp Và Măng - Steamed duck with bamboo shoots

family restaurants hanoi

Vietnamese love interesting textures, and native duck is always a prized item on the dinner table at festivals and celebrations. For this modern recipe, the chefs at Lam Điền combine chewy steamed duck and crunchy young bamboo shoots. The duck's natural flavour is enhanced when dipped in fish sauce with wild pepper, or freshly squeezed lemon and salt. Served with sticky rice and eaten with your hands, this dish is simple, delicous countryside fare at its best.

Bún thang - Rice vermicelli noodles with chicken

bun thang noodle soup

Exclusive to the north of Vietnam, bún thang is often enjoyed by families on weekends or on holidays, such as the first day of Tết Nguyên Đán (lunar new year.) Although it looks simple, bún thang is a labour-intensive dish, with the star ingredients julienned into matchstick-thin strips. If you're craving a taste of the real thing, Lam Điền Restaurant serves bún thang all day. Light, fresh noodles are topped with strips of chicken, eggs and ham, then sprinkled with chives and flooded with a clear, nourishing broth.

Where to go: 

best restaurants in hanoi

Hidden right in the centre of Hanoi, Lam Điền Restaurant offers foodies and travellers a chance to try family-style northern Vietnamese cooking in the capital. Tucked away on the second floor of Thang Long Opera Hotel in Hanoi, the restaurant prides itself on serving healthy dishes that tell a multi-generational story about Vietnamese food and culture.

Lam Điền means 'treasures from the earth', and the kitchen's ingredients come from semi-organic farms high in the mountains of Ha Giang. The menu features many hard-to-find countryside dishes. Each one tells a story of northern Vietnam's culture of farming and fishing, in a way that modern diners can appreciate.

Lam Điền Restaurant, 2nd flr, Thang Long Opera Hotel
1C Tong Dan Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi