With so many commercial chains popping up, it can be a struggle to find authentic cultural food in Singapore. That said, I’ve found a Vietnamese gem right in the middle of busy Orchard Road, right under our noses this entire time.
Tucked away in the basement food court at Shaw House, Little Hanoi‘s first outlet is a small stall that has gradually been gaining more popularity. Focusing on doling out healthy yet sumptuous Northern Vietnamese classics, it’s no wonder why the food here is becoming such a hit.
When I was there during the lunch hour, the queues were about 10 to 15 minutes long. Due to the central location, you can expect throngs of office workers who will fight with you for their bowl of pho (Vietnamese rice noodle soup). Nevertheless, the Vietnamese staff were very friendly.
While bahn mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich) and pho are a dime a dozen, you might not be so familiar with Vietnamese bun cha. This noodle dish has fatty grilled pork served over a bed of white rice noodles. Interestingly enough, this dish is served dry.
Little Hanoi’s rendition of BBQ Pork with Rice Vermicelli ($7.90), a dish originating from Hanoi, isn’t on the main menu. As I was about to dig into this dish, another diner stopped by my table to ask about it.
As the main dish is served sans soup, do pour some of the sweet red chilli sauce that comes with the noodles. Oddly enough, the potent-looking red chilli packs nothing more than a small kick to tickle your taste buds. So for those who can’t take spice, this is made just for you.
When added in, the sauce held the entire dish together. The thin and stringy vermicelli and the refreshing red chilli sauce had an overall lightness that contrasted well with the heavier meat. If you have a smaller appetite, you will thoroughly enjoy this noodle dish.
Mm, just look at all the good stuff! The main protein is the fatty grilled pork, which had a delicious smokiness that was a bit on the charred side. Nonetheless, combined with the delicate sweetness from the red chilli sauce which lifted the flavour, the meat makes for sinful and rather tasty morsels.
My favourite, however, was the fried spring roll. The crunch I heard with every crisp bite was just heavenly. The well-seasoned and juicy filling inside had everything from black fungus to prawn meat. This is one of the best spring rolls I have ever had!
Now on to everyone’s Vietnamese favourite, pho!
Little Hanoi’s Hanoi Beef Noodle Soup (Pho) ($6.90) is painstakingly simmered for 12 hours, and the results speak for themselves. Despite the slightly murky appearance, don’t be alarmed as this broth is rich, with brighter notes of basil.
With rice noodles being a staple in Vietnam, Little Hanoi had to work hard to do them justice. Thankfully, the noodles were thin, smooth and just right for soaking up more of that tasty broth.
You might notice this very intriguing piece of meat within the bowl. These slices of beef are from the Golden Coin Muscle. While they do not look too appetising, they were nice and meaty, albeit a tad tough.
Little Hanoi also serves up a beautiful selection of bahn mi. I tried the Viet Style Pork Belly Sandwich (Bahn Mi) ($5.90) that was wholesome and delightful. Its selection of ingredients includes pate, xa xiu (like char siew or barbecued pork), assorted fresh vegetables and of course, pork belly.
While I felt that the baguette was a little doughy, it still added enough crunch to the dish. What was the unsung hero in this sandwich, however, was the chilli mayonnaise sauce that was light, creamy and spicy. It also provided much-needed sweetness that tied the individual elements together.
Altogether, the bahn mi was a vibrant mix of delicious ingredients that blended well together. However, I wish that the meat and vegetables were spread more evenly throughout the baguette so that every bite would have a bit of each ingredient.
To end the meal on a sweeter note, I had some of Little Hanoi’s traditional Viet Coffee ($2.90). Due to the drip coffee method, my cup of ca phe (coffee) had a strong flavour. All it needed was the generous spoonful of condensed milk to perk it up!
You can get Little Hanoi’s Viet Coffee hot or iced. With a strong aroma and caffeine that packs a punch, how about switching your morning coffee fix from kopi c to ca phe for a change?
Compared to the neighbouring stalls, Little Hanoi’s dishes are slightly cheaper. Serving up Vietnamese dishes with a strong focus on traditional flavours, Little Hanoi definitely isn’t just another ‘food court stall’. Of course, my favourite dish, the rather uncommon bun cha, makes it worth a visit.
With value-for-money food, you won’t have to break the bank to get authentic Vietnamese grub. So even in your busy week, walk a few minutes further and be served food that will whisk you away to Vietnam!
Expected Damage: $6 – $12 per pax