A small alley running off Hang Bong Street, Cam Chi is only a few meters wide and about 100 meters long. Nevertheless, it is packed with around 20 restaurants, all serving various traditional Vietnamese dishes. These include bun cha (noodle with barbecue pork), bun bo (noodle, beef and peanuts) and pho (noodle soup). For a full local experience, this alley is hard to beat and presents a great place to chat with the locals and do some people-watching, particularly to see restaurant boys literally wrestling passers-by from their motorbikes to lure them.
Visiting Vietnam and as I'm living in Hanoi, I recognize it especially in this city, you'll surely notice the constant presence of food stalls nearly everywhere on your walks throughout the town. Bicycles laden with fruit and vegetables, simmering pots being carried around or mostly placed on some door steps, boiling kettles, teapots, tables overflowing with different food - the streets of Hanoi are the place where life happens.
If you want to experience authentic ambience and find a faster way to immerse into the culture - that's the way to go. Where food can be found - you can find people. Hanoi should definitely not be a place to go first and foremost to some restaurant, pagodas, temples or restaurant chains which certainly exists and are worth a visit.
You might sure enough find out relatively easily that the original food of Northern Vietnam is not as rich in its variety, but in the last years there are street stalls and little restaurants with food from all Vietnam's provinces. But depending on your taste there is one very common dish found apart from the ever present pho varieties. It's BUN CHA.
At least once a week, at times more often, I treat myself with this inexpensive and nourishing dish. I always wonder in, beginning in May until end of September how the stall owners can stand to do their work. If you have already visited the region you can understand my awe as the usual humidity reaches easily 85%+ humidity on a 30'C day. Working at a coal brazier with hot white coals turning a fat-spitting wire grill filled with pork and preparing as well the barbecued nem is certainly not my kind of work line. It doesn't look and feel healthy anyway.