Best winter warmer
Banh Cuon, 64 Doi Can, Ba Dinh
Like most streets in the capital, Doi Can is just as deserted at night as it is hectic during daylight hours. By midnight, the only light on the street emerges from this hole-in-the-wall banh cuon shop, where steam wafting from the pan softens the electric lighting into a gentle glow. At this neighbourhood eatery, open until around 2am, prices are far more wallet-friendly than in the Old Quarter and the atmosphere is equally hospitable. Sit down with locals at flowered linoleum tables and order a stack of soft rice crepes filled with pork and mushroom (nhan thit) or poached egg (trung). If your night hasn’t been wild enough, throw a few bird’s eye chillies into your nuoc mam.
Best guilty pleasure
Banh Mi, 51 Phuc Tan, Hoan Kiem
Greasy scrambled eggs, crisp pickled cucumber and an addictive chilli sauce, all smashed between toasted halves of crusty baguette: there’s a reason so many clubgoers call the banh mi outside The Lighthouse the best Vietnamese sandwich in town. The unadorned eatery might also be Hanoi’s best riverside cafe, with plastic tables set up along the palm-lined banks of the Red River that offer a panoramic view from late night until daybreak. It’s worth savouring the calm, secluded atmosphere — even if you don’t remember it the next morning.
Best comfort food
Com Rang, 6 Tong Duy Tan, Hoan Kiem
Tong Duy Tan is lined with gritty all-night com rang joints, but you’d be hard-pressed to find more generous portions of fried rice than those at 6 Tong Duy Tan. The mountain of golden grains interspersed with beef, shrimp or flecks of egg is invariably three times more than your group can finish — eaten with crunchy pickled greens, it’s a satisfying way to end a night on the town, and the lively vibe can’t be beat. Pickup games from badminton to spot-the-biggest-rat are all par for the course, and you can even enjoy a shoeshine while you eat.
Best heat beater
Sam Bo Luong, 85 Co Giang, Q1
There are many ways to cool off on a sweltering, sticky Saigon night. But opting for this little late night oddity refreshes your spirits as well as your body. Pearl barley, juniper berries and lotus seeds combine in a sweet ginger tea heaped with a generous portion of shaved ice, for the even cooler price of about VND10,000 a pop. Whether you consider it a drink or a cold soup, the shop stays open until 2am, allowing you to take in the surrounding streetside atmosphere and the closing markets on De Tham before heading back towards your favourite watering hole. Or home, as the case may be.
Best guilty pleasure
Banh Cam, Glass Case on a Bicycle, around Bui Vien and De Tham, Q1
Late at night, your options seem limited, yet some of the most delicious offerings are passing you by inconspicuously. Banh cam is a donut-like ball referred to in the north as banh ran (literally fried bread). You’ll find this treat rolling up the backpacker’s district from dusk till dawn, inside a glass case mounted on a bicycle, motorbike or wooden cart. A sticky syrup coating conceals the mung bean interior; it’s a perfect snack for walking to your next destination.
Best comfort food
Vodka Penne, Long Phi, 207 Bui Vien, Q1
When the night’s libations have come to a close, head to Long Phi for a taste of home that will send you to bed in an excellent state. Open until 5am, this dimly lit bar and eatery sits at the far end of Bui Vien, its secluded location allowing diners to escape the notice of street hawkers, who look for easier and more available targets. Generously topped with mozzarella, the vodka penne has worked its way into many Saigonites’ last hurrahs. Creamy, vodka-infused Alfredo sauce piled high with crispy and chewy morsels of bacon serves as a warm hand that quickly moves you off to a pleasant slumber — and hopefully an equally pleasant morning.