Donuts in Hanoi – Street Food or Tourist Trap?

Donuts in Hanoi

When you’re in Hanoi, you will likely see these mass-produced donuts being sold EVERYWHERE. Women sitting down by the roadside with baskets of donuts. Women on bicycles (like the one pictured above) with baskets of donuts. Women walking down the streets with baskets of donuts. Whenever they spot tourists, they would enthusiastically approach them to sell the donuts. I had not seen the locals buying any though.

Donuts in Hanoi

I had my first encounter with a donut vendor just outside Dong Xuan Market. The donuts looked good and I was interested to try. I asked for the price and was quoted 5,000 VND (SGD0.32) for a piece. Seemed expensive by local standards but since I just wanted to try one of each flavour (3 different types), I didn’t mind so I said ok, I would take one of each. Probably due to language barrier, she didn’t understand what I wanted and she started packing 10 assorted pieces into a plastic bag and tried to shove that to me while asking for 50,000 VND. I said I didn’t want that many because only I myself was having them and I just wanted 1 of each. She was so desperate for business, she was almost begging me to take them. I tried to bargain for 30K. She didn’t look too pleased but eventually accepted my offer. SGD1.90 for 10 donut balls – not too bad I guess.

Throughout the week, I spotted a lot more of these donut vendors. The honest ones only charged 1K-2K per donut. The crafty ones would try to offer you a piece of donut as though for free sampling. If you grab it, be prepared to pay a ridiculous price for it. Saw a Caucasian lady trying to negotiate the 200K that she was being charged for. Well, my advice is to walk away if you don’t want to be caught in a similar situation and do not accept any ‘samples’ (don’t even try to touch it with your fingers) from anyone. There’s no such thing as a free lunch!

But if you still want to try these donuts for the sake of ‘been there, done that’, then make sure you ask for the price first and negotiate down to something that you’re happy with before buying.

Donuts in Hanoi

Were these donuts good? All were crispy on the outside but were so greasy that when I bit into every ball, it would just ooze oil out. Eww.

Donuts in Hanoi

The ones coated with sesame seeds were exactly like jian dui (煎堆) i.e. fried glutinous rice balls with green bean paste.

Donuts in Hanoi

The dark brown ones had a very strong ‘porky’ flavour that wasn’t very palatable. If I wasn’t wrong, the balls were fried in pork lard so the taste was just very weird. I didn’t like them.

Same for the sugar coated ones which also had a porky flavour but just with an additional layer of sweetness on the outside.

Not a big loss if you don’t give these donuts a try. I think the jian dui we have back in Singapore are way fresher and nicer than these.


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