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Ngõ Nooks: Bingsu, Folk Crafts, and Hanboks at Hanoi's Hayoon Cafe

“What inspired you to open a Korean cafe?” I ask Giang, the manager of Hayoon Cafe in Nam Từ Liêm, a popular Korean district in Hanoi.

Giang giggles with a glint in her eye. “I got a Korean boyfriend,” she says.

But Giang’s interest in Korean culture goes back much further than her relationship. She majored in Korean Language at university and met her boyfriend while working at a Korean company in Hanoi. Now, she hopes other Vietnamese people will fall for Korean culture just as she did, and Hayoon Cafe is the ideal venue for people to do just that.

If they can find Hayoon Cafe, that is. As it's situated among a grid of leafy, hidden streets, getting to Hayoon Cafe feels a bit like breaking into a private estate. I gave the security guard as innocent a smile as I could muster as I stepped through the gate, not quite believing he would actually permit me to enter. He watched emotionlessly as I walked past, and I soon found the cafe tucked in amongst a long row of houses. 

The project started as a language center in 2022, teaching both Korean and Vietnamese. The second and third floors of the building are comprised of classrooms fitted with long white tables, projectors, and television screens. There is also a room for private events, complete with a full beer fridge and a balcony overlooking the pedestrianized streets below. 

Photos via Hayoon Cafe.

As well as language classes, students can take part in workshops teaching traditional Korean arts and crafts, such as arranging bojagi (wrapping cloth), painting bokjumeoni (coin purses), and hanji (folding fans). In June 2023, Giang expanded on this idea of cultural exchange by turning the ground floor into a Korean-style cafe. 

The cafe has a minimalist aesthetic — white walls with flashes of blossom pink, bare wood, blocks of elegant hangul script, panoramic windows, and stacks of Korean board games. There is a small, quieter mezzanine with a large window overlooking the garden. The garden is fronted by a lavish, solid wood gate and hemmed in by white walls topped with Korean “giwa” (tiles). It all creates the perfect backdrop for what Giang claims is the most important aspect of the cafe’s charm: the fancy dress.

Giang gets up from our table and leads me into a small room near the back of the first floor. Here, customers can choose from a variety of different color hanboks (traditional Korean gowns), sporting pastel pinks, bold stripes, and elegant gold patterns. There are also hats, fans and headdresses, as well as tripods and flash diffusers for all your amateur modelling needs. 

Photo via Hayoon Cafe.

The menu is as vibrant as the fancy dress, with punchy fruit smoothies accompanied by indulgent bowls of bingsu (fluffy Korean shaved ice), with toppings ranging from crunched Oreo, to mango chunks, to matcha cream. There is also a selection of Korean teas and cakes. 

Giang’s passion shines through in every detail, and it’s clear she has the greatest respect for Korea, its culture, and its people.

“I was first attracted to Korean culture by the kindness of the people,” says Giang. “Not only are they very friendly, but they are also very stylish and very hardworking.” 

Văn and Quỳnh Anh, two staff members who kindly offered to translate for Giang and I, also chip in with their take on the matter. “Compared to Korean people, I think Vietnamese are maybe more free and less hardworking,” says Văn. 

“And who is more fun?” I ask. “Both,” says Quỳnh Anh. “Both are very fun in different ways.”

Photo via Hayoon Cafe.

Perhaps this throwaway comment hits upon Hayoon cafe’s biggest achievement. While Giang’s ultimate goal of bringing Korean and Vietnamese cultures together might sound lofty, she achieves her objective through a focus on enjoyment. Her smile when she quips about her Korean boyfriend, the splashes of pink, the elaborate fancy dress, the decadent desserts and the handicrafts are all reminders that learning is supposed to be fun. Hayoon cafe delivers this with passion, style, and a welcome bit of silliness.

Hayoon Cafe is open from 10am to 10pm.

To sum up:

Taste: 4/5
Price: 4/5
Atmosphere: 4/5
Friendliness: 5/5
Location: 4/5

Oliver describes bún chả as “wet burgers” and burgers as “dry bún chả.” 

Hayoon Cafe

Lot 93 TT4, Mỹ Đình–Sông Đà Residential Area, Nam Từ Liêm District, Hanoi

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