dishesandplaces

cha ca la vong, where we had our top meal in hanoi

In places on May 6, 2012 at 8:21 pm

the streets in the old quarter of hanoi are named after the things that are sold on the street. for example, the street of our hotel was hang chieu for wooden mats – and there are still some mat stores there. there was also hemp street, dried fruit street… a whole bunch. and then there’s cha ca street, named after a famous fish dish. there’s a restaurant on the street called cha ca la vong that has been serving this dish for over a hundred years. to this day, this is the only thing on their menu.

we were totally unfamiliar with cha ca before this meal. reading up on it, some said it was roasted fish, others grilled. well, it definitely looked fried to us.

when you sit, the wait staff with throw down on your table a spread that looks something like this

the following items can be found: a plate of vermicelli noodles per person, a plate of herbs (basil, mint, etc) a plate of dill (a lot of dill) and green onions/leeks, nuoc cham, a small plate of peanuts, a little stove with a pot of fish happily sizzling on top.

the fish is white-fleshed, some say traditionally catfish, and is marinated in a LOT of tumeric and some other spices. it is then tossed into the pot. when served to you, toss in the dill and green onion/leeks and cook it down a bit

to eat, put some noodles in your bowl, toss in some peanuts and herbs, sprinkle in some nuoc cham, then get some fish and dill and all the goodness from that pot, put in your mouth quickly followed by chopstick-fuls of the noodle thing. this dish is out of this world!

you must must must eat cha ca in hanoi. you just must. now, this particular restaurant is expensive – a whopping 170,000 dong (P425) per person. for old hanoi street cuisine, this price is kinda nuts. we don’t know if the cha ca is much better in other places (we know it’s cheaper though. in la place, for example, it’s half this price), but paying that much in cha ca la vong is probably worth it once because this is the restaurant that pretty much started it all and is still standing.

and believe us, it’s still standing because this dish is really a true gastronomic delight.

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