You are probably wondering what this dish is with such an excessive amount of herbs, dill and fish nowhere to be found. Under all the fresh dill is the moist and tender fish – cha ca loaded with turmeric. Cha Ca La Vong is a must-not-miss in guidebooks for whoever visiting Hanoi not only for its mouthful flavor but also its representation of Hanoian culture.
Cha Ca La Vong has been considered not only a delicious dish but also a trademark of Vietnamese cuisine
The melodic sounding ‘Cha Ca La Vong’ is one of Hanoi’s famous dishes consisting of white fish (often Vietnamese Snakehead fish) along with fresh turmeric, galangal, ginger, the pungent smelling Vietnamese shrimp paste, spring onions, rice noodles and a generous helping of fresh dill, coriander and mint and a scattering of peanuts.
Cha Ca La Vong originated from the Doan family. During French colonial period, Doan family at no.14 Hang Son hosted De Tham army troop and served them and the guests delicious grilled fish. After the dish became famous, the guests stayed to help Doan family with their business and it became a get-together place for the surrounding villagers.
The appearance and fame of this dish was the reason Hang Son Street changed into Cha Ca Street (one of the 36 streets in the Old Quarter of Hanoi). Especially, in the restaurant at that time, there was a statue named La Vong – Khuong Tu Nha, the God of fisherman; since then, the place has been called Cha Ca La Vong.
The dish and all of its accompaniment are complex in flavor and texture yet they come together harmoniously. The combination of ingredients — turmeric, dill, shrimp paste and fish sauce — delivers an intriguing muskiness bolstered with chiles, silky noodles and a thicket of other fresh herbs to season the chunks of moist fish.
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You can cook and eat at the same time while the dish is still hot
A portable gas stove and a small frying pan are brought to the table and the art of preparation is done by the waiter. Cha Ca (turmeric seasoned fish) is first grilled then fried in oil table side. Heaping plates of dill, green onions and cilantro are accompanied to be placed into the sizzling pan.
After 3-5 minutes of cooking, the dish is ready to be served.Eating Cha Ca La Vong is not only tasty but also a lot of fun because it involves tabletop cooking and do-it-yourself assembly.
The season grilled fish is adorned by a tangy combination of onion, ginger, green onion and dill. It is further fortified by the peanut and shrimp paste, which explode into a heady flavor. Again and again, you can mix all the ingredients together, eat, and repeat until your tummy is happy!
An accompanying large amount of fresh herbs keep the fish light and tender
Cha Ca La Vong should be eaten when it is still hot. The Hanoians often eat this dish while sipping some alcohol in the cold weather. For me as a Hanoian, eating Cha Ca La Vong is close to a ritual; it is a nice place for family and friends to get together and enjoy hot and delicious dish after days of hard work. Even though it is more pricey than other traditional Vietnamese foods, it is still worth a try.
This restaurant now is part of the “1,000 Places to see before you die” list and is featured on the New York Times.
Address: 14 Cha Ca Street, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi
Phone number: +84.438.253.929