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Cha Ca La Vong: Fried Fish Hot Pot
This place is listed under Patricia Shultz's "1000 places to see before you die".
Since this place is highly touted by Shultz, it's supposed to be an instituition pretty much like the Pho Hua in the South. But sad to say, I won't give this place high points for the food though service is excellent. Nope dear reader, if you can, give this place a miss and try your Cha Ca at La Brique or Brother's cafe.
Favorite Dish: Ok, it wasn't the creaking windy staircase or walking around the choked arteries of the old quarters that made me debunk Shultz's recommendation.
It was the tumeric.
There was too much of it , making the dish more yellow than the Beetle's submarine. And like a fussy Chinese eater, I don't like the fact that my fish was frying the whole time I was eating! When that happens, the fish is stripped off the taste and moisture. Too bad, this was otherwise a fine place and service was par excellent.
How did I know? Well, after ordering the dish, I snared one the the waiters and asked in terrible vietnamese how to eat this darn thing. The next thing I knew, the proprietess intercepted the waiter.Guess she took pity on me. She broke into a cheerful prattle of motherly chuckles and threw in an ark of vegetables into a sizzling platter of oil and fish. Next, she threw in something here and there and voila! There was the dish ready for me to eat...
Here's a lesson on eating cha ca in case you look as daft as I did in the shop.
Eating Cha Ca 101
Attack the dill, parsley and assortment of vegetables like a crazed rabbit and throw in the lot into the simmering pan. Toss in some noodles too for good measure.Stir fry it for a while to kill unhappy e.coli in the vegetables.
Take out the concoction, sprinkle an odd peanut or two, drench it in sweet sauce and feast on the fish.
Cha Ca La Vong: Braised fish sauteed with fresh herbs
I love looking for little restaurants / bars / cafes in strange places that I have never been before. Armed with just the address and a vague idea of where it is located, its an adventure itself looking for that elusive place.
So I got lost along the way. However, helpful locals seeing a lost tourist (ie : me) generously pointed me to the right direction.
The restaurant is a small place. Up the slightly steep staircase, I come into a bustling atmosphere with many tables filled up already ! I was alone, so I had no problems sharing a table with an old couple. Everyone there is smiling and busy focusing on the food - this is a great sign !
Favorite Dish: While the guest sit down at the table, the waiter starts laying there some seasonings: a bowl of well - stirred shrimp paste sauce mixed up with lemon and a few drops of liquor to give it flagrancy, and decorated by a few slices of red fresh pimento (chilli), a plate of grilled ground nuts of gold yellow color, various species of mint vegetables from Lang village; onions in small white slices having the form of tuberose.
Added to this is a plate of soft noodle in thin small and white threads. To many customers, the sight of such seasoning already greatly stimulates their appetite. A few minutes later, fried fish, yellow in color and flagrant in smell, put on a plate of anethum vegetable is brought in. But that is not all. A few seconds more a cauldron of boiling fat is brought in and the waiter start pouring some boiling fat on each bowl of grilled fish, thus producing a flagrant smoke and sputtering noise.
Further, some drops of coleopterous are dropped on the bowl giving it a special smell which is unforgettable to connoisseurs. Grilled fish are usually chosen from certain species of fish: pimelode, sturgeon,etc
Cha Ca La Vong: a fish dish to die for
This is an extremely busy place to dine if you go in the evening so to avoid crowds go in the afternoon, after the lunch hour rush. Though it is reputed to be 200 years old and is visited by many tourists, there is a decided local flair to it and indeed many Hanoians dine here. It is a narrow and simple place, with too many wooden tables squeezed into its area space. When the tables are full and the waiters are scurrying about with hot sizzling pans of cha ca, you know you are in the right place.
Favorite Dish: Not sure if they even have anything aside from cha ca but this is THE thing to get if you are here anyway. It is a white fish, served in boneless chunks, smothered in greens and saffron-infused oil. It comes out right in the frying pan it is cooked in too. It seems a bit expensive by local standards (142,000d or $9 for two) but you get an unlimited amount of rice noodles on the side and with all the oil and greens, it makes a tasty accompaniment. Wash it all down with one of Vietnam's best bottled beers, Ha Noi. This brew is not as watery as most of the country's concoctions and actually has some hop bitterness that goes well with the spicy fish.
Cha Ca La Vong: Really great local food
When coming to Vietnam you want to try local food which is different from what you are use to. One of the very first options you should consider is this restaurant which only has one dish: "Cha Cha". Cha Cha consist of a marinated fish which is barbequed at your table. From time to time you have to add dild and others fresh herbs and then eat it with cold noodles. It tastes extremely well. You cannot get it in other cities, so when in Hanoi you should not cheat yourself from this experience even though the price at 75.000 VND is a bit high!
Cha Ca La Vong: They only have one thing, but it's pretty good
Cha Ca means fried fish in Vietnamese, and it's an appropriate name for this restaurant because that's all they serve. Cha Ca La Vong is reputedly the oldest restaurant in Hanoi, and one does get a slight sense of its history. The decor and ambiance leave something to be desired, but the Cha Ca was actually quite good, with a nice sauce and served in a heated pan. The place was packed with tourists, although there was a sprinkling of locals.
After dinner, head to the really swanky little cafe directly across the street that serves great french desserts. Can't remember the name.
Favorite Dish: They only have fried fish, so if you don't like that then don't come here.
Cha Ca La Vong: It must be Cha Ca, because it's on Cha Ca Street
The classic Cha Ca place. Ambience is a bit local. If you want similar Cha Ca, visit La Brique on Nha Tho street. It's about the same price, but the atmosphere is friendlier to foreigners.
Favorite Dish: Well, they only serve one dish. Cha Ca is fish fish fried over a charcoal stove on your table, served with dill, nuoc mam (fish sauce). Very delicious.
Cha Ca La Vong: A novel way to eat fish
We stayed in one of Hanoi's well-known 36 districts. This restaurant, which specializes in fish, is unsurprisingly located in the Fish district. The little statue supposedly depicts the lgendary old fisherman who's the restaurant's namesake.
Cha ca means fish paste. The white paste is served fresh, along with a hot pot, right on your table. The soup base is a little sweet, a little sour, a little tangy. You'd boil the fish in it along with assorted vegetables, roll them all up with white vermicelli in thin rice paper. Then you'd dip the whole thing in a pungent sauce. If you can get past the smell of the sauce, you're golden. My non-Vietnamese companions had no problem with it; in fact they enjoyed it immensely.
This place has been known for generations. My parents knew about it. I'm glad we finally got to try it.
Favorite Dish: They serve one thing and one thing only.
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