Jul 03, 2018
When talking about Hanoi, most people will think of Pho, Bun Cha and especially its famous dish Cha Ca La Vong. The recipe for Cha Ca La Vong (or Cha ca) was created in the 19th century and quickly became one of the most typical foods served in Hanoi. It is a delicious and favourite dish renowned in Hanoi, originally created by the Doan family to impress guests. Its good reputation spread far and wide, and the family soon opened a shop and serve Cha Ca. In front of the shop, there is a statue of La Vọng (a famous writer in Chinese History), so they named the shop Cha Ca La Vong and it became more and more famous by the day.
The best choice of fish for this recipe is catfish owing to the freshness and quality of its meat which is also less boney. Years ago, I did not know why the fish meat was yellow. Then I asked the chef and he revealed to me, it is because he used turmeric, the spice that formed the yellow color. In his recipe, turmeric is the essential ingredient, without it the dish Cha Ca La Vong cannot be referred to as being Cha Ca La Vong. In addition, the fish is marinated with galangal root (which has a zingy and spicy taste, and a little similar to ginger), and cơm mẻ (a sour spice made from rice) for at least 2 hours and then it is grilled over charcoal. Cha ca is turned over and over to make sure it is a yellowy-brown color and cooked through on both sides. The yellowy-brown color of the fish makes Cha Ca more attractive. Then, the chef will put the fish in a pan with pork fat, spring onions and dill.
Your Cha Ca will come to your table with cooking equipment such as a stove and pan and side dishes of vegetables, herbs and peanut. It is a bit confusing how you should eat this dish correctly. In order to enjoy it as its best, you should eat it hot which is why you are given a stove. The waiting staff will heat the pan of fish on the stove, Cha Ca is always freshly prepared and served hot. The sound of the fish sizzling in the pan is so exciting as we know what a sumptuous dish is coming.
Help yourself a piece of fish and some noodle and place these in your bowl and add some topping such as spring onion, dill, peanuts and fresh herbs (ideally mint and cilantro). Finally mix in a little of some special Vietnamese shrimp paste (rich and strong flavor, it is the same as Malay Belacan). Just add the pasted little by little as it is quite salty. Once you have done all that is time to enjoy your masterpiece. Bon appetite!
I think the pros and cons of Cha Ca are the dill and shrimp paste. Both ingredients have a strong taste especially the shrimp paste which is a bit pungent. But nonetheless it will be delicious.
Cha Ca La Vong is not only delicious and famous all over Vietnam but it also represents the traditional beauty and characteristics of Hanoi especially. Enjoying Cha Ca La Vong will bring a feeling of enjoying one of the most elegant and unique tastes of Vietnam’s lively capital.
To enjoy this traditional dish, these are the must go to restaurants serving Cha Ca La Vong: