PEr FYI

March 21, 2015

Cha Ca La Vong, Hanoi… so exceptional that there is a street in Hanoi dedicated to these grilled catfish

Cha Ca is an iconic, delicious dish which also happens to be the name of the restaurant in the Old Quarter of Hanoi. With an unassuming external appearance the shop would be easy to miss. There’s very little to appreciate in the dining area: it’s just a room with wooden tables and chairs, a large shrine on the wall and a cabinet full of dusty looking bottles of alcohol.

So what exactly is cha ca? It is a mixture of chunks of grilled, smoky catfish, turmeric, dill, shrimp paste, fish sauce, chillies, noodles and other herbs. Once the various components are assembled, the cooking is fast, and the payoff is worth the effort. I don’t think there are any set rules in terms of how you eat it. We dished a few noodles into our bowl, put a few pieces of fish and vegetables on top, poured on some fish sauce and scooped it up with chopsticks, interspersing a mouthful of herbs every now and again. Probably not the Vietnamese way, but it worked

So is it any good? It is so delicious and aromatic and the complexity of the resulting well-balanced flavors will surely leave you craving for more.

Hanoians consider cha ca to be so exceptional that there is a street in the capital dedicated to these fried morsels of fish. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

cha ca hanoi

April 29, 2012

Nha Hang Cha Ca La Vong, Ho Chi Minh City…Don’t bother to eat here

Cha ca la vong – a very popular Northern Vietmanese dish – is catfish fillet marinated in tumeric plus sauteed onions, garlic, roasted peanuts with tons of dill.  This fish is served on a sizzling silver platter with a plate of fresh lettuce, herbs, and rice vermicelli. The sauces served with this dish are the shrimpy fish sauce and the regular mixed light fish sauce. There is also crispy fried sesame rice paper served with this dish.

After having sampled this authentic Vietnamese dish in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, I’m finally starting to be able to distinguish great cha ca from the so-so stuff, and honestly the stuff here is a little below so-so.  It’s kind of too light here. The turmeric marinade isn’t as pungent (in a positive way) or strong as it usually is. The shrimpy sauce and light fish sauce are also a bit too light. They also use a different sesame rice paper than is usually served.

Nha Hang Cha Ca La Vong sounded good as a local place that has been going for 5 generations serving only one dish. The only positive – they do have a nice interior design.

 

The search for good cha ca in HCMC continues…..

This is the true truth as I say it as it is…..

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