Foreign and local cognoscenti coming to Hanoi seem to hit the Cha Ca La Vong restaurant on Cha Ca Street in Hanoi. It was recently included on an MSNBC.com list of 10 places to see before you die.
Cha Ca La Vong – a specialty of Hanoi
Eighty-two-year-old Ngo Thi Tinh, a descendant of the Doan family, said that in ancient days, Cha Ca was called Paint Street where paints were sold. Ancestors of the Doan family then hit upon a new idea: to sell fried fish chunks served with soft rice noodles and seasoning. As the specialty grew famous with every passing day, the street was renamed Cha Ca Street (fried fish pie street).
The shop was called “Cha ca La Vong shop”as a wooden statue of an old fisherman (La Vong) holding a fishing rod and a string of fish stands at the door. The family registered Cha Ca La Vong as a trademark in 1989.
Customers to Cha Ca La Vong are charmed by the old restaurant that is characterized by a pleasant atmosphere and a rickety flight of wooden stairs leading to the unremarkable second-floor dining room, full of equally rickety chairs.
How to make it
The restaurant serves only one dish – cha ca, a succulent fried-fish masterpiece. Only garoupa fish is ideal for the dish as its flesh is sweet and fragrant.
The fish must be carefully prepared before grilling. Galingale and saffron must be ground and mixed with water and filtered through a piece of clean cloth in order to obtain a solution to which is added drops of rice ferment and fish sauce of good quality. Then, the fish meat is immersed in the solution for two hours before grilling. Grilling must be done by pairs of bamboo tongs placed on a stove of burning charcoals.
“Patrons cook chunks of seasoned garoupa fish on a charcoal clay brazier, stirring in chives and dill. The rich, oily stew is then spooned into bowls of rice vermicelli and enlivened by the addition of shrimp sauce, fried peanuts and pickled vegetables, “said Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.
“The secret ingredient, if you believe the rumors, is two drops of an essence extracted from the perfume gland of the ca cuong beetle,” she wrote.