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Hot dinner in Hanoi

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Cha Ca at Cha Ca La Vong in Hanoi In Hanoi, there are some eating places you go to because of the decor and others that you go to despite the decor. Cha Ca La Vong is one of the latter kind.

Cha Ca La Vong in HanoiThe place is any decorator’s nightmare with its neon lights, green walls and wobbly tables and chairs.

But – oh – the food! The food is absolutely scrumptious!

And the best thing is that they only serve one dish. So you won’t be spending hours studying the menu, trying to decide what to get.

At Cha Ca La Vong, there’s only “Cha Ca” – the signature fish dish. It’s so popular that it’s even lent its name to the street that the restaurant is on.

Know where to look, or you’ll walk right by it

Cha Ca La Vong has been run by the same family for generations. It’s located in a rickety old house in Hanoi’s Old Quarter. There’s no flashy sign, no line of people, no attractive exterior that’ll draw you to this traditional restaurant.

If you aren’t aware of what’s inside this shabby house, you’ll never notice it or think of going in.

Luckily, a friend had told me about it, so we stepped inside, climbed up the narrow wooden stairs to the left of the entrance, and made our way to the first floor.

Upstairs, one of the waiters showed us to our seats and placed a little laminated card in front of us. It told us that the only dish at this restaurant – Cha Ca – would cost us 90 000 Vietnamese Dong each – roughly € 3,50 or about $ 5,00.

After we’d managed to communicate that that price was just within our financial limits, we were on.

You’ve got to know how to Cha Ca

Cha Ca at Cha Ca La Vong in HanoiThe waiter brought a clay oven filled with red hot charcoal to our table. He put a pan with sizzling hot oil and some pieces of fish on top of the oven.

In addition, we got some cold rice noodles in a bowl, some peanuts, a small plate with dill and Vietnamese herbs and a bowl with spring onions.

Next, the waiter threw some of the spring onions and herbs into the pan. The combination of frying fish, Asian spices, herbs and spring onions smelled great.A bowl of Cha Ca at Cha Ca La Vong in Hanoi

Unfortunately, we were clueless as to what should happen next: Should we take the frying pan off the grill at some point? Or should we also put the noodles and peanuts into the pan?

No, no, our waiter signalled, and demonstrated how it’s done: you put some of the cold rice noodles in your bowl, add some pieces of fried fish from the pan, sprinkle with some peanuts and add the fresh herbs.

The pan\'s empty - no more Cha Ca at Cha Ca La Vong in HanoiThe resulting combination was unbelievably delicious!

“This is the best dinner we’ve had in Vietnam”, my friend said.

I think it didn’t take us longer than fifteen minutes to clear that pan.

If you can’t stand the heat, don’t order the Cha Ca

But as soon we were no longer busy chowing down, we suddenly became aware of the fact that there was this extremely hot grill sitting right in front of us on our table. A grill with burning charcoal and a pan full of hot oil. A grill on a wooden table, in a wooden house, in the middle of the maze that is Hanoi’s Old Quarter.

How far to the next fire extinguisher in case the oil caught fire? How long would it take fire fighters to get here in case of an emergency? Kind of unpleasant thoughts.Ha Noi Beer to extinguish the fire

We felt pretty relieved when the waiter finally took away that charcoal grill and just left us with our beers. And the bill…

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Written by Thorsten

June 6, 2008 at 8:51 am

3 Responses

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  1. oh…that looks yummy!!!

    i’ve always been a fan of vietnamese food….though my palate extends till what is served at the local vietnamese restaurant….which i’m pretty sure is not all that authentic…..never had the chance to visit the place yet

    Amrita

    June 6, 2008 at 10:18 am

  2. you guys been doing anything else but eating… i thought you’re there for work. 😉

    Daniel

    June 6, 2008 at 1:12 pm

  3. 🙂 He he. Cha ca La Vong is sth you guys should try to remember… Hot… So hot…
    and I think, foreingers love it much more than Vietnamse… But, at least, I love it.

    Minh Cham

    July 19, 2008 at 12:53 pm


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