Adventures in East Asia

Cha Ca - Grilled Fish Lunch in Hanoi

For our lunch today, our guide took us to Cha Ca La Vong, a restaurant in Hanoi that's famous for grilled fish (cha ca). Knowing nothing, we go with the flow as he tells us its a really nice place.


Once at the restaurant, we are directed up to the second floor and seated in a basic dining room amongst local Vietnamese business men and groups of friends out to lunch. Looking at the decor, we hope by "nice place" our guide means the food!

We look around and everyone seems to be eating off fired saucepans of something grilling. All the smoke and oil from these dishes must be responsible for the oily walls which remind me of the kitchen walls of my parent's takeaway which they ran in the UK when I was growing up.

We're accustomed to our guide having prepared our menus with the restaurants we've been visiting in north Vietnam, and so welcome our waitress who lays our table with various bowls of peanuts, coriander, shrimp sauce and vermicelli rice noodles. These are followed by a charcoal-fed brazier and a pan containing chunks of grilled fish immersed in a generous dose of oil.


After a few moments observing the bubbling mixture with interest, Linh and I motion to the waitress with some unintelligible hand signals, but she must have seen it all before as she assumes correctly that we had no idea what to do.

She deftly mixes in some of the greens with the fish and then swirls it around expertly whilst scooping up a portion each of the rice noodles into our bowls. She then serves up the greens and a few lumps of fish on top of our noodles, adds some of the other ingredients on our table and motions us to eat it!


With all the flavours, it was easy to forget that this was fish, which I probably don't eat enough of. The fish itself gave a wholesome weight to each bite when combined with the soft noodles, and the peanuts added some crunchy texture.


There was more than enough grilled fish left in the pan to prepare several more portions, each time adding more greens. We received an additional bowl of the greens and after a satisfying lunch, still left a couple of chunks of fish in the pan.

Cha Ca is the name of this grilled fish dish and it was first made by the Doan family over a hundred years ago. It has since become so famous and appreciated that the street it is on has been named after it (Cha Ca Street).

The full name of the restaurant is Cha Ca La Vong, where "La Vong" is the statue of an historic Chinese fisherman, that resides just outside the entrance.

More photos of our Grilled Fish lunch at Cha Ca La Vong on Flickr

This entry posted in : Food. Tourism. Vietnam.

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