Cha Ca is a very unique dish in Hanoi that consists of boneless fish chunks marinated in turmeric and then stir fried with fresh dill and spring onions. The original restaurant/creator of Cha Ca is said to be located on Cha Ca street which is obviously named after the dish. It was on my list of to-eat but when the husband and I came across this other Cha Ca restaurant, we enjoyed the dish so much that we felt there wasn’t a need to visit the original restaurant.
I mean, who cares whether it’s the founding restaurant or not so long the food is executed beautifully? I’m sure each of them would have their own strength, secret recipe and supporters anyway.
Service here was impeccable from the moment we were warmly welcomed into the restaurant till we were done with our meal.
An English menu was provided with some background information on Cha Ca. There was only one dish i.e. Cha Ca and the rest of the menu were merely beverage options. Price was fixed at 120,000 VND per person for the Cha Ca.
This wasn’t the complete menu because there was a table of locals next to us who were digging into some hot pot but not sure what that was.
I thought the small plate of roasted peanuts that was given (1 portion per diner) was an appetiser (like how Chinese restaurants do it) so I started snacking on them while we waited for the main dish to come. Turned out that the peanuts were meant for later use so yes, please don’t finish them all.
Minutes later, the solid fuel stove on our table was lighted and a sizzling pan of fish chunks was placed on top. The fish had been pre-marinated in turmeric hence they were yellowish in colour.
The staff did the cooking for us by adding half of the ginormous bowl of dill and spring onions into the pan.
He then stir fried everything thoroughly till the herbs had slightly wilted and we could get a whiff of aromatic dill.
He also showed us how to eat the dish. First, put the rice vermicelli into the bowl and add some herbs (I think there were coriander, basil & mint). Next, take some dill and spring onions from the pan and 1 piece of fish and put them into the same bowl. Pour some sauce over (fish sauce based) and sprinkle the peanuts and/or sliced red chilli over. And you can dig in.
The fish were fresh and tender. Two types of freshwater fish were used. One of them had a slight muddy taste but that would be concealed once you paired the fish with lots of dill and spring onions.
We added in the balance dill and spring onions and stir fried everything up on our own. Actually the portion of greens wasn’t really ginormous because you would really need a lot of them to bring out the flavour of this dish.
I must say I didn’t immediately like the dish upon my first bite but the more I ate it, the more I liked it. The combination of flavours was very good especially when eaten with chillies. Well, I had never eaten so much dill in my life too!
For the price, I thought the portion for 2 persons was rather small. Maybe because fish was generally expensive. But good enough for both of us as it left us room to try other new eats, haha.
Don’t miss Cha Ca when you’re in Hanoi! Might be expensive compared to other Vietnamese food but it would be an interesting experience to try. 😉