Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 9: Time to Cha Cha with the Chả Cá

food - Ha Noi: Feb. 12, 2014

KathleenKathleen Brown, her husband John and their two adopted children, Peter Quang and Claire Xuan, are touring around Vietnam during their Christmas holiday. Kathleen is a long-time television producer and /media consultant for humanitarian agencies and her husband, John, a professional photographer. Every couple of days, they will post a story along with photos on their travels and adventures.

Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 9: Time to Cha Cha with the Chả Cá

Cha ca la vongWhen our family celebrates a birthday or special occasion the kids insist I make Chả Cá fish for dinner.  Years ago, the Washington Post food section featured an array of recipes for Vietnamese specialties and I clipped out the recipe for Chả Cá fish.  It's been a family favourite ever since our first bites!

Before traveling to Vietnam for our Christmas holiday, I reached out to a former colleague who had lived in Hanoi and had hosted us on a previous visit, inquiring about which restaurants not to miss.  His favourite was Chả Cá Lã Vọng!  I had no idea it was more than a Hanoi specialty - much more. 

To celebrate our return to Hanoi in high style, we paired up the water puppet show and a cha cha over to 14 Chả Cá Street.

Cha CaChả Cá Lã Vọng claims to be the oldest restaurant in Vietnam and the dish was first made by the family Doan in Hanoi in 1871.  The restaurant has been open through five consecutive generations and had it's street location renamed after its famous fish dish.

How to describe Chả Cá Lã Vọng -- it's a visit to the family home, an invitation to sit at a family-style table and a chance to see the marinated white fish cooked right at your table.  It is marinated in turmeric, oil and other spices and then gently cooked over a medium flame and finally covered in fresh dill and onion which softens and is placed on vermicelli noodles and covered in peanuts! Cha ca 6

It's the sole dish and most often accompanied by beer or wine.  The servers make certain to replenish the fry pan with more fish when you're ready.  It's a fine meal -- with a generous helping of Hanoi history and a chance to commune with the locals and other visitors on the side.

Cha ca 8What fun to enjoy our favourite Hanoi speciality in its very birthplace.  We give thanks to the Doan family and their many, many daughters and sons for keeping the home flame lit and the fish sizzling! Cám Ơn.

By Kathleen Brown
photos by John Cullather 


Family Trip by Kathleen:

Family trip in Vietnam - 1st episode: Enter the Dragon
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 2: Cai Rang Water Opera
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 3: Hoi An ancient town
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 4: Hoi An Countryside
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 5: the LifeStart Foundation
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 6: Hoi An Cooking Class
Family trip in Vietnam - episode 7: Project Runway in Hoi An
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 8: Water Puppets - Vietnam's Original Muppets
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 9: Time to Cha Cha with the Chả Cá
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 10: A Visit to the Hung Kings Citadel and Au Co Ancestral Site
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 11: Our Visit to the Perfume Pagoda
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 12: Can Gio Reserve
Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 13: Saigon Street Eats
Family trip in Vietnam - Final Episode: An Afternoon in Cholon
Tribute Episode to our Guide Stars

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