Cha Ca La Vong
(La Vong grilled fish), created a century ago, is drawing people from all over the world to the Hanoi
family home of the creator of the dish. Now the restaurant, Cha Ca La Vong is run by the descendants of the dish’s creator.
The history of the Doan family is as colorful as the dish it’s famous for. In the mid-1800s, the family began allowing Vietnamese soldiers, who were trying to oust the ruling French, to hide in their house. They served their guests their special fish dish, Cha Ca La Vong. To raise extra money to fund their rebel-hiding activities – and provide a cover for the house’s mysterious comings and goings - the family opened a restaurant serving only Cha Ca La Vong.
The restaurant remains in its original location, at 14 Cha Ca Street in Hanoi, and Cha Ca La Vong was registered as a trademark in 1989.
The family food
became a speciality of Hanoian people. There’s a statue of La Vong (an ancient Chinese poet and revolutionist) fishing by a stream on display in the restaurant. This is the symbol of a talented and patient man who know to wait for the right moment to come. The patrons called the restaurant “Cha ca La Vong”. The dish became so famous that Hanoi authorities renamed the entire street Cha Ca Street ( Grilled Fish Street) and the street has become one of the famous material culture places of Hanoi.
Cha Ca La Vong is made with quality ingredients. To make the dish, fillets of catfish or snakehead fish are filleted and marinated for at least two hours with galangal, pepper, fish sauce and turmeric. The fillets are then grilled on a coal stove, turned frequently until each piece is a deep golden color.
The next stage of the cooking is done at the table, on a small pottery burner. The grilled fish is fried with dill, green onions and peanuts, a step that is believed to bring out more flavor.
The sizzling hot fish fillet mixture is then placed into a bowl with Vietnamese vermicelli, pickled spring onion bulbs and aromatic herbs. The finishing touch is a few drops of fermented shrimp paste.
The restaurant only buys shrimp paste from central Thanh Hoa Province. This regional specialty has a light flavor and turns white when mixed with lemon juice.
La Vong grilled fish pies are traditionally served with rice noodles. People may choose to eat rice noodles, fish and other additives separately. Others may combine all ingredients in their bowl and then pour on some fish sauce and scoop it up with chopsticks. During winter days, the latter keeps the dish warm enough during the meal.