All the guidebooks will lead you to Cha Ca La Vong for cha ca (grilled fish), but some bloggers vouch for Cha Ca Thang Long for this Hanoi favorite. I tend to think bloggers have more up-to-date info, so we opted for Cha Ca Thang Long.
It's a bit expensive compared to all the other types of street food we had, this was in an actual sit down restaurant and for one order, it was 80,000 dong. I forgot to mention this to Jung so when he got the bill, he was shocked himself. He was probably thinking, what! it's not the usual $2 or less for our meal?
Cha ca involves hearty chunks of boneless white fish marinated in turmeric that is cooked table side, with lots of dill and green onions. Once the pan with the fish and oil gets hot, the waitress dumps the huge plate of dill and green onions into the pot.
She swirls it around for the greens to wilt a bit in the fish and oil and then you are free to dig in.
It is served with a plate of cooked bun (rice noodles), roasted peanuts, sliced chili peppers, slivered green onions, fresh herbs and fish sauce.
In your spare bowl, you add some bun and greens. Next, you scoop out the fish and wilted greens into your bowl of noodles and let the bun absorb the juices from the cha ca. Sprinkle on some roasted peanuts and add some more fish sauce. Mix together and eat.
I was a bit weary of the whole thing at first because I'm not a huge fan of dill, but again the flavors and herbs and greens in this dish work. Honestly, the fish itself was not as tasty as the grilled pork or chicken that we would get from the streets, but you can't go wrong with fresh herbs, greens and fish sauce. It's a flavor explosion in your mouth. It was good, and it was something new and different. We ordered one order here as well. Unlike some of the other eateries, they do not have large portions. The serving of fish was quite minuscule, but you do get a lot of bun and greens to make up for it. I think it suited us perfectly fine to just share one order to get a taste of it, and save our appetite for other good eats nearby.
31 Pho D Thanh