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14 Cha Ca
La Vong Grilled Fish
The original Cha ca la vong restaurant is here – go up the flight of stairs at No. 14 and feast on a slice of Hanoi’s history!
In Hanoi, food is plentiful. Available on every street corner, food is an integral part of many Hanoians’ livelihoods. As a major economic center, Hanoi draws many people from other northern regions, and the food changes as a result. “Things are changing, people are eating in nicer settings, but people still like street food,” says award-winning journalist and writer Nguyen Qui Duc.
Given its long history, Hanoi is home to a number of distinct architectural styles, from traditional shophouses in the Old Quarter and elegant French villas in the embassy district to Brutalist government buildings around Hoan Kiem Lake and modern international housing developments and high-rises, particularly in the western suburbs. Cha Ca La Vong, which has barely been touched since 1975, is emblematic of the Old Quarter, but far different from the new areas that have sprung up during the city’s rapid growth over the last two decades.
While its neighbors are quick to embrace multinational brands at their doorsteps, foreign retail and fast food chains have been slow to make inroads here in Hanoi. Instead, family-owned businesses pepper the streets. The city prides itself as Vietnam’s cultural capital since the 11th century. Today, with a digitally savvy young population and rising affluence, a newfound appreciation for unique local products has birthed a generation of Hanoians who are helping support the city’s boutiques and craftsman.
Hanoi’s Old Quarter is the bedrock for the city’s arts and culture and is the quintessential soul of the city. As the city begins to open its doors to a smart city future, a new wave is set to transform the city. Hanoi has long been home to innovators who combine creativity and tradition with commercial know-how and the future of the city is set to look inward for inspiration.
Catfish with turmeric
Hanoi is landlocked so freshwater catfish is used in this delicate and flavorful iconic dish. Turmeric has a long history as a healing agent and its vibrant color and earthy flavor often feature in various Vietnamese dishes.
Vermicelli noodles are called mien in Vietnamese and come in white and yellow versions. They are used mainly in noodle soup and in fried spring rolls.
Cha ca la vong is highly unique in its use of dill, an herb that is unused in essentially every other Vietnamese dish, whereas mint, coriander and basil are much more common. It symbolizes much of Vietnam’s modern history and its colonial influences.
Fennel, with its aromatic leaves, stalk, and bulb, has a similar flavor to anise or tarragon. Fennel pairs well with fish and in this dish, the fennel served must be “average, not too young, not too old.”
Southeast Asian food has been described as a mix of hot, sour, salty and sweet with mainland countries such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia using more aromatic herbs such as coriander. This herb holds a variety of complex flavors. It’s spicier than traditional mint, with a slight lemony and bitter aftertaste.
Like mint, basil and coriander, lime is a common addition to many meals in Hanoi, giving the food a balance of familiar and potentially unfamiliar flavors.
Shrimp paste, or mam tom, a love- hate dipping sauce in Hanoian cuisine. There is a long list of Vietnamese food that, without shrimp paste, would be incomplete. Mam tom is a pungent concoction and sends an electric jolt to the senses.
Chili made its way into Vietnamese cuisine during the 1368 to 1644 AD period. In this dish, it adds a kick to balance the herbaceous flavors.
Peanuts are ubiquitous in Hanoian cuisine. It is present as a garnish, as an oil for cooking, and is ground in sauces and condiments.
For the Northern people in general and Hanoi in particular, the sweet and spicy taste is not the taste that everyone likes. In the south, people like sweet and spicy. But in the North and in Hanoi, it is a combination of slightly sour, sweet and salty. It is a combination of those 3 tastes. For me, the most important meal of the day is dinner. Because dinner is the time for the whole family to sit together. I spend the most time at dinner with my wife and our two children.
Retired TV Producer
Hanoi beef Pho is the best and the most delicious. It has a sweet, sweet taste that no other place has. For example, in the South, they add sugar, that sweetness is not from the beef noodle soup. Or like Nam Dinh beef noodle soup that has a fish sauce flavor. Pho in Hanoi does not have those tastes. It has a very unique taste. It is sweet and flavorful. You can taste onion, and spices like cardamom, anise. It is very subtle.
Hanoi’s Food Scene
This bustling and antique city comes alive with food stalls and cafes spilling out with Hanoians of all ages and walks of life. For many, it’s not about the luxuriousness of the café or restaurant but the quality of the product. The vibe and atmosphere of Hanoi’s famed food alleys and wall to wall cafes are teemed with a slight romanticism and energy that make this living museum come alive.
Hanoi has a lot of popular dishes. To say what my most favorite dish is difficult. But what I love the most is definitely street food! Family is important to us Vietnamese, so we definitely eat at home more. My mother is the one who cooks for the family.