Cha Ca street in Hanoi was named after the eponymous local dish, which is still the main draw for locals and tourists today, but there are a few other choice spots worth mentioning along this illustrious stretch of the Old Quarter.
Cha ca is one of Hanoi ’s most lauded trademark dishes. The simple but ingenious dish of fried fish became so famous thet a whole street was named after it. Today you will find restaurants serving cha ca all across Hanoi but the original restaurant is on Cha Ca street and that’s where the tourists keep coming in their droves today.
Previously the street had a name more typical of the Old Quarter, Hang Son ( Paint street ). At the end of the 19th century, the Doan family moved into 14 Hang Son and established a restaurant, Cha Ca La Vong. The rest, as they say, is history. Today the street is a typically busy Hanoi street teeming with traffic and near-constant noise. The street is home to some well run hotels offering guests a great location right in the heart of Hanoi .
Cha ca La Vong restaurant
14 Cha Ca street
Located in an old-style wooden house, Cha Ca La Vong restaurant takes its name from a wooden statue of an old fisherman (La Vong) holding a fishing rod and a line of fish at the door.
For over 100 years people have flocked to the restaurant from all over Hanoi and now people come from all over the world. Listed in Patricia Shultz’s 1,000 Places to See Before You Die as well as every guide book on Hanoi , the tour buses roll up to the doors of Cha Ca La Vong on a daily basis.
The restaurant is still hugely popular with locals, too, though many knowing Hanoians now believe you can find tastier cha ca elsewhere. First timers or nonaficionados certainly won’t complain at the family-run restaurant’s efforts. Basically fried fish is served on your table still sizzling in a pan on a hot stove. The fish has already been pan-seared in the kitchen in a secret sauce, which undoubtedly contains tumeric and rice flour. You mix dill and spring onion into the pan then serve the boneless fish and various profumi into your bowl of bun (rice noodles) before adding fish sauce, fermented shrimp paste and peanuts to taste.
The result is simply divine. The dish is said to combine the natural symmetry and harmony of Yin-Yang. The notoriously surly looking family might not win prizes for open-armed welcomes and cheeriness but they sure now how to whip up a fish supper.
You can also find great banh cuon in a number of restaurants along Cha Ca street . This is another of Hanoi ’s most popular dishes. It can be eaten for breakfast or as a snack in between meals. Translucent silvers of rice flour are fried like French crepes then rolled around a mix of grilled pork (sometimes shrimp is used), woodear mushrooms, and lightly sautéed garlic and onion. This is served on a plate under dried onions and fresh coriander. You must dunk your banh cuon in the accompanying bowl of fish sauce. Some people may add chili or lime juice to the fish sauce. Banh cuon costs VND 10,000 for one serving.
Baguette & Chocolat
11 Cha Ca Street
Just opposite Cha Ca La Vong is a French bakery and cafe called Baguette & Chocolat, part of the Hoa Sua Vocational Training Centre, which trains young Vietnamese as either chefs or waiters. The French breads and pastries are of good quality though some cakes are definitely better than others. You can also order sandwiches, salads, quiches and pizzas. A nice spot for a quick coffee and a cake, if you’re buzzing around the old Quarter.
Thien Tan Hotel
12 Cha Ca Street
Thien Tan Hotel, a few doors down from Cha Ca La Vong restaurant, is a brand-new hotel with great services right in the heart of Hanoi . The well kept rooms are cosy and well designed. Current rates start at $45 for a standard room and $50 for a deluxe. All rooms feature modern amenities: air-conditioning, internet, cable TV, mini-bar, and shower/bath…
Ms Salute Hotel
19Cha Ca street
Located in the heart of the city, Ms Salute Hotel has entrances on Cha Ca street and Hang Duong street offering guests easy access to both sides of the Old Quarter. The stylish property features 37 tastefully appointed rooms with private balconies. Room rates start at $65 for a single deluxe. A double suite costs $110. Rooms feature all the necessary mod-cons. The hotel also features a sauna, Jacuzzi and massage therapy services and a business centre. The Orchid restaurant on the fifth floor offers a selection of Vietnames, Western and Asian delicacies.
15 Cha ca
N&M specializes in women’s fashion and accessories that are suitable for the modern woman of today.
25 Cha Ca
Ha Viet stocks items made by members of Vietnam ’s many ethnic groups make excellent and inexpensive souvenirs and presents. You can get a handwoven scarf for as little as $2, depending on the complexity of the pattern and design. Hand-woven, embroidered or appliquéd jackets cost from $15 upwards.
By Dieu Linh.