Photos: Fokus Visual
Stylist: ZnGemie

There is a Hanoi specialty that CNN declared “a must-try dish” on any visit to Vietnam. An American travel guide included the eatery that’s synonymous with this dish in the Top 10 in a list of 1,000 places to go before you die. This delicacy is Cha Ca La Vong – fish patties.

These delicious fish patties are served at 14 Cha Ca Street (previously Hang Son Street), considered the birthplace of this dish. In the early 20thcentury, when this dish was created, so many foodies flocked here that the street was renamed “Cha Ca” (Fish Patty) Street. A single restaurant has served this specialty for the better part of a century. While the restaurant had no sign, a statue of La Vong holding a fishing rod in one hand and a fish in the other stood outside the door, giving the dish its name.

While dishes like grilled fish were eaten with rice at lunch or dinner, the fish patties were originally served as snacks, like ph or grilled pork vermicelli. The taste of the fish patties is enhanced by lots of fresh herbs and a dip of frothy shrimp paste mixed with slices of red chili, some drops of liquor and a pinch of sugar. Plates of ground roasted peanuts and fine white vermicelli accompany the fish and herbs. Essential herbs include Lang parsley, coriander and sliced spring onions.

Hemibagrus fish is the main ingredient. White in color, it has a sweet taste and meaty texture and is virtually boneless. Hemibagrus is sliced into chunks and marinated with fermented rice, turmeric, sesame seeds, shrimp paste, pepper and seasoning, then put on bamboo clamps and grilled over charcoal at the center of the table. Today charcoal has been replaced by aluminum pots over electric stoves. The fish has already been briefly grilled, so guests just need to quickly stir the fish in the heated pot to mix it with the spring onions and herbs. The patties have a golden exterior and soft, white and buttery interior.  The delicious fish patties are served hot with vermicelli and shrimp paste, making a meal to remember.