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Cha Ca – Delicacy of capital city

Mon, 20 Apr 2015 . Last updated Thu, 25 Jun 2015 09:05

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It’s the delicacy and sophistication of dishes that create the uniqueness of Hanoi cuisine. These dishes not only taste so good but also express Hanoi’s culture. Among specialties of Hanoi, “cha ca” has left lasting impressions on those once enjoyed it.

Writer Vu Bang used to write about the hobby of enjoying a specialty of Hanoi in a small room in a drizzly winter afternoon. But this is just a description of Hanoi of the old days. MSNBC Channel put this dish into the list of “10 places that you must see before you die”. It’s a popular but sophisticated dish, in both ways of cooking and enjoying. Its ingredients are easy to find. However, how to spice it in the way Hanoians do is complicated.

The cold winter makes Hanoians who live far away from the capital city miss their home more than ever. Because “cha ca” should be eaten when it is being fried on the pan, people tend to eat this dish in winter or they will find it too hot in summer. Modern society experiences so many changes. So, does Hanoi’s cuisine today. However, the typical flavors and cooking method of traditional dishes stay the same.

Although the name of this dish sounds so simple, it’s cooked and enjoyed in a sophisticated way. Hemibagrus or Bagarius (the fish indigenous to Viet Tri, Phu Tho that has tough flesh and skin and nice taste) are often used to make “cha ca”. Fish fillets are mixed with lesser galangal, saffron, fermented rice and shrimp sauce. The ratio of these ingredients is the secret of each cook. Shrimp sauce from Thanh Hoa province and sour fermented rice are irreplaceable ingredients of this dish. The next step is grilling fish. Hanoians grill fish with charcoal to make the fish smell pleasant. It’s compulsory for the cook to use fragrant shrimp sauce and good charcoal to have nice grilled fish pieces instead of gas or coal.

The fish is grilled and then fried in boiling oil until its turns yellow and has a nice smell. The dish is served with soft noodles, dill, split spring onions and “Lang” basil. High-quality rice paper should be yellow-grilled, crispy and fragrant. Peanuts should be roasted reasonably. Some drops of lemon juice or “ca cuong” (lethocerus indicus) extract will perfect your dish. And what makes “cha ca” an art is the way we prepare shrimp sauce. Like the dipping sauce of other dishes like “bun cha” (soft noodles with grilled pork) or spring rolls, the sauce of “cha ca” is also made in a sophisticated way as such. “Cha ca” of Hanoi is a special dish with excellent combination of flavor, color and even sound of the frying pan, and thus, it will awake all your senses.

 “Cha ca La Vong” shop is a must-see place when we learn about “cha ca”. This shop was opened more than one century ago in the Old Quarter. Many people who live halfway around the earth from Hanoi still get to this shop when they return to their homeland. Here, they cannot only taste the flavor of the past but also enjoy the elegant space of Hanoi.

Hanoians often enjoy “cha ca” with their family members or friends. The dish better flavor when you try it in cold weather. Sweet fish flesh, hot chili, herb vegetables, soft noodles, salty shrimp sauce and nutty peanuts go so well together to create a delicacy of the capital. The flavor of this dish stays the same over the time and this might be the reason why it’s still a popular dish among diners today.

Thanks to those distinctive features, for more than 100 years, “cha ca” of Hanoi has been mentioned by foreign press, especially travel guidelines, as one of the dishes that tourists should not miss when they come to Hanoi, contributing to promoting striking features of Hanoi’s cuisine at home and aboard.

 

Source: VTC10 - NETVIET

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