My final stop of our street food tour was Cha Ca Thang Long which is actually just a short walk from the Bun Cha shop. However we decided to go for a detour walk so that we could digest all the food in our stomach first. The streets in the Old Quarters are named according to the things that were traditionally sold there, therefore the streets are organised like a huge landed “department store” with rather clear categorisation of products.
We only explored a few streets and by 7 pm, the sun had fully set and it was already pretty dark. For the main streets that are wide enough for 2-lane traffic, there are still street lights, but the smaller alleys are not adequately lit. We still managed to navigate through the maze of streets but most of the shops had started to close…However at the street lined with eateries, the locals had started to fill the side-walks for their dinner and after-dark drinks. The low tables and low plastic chairs/stools are an unique sight for me. The stools are so low that when you sit on them its almost akin to squatting height…
Although the weather at night was more forgiving and was cooler, due to the high humidity I was sweating by the time we reached Cha Ca Thang Long. The air-con was a welcomed comfort, along with a bottled of cheap Saigon beer.
Again, the eatery only sells 1 dish, Cha Ca – Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill. So we sat down and waited for the staff to serve us their specialty. It’s supposed to be a cook-it-yourself dish but the staff helped us to cook it since it’s obvious that we aren’t locals.
With pre-fried chunks of fish in the pan placed over the mini-stove, they added in generous portion of butter and oil, followed by the dill and spring onions. The fish is to be eaten with rice vermicelli, with toppings such as peanuts, scallions, parsley, chopped red chilli and finally drizzled with fish sauce over them. It seemed like the fermented shrimp paste would only be given if you asked for it.
We finished the savory fish in no time, in fact we ate the fish without much need to pair it with the rice vermicelli. The meal (including 2 beers) cost us 300,000 dong (US$15).
Cha Ca Thang Long
21-31 Duong Thanh
While the cha ca was not bad, I would rank Bun Cha as my favourite dish amongst my self-planned food tour stops, followed by Pho.
The final itinerary for the night was to have a relaxing massage in Old Quarters before we head back home the next morning.
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