The title contains a question mark because I have liked most of the dishes I’ve tried in Vietnam’s crowded capital.
But I’ve made an exception for chả cá lã vọng because it’s a more unusual flavor profile than a number of the other meals in Hanoi … and there’s even a street named for it.
Created sometime in the mid-1860s by a Hanoi family called Doan, they opened up a restaurant in 1871, egged on by their relatives and friends who had tried the dish.
Chả cá Lã Vọng contains hemibagrus, a genus of catfish, stir-fried with turmeric and dill. (where’d the dill come from?) It is eaten alongside the Vietnamese staple of fermented rice vermicelli (stringy noodles, called bún), chilies, scallions, cilantro, nước mắm (fish sauce), and peanuts.
Just about every taste bud is satisfied when you combine all of those flavors; not to mention, things crunchy, chewy, and stringy (ordinarily not a plus) somehow harmoniously work together to create this only-in-Hanoi lunch.