[Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam] A Fishy Meal at Chả Cá Lã Vọng

We have always loved Chả Cá Lã Vọng in Hanoi, we have visited twice the original restaurant.

During this Vietnamese trip, we wanted to revisit this delicious grilled fish. The traditional dish uses Hemibagrus, a type of Catfish found in the river northern mountainous area. The fish is marinated with spices like galangal, turmeric, they are grilled on charcoal until both sides are almost cooked. They will be finished off with a pan with dill and spring onion in hot oil. They are served with rice vermicelli, fried peanuts and coriander with a dipping sauce, with nuoc mam, vinegar, salt sugar and garlic or shrimp pate (mắm tôm) mixed with lime juice.

We arrived around at 11am, this was our last meal in HCM before catching our 3pm plane. Service was efficient, they instantly brought all the plates with ingredients ready…

Dill and spring onion chopped

We find the portion of vermicelli tiny.

Not too much a fan with this sesame rice crackers.

The fish brought to our table half cooked, before the final cooking by a waitress with herbs.

The fermented shrimp sauce

I didn’t know they charged us for the wet napkin…until now!

I find taste wise, it was good, but I find Chả Cá Lã Vọng in Hanoi superior, more herbs, bigger portions and with richer in taste with more oil or fat and a bigger hotter fire. Maybe since we didn’t like the sesame chips, we find the food portion small, we were not very hungry when we entered the restaurant, but we didn’t feel very full when we leave.

Please note that the restaurant only serves 1 plate, if you want choices, this is not the place to come.

Chả Cá Lã Vọng
3 - 5 Hồ Xuân Hương
P. 6, Quận 3,
Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam


Whoa! Looks quite fancy, both the food and the restaurant. I didn’t eat in this kind of restaurant in VN at all. Is it the norm now? In VN I prefer “basse cuisine” (as opposed to haute cuisine). Sitting on tiny plastic stools on pavement and going to typical restaurants where the locals also eat.

I had eaten at the original* restaurant in Hanoi only so can’t tell if they could pull it off in the south.

*I think my guide book says it’s the original restaurant.

HCM becomes more fancy compared when we first went in 2008, more skyscrapers and shops with nice decoration. We tried to eat in a mix of restaurants, street foods, once a while a high end to treat ourselves. This Cha Ca is more of a middle range. I will try to write our experiences in the market and on the street later. You can read the Pho place we have visited in HCM this year, not a fancy place at all but very good.

Looks great. I’d love to try it, but I don’t want to spend enough time in an airplane to get to Viet Nam. I did eat once at New York’s Cha Ca La Vong, a pale imitation of the Vietnamese original, and was not highly impressed.

I think it’s a dish you can do it at home, the ingredients aren’t that difficult to find except maybe the herbs (dill, spring onion and coriander is the essential) ginger and turmeric should be relative easy to find, you can replace the fish to cod.

Hi naf and Presunto, our first and only trip to Viet Nam (SGN) was last year, 2016.

Saigon is now definitely in our rotation, and we will hit Hanoi soon, for sure.

We enjoyed Cha Ca (Saigon). It was a fun place to eat, and nice to have the sides of crackers, fresh herbs, peanuts, etc… Prices for food in Saigon was so “reasonable” that we did not feel any guilt going for an upscale meal gasp USD $21.24 for party of 3!!

I acquiesced to my travel partners and did the touristy famous restaurant where they cooked the rice in clay pots, crack the pots on the dining room floor, and fling the rice across the room to your server. We splurged on abalone, exotic vegetables (amaranth), anything that struck our fancy. We were three and with 6 beers, the bill was about USD $37/3 pax. Total.

Cơm niêu Sài Gòn
59, Hồ Xuân Hương, phường 6, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
+84 28 3930 2888

Some miscellaneous photos:

Beer with breakfast. Well, it IS happy hour west coast California. :slight_smile:

Simple fried egg with veggies. The French bread… would eat that every morning if I could.

AYCE veg/herbs with our pho, very local place.

Living LARGE, floor show with dinner. USD$13/person.

Garçon, there is a SNAIL in my soup!!!


I’m sure that one can make restaurant dishes at home that are as good as the ones in the restaurants. But when a restaurant is specialized in a certain dish, then it’s a bit uncertain if you can match them.

Looks like the HCM branch has gone a bit upmarket from the original in Hanoi…but that’s not a bad thing.

I often think that its a mistake to assume the only good food is the street food in places like Vietnam, Thailand etc. My local colleagues tended to eat across a range of places, a cheap lunch at a street stall and more upmarket meals in the evening - always based on the quality of the food.

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This is not all that different from a general service charge. At any rate (or at any rate, at the current rate), this is about 5 US cents per towel.

Point of Information: When we ate in the Hanoi restaurant in 2001, the fish was 60,000 dong, or about US$4.25. Currently, it is 90,000 dong (as in the picture above), which seems to be about $4.00 at the current rate.

A few photos and a video from 2012 in Hanoi. I just noticed that in Hanoi, they used the Nuoc Mam instead of shrimp paste sauce as in HCM.

Downstairs, this room never seemed to be used for serving clients, I guess it was the original place where this dish was served.

Currently it’s 180,000D per person. The first number was per person. The last column was the total, meaning 3x the price compared to 16 years ago.

Thanks for sharing your photos, I don’t think I have eaten this vegetable that came with the squid dish, do you know what was it? How about the taste?

Shoot! I knew I had to divide the number by two, and then went and divided the wrong number!

I’m so embarrassed.

I know better now but back in 2000 (Thailand) and 2004 (Cambodia and Vietnam) I was a novice.

Last week in Krakow on the way to my lodging from the airport the taxi driver was most impressed with my “knowledge” of Polish food and beer (Poland also makes wines). He turned around whilst driving and asked “you really did all the research about Polish beer and food?”. He has never had someone in his taxi who knows much about Polish food and beer on their very first time arriving in the country.

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Until now, I thought the vegetable was Amaranth. No one at our table had had amaranth before, so we mistakenly thought this vegetable with the squid was amaranth. Upon further googling, does not appear to be the case.

I’ve attached a better lighted picture of the vegetable. It appears to be a bud of some sort, and some seem to be flowering. I recall it having a nice snap, and not soft at all. Tastes was like a cross between a fiddlehead fern and gai lan.

I hope maybe sck can help identify it??

Actually I missed the fun of being a novice or just wandered around and be amazed. Too much food and restaurant research killed the surprise. At times I have a feeling that we are visiting the place to get confirmed with the reading.

No idea either if this is the same plant, I found it on CNSG page in foody.vn website

I saw your photo name with Amaranth, did some research, but didn’t feel it was the same plant. Maybe @klyeoh can throw some light on this? I just saw they have a branch Cơm Niêu Singapore.

I think I got it. It’s Tonkin jasmine flowers, Bông Thiên Lý

Freshwater Crab and Tonkin Jasmine Flower Soup

Very interesting page, if you like Vietnamese cooking:

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Excellent sleuthing, thanks!!

If I ever return to VN I would do the same again. I would take my chances eating somewhere there’s no TripAdvisor stickers or where the food is dumbed down. Get someone at the lodging to write down names of restaurants or dishes for the taxi or scooter drivers. Always works for me in Asia. Sometimes I just say it or show name of a food to the driver. If they don’t know where it is they ask someone then off we go.

But on my next holiday I don’t really have much time and the luxury of wandering round at my leisure exploring and looking for food like in Asia. Also, wandering round after sundown is a no no there. Even in broad daylight theft and muggings are common, and tourists are easy targets.


I was going to say someone start a “What did I eat? and general food ID” thread.