Cá Trích Chiên Fried Herring – 332 of 365

Cá Trích Chiên

Café Chi Em in Hanoi’s Tay Ho neighborhood  is the right kind of joint for rice, meat and a vegetable on the cheap.  These com binh dan joints are a Vietnamese fixture I will truly miss.  With their loosely translated name of rice for the peasants, how can anyone not want to eat here?  And if this is how the “peasants” eat, sign me up for sure.  A filling lunch for under a buck fifty just isn’t going to happen back home.  Perhaps I could try to digest some crappy bean burrito off a value menu for that price, but that doesn’t even compare to the goodness crossing my path day in and day out in Vietnam.

A table full of serving pans harbored the usual suspects such as fatty roast pork, omelettes, lemongrass chicken and more.  Set off by itself in the corner was a rather intriguing pile of fried strips so deeply browned and crunchy looking.  Using my oh so vast arsenal of Vietnamese vocabulary, I uttered, “ca?” in hopes they might understand I wished to know if this had been a fish in a prior life.  The two young girls giggled nervously without answering.

I asked again and they replied with more hand over mouth giggling.  God only knows what I was actually saying that had them all nervous and aflutter.  Evidently someone figured out I did want to eat rather than gab since a huge plate of rice, vegetables and the suspected fish arrived.  The vegetables cut up like crinkle cut fries made me feel somewhat confident their nutritional powers would negate the grease I was about to ingest.  I even told myself that all that fish together was still tinier than one lard soaked piece from Captain D’s.

And speaking of fast food fish, I could not even imagine this being sold in the US since it looks too much like fish.  Think about it…fast food restaurant fish in the west usually contains not even the slightest resemblance to the real deal.  It’s sanitized, filleted, breaded, deep fried and usually smothered in a bun and tartar sauce to conceal any fishiness.

I popped one of these nuggets in my mouth and was pleasantly surprised.  Taking a swim in sizzling oil sure does do a number on these things though.  Any meat seemed to have been vaporized and all that was left was some crunch and tiny bones rendered edible.  I tasted a slight hint of that distinct canned tuna taste.  Dipping these in mouth numbing hot sauce elevated them to street food gourmet though.

At first I never in a million years thought I’d like these, but in the end I found a new food I do quite enjoy.

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Categories: Vietnamese Food

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