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Cau Go braised fish - the quintessence of Hanoi’s cuisine
Jenna Duong 16:35, 2023/07/01
Hanoi’s traditional braised fish grabs the hearts of discerning diners.

Originating in Hang Be market, the only ready-made food market in Hanoi, in the 2000s, Cau Go braised fish has since gained domestic and worldwide acclaim.

Conquering customers' hearts

A seller is busy preparing her superb braised fish. Photo: Cao Loan - Dieu Ngan/The Hanoi Times 

Although it is a centuries-old meal traditionally cooked by local housewives, Hanoian gourmets still prefer ready-made braised fish.

In Hanoi, the braised fish offered on Cau Go Street in Hang Bac Ward, Hoan Kiem District, is considered the best thanks to its sophisticated processing with various ingredients.

According to some sellers, making a superb pot of braised fish takes about six hours of preparation and more than 12 hours of braising on low heat.

The brownish-look Cau Go braised fish is usually rich in flavor, delicious, and not too sweet or salty. When enjoying, diners can feel the softness of the fish, and the aroma of spices mixed with the greasy taste of pork. In particular, after stewing, the fish has almost no bones and does not smell fishy.

Diners love slowly savoring a piece of fish with hot steamed rice.

Cau Go Braised Fish must always be low-cooked in a cast iron pot to preserve its deliciousness. Photo: Cao Loan-Dieu Ngan/The Hanoi Times  

Tuan Anh, a resident from Cau Giay District, said that he is a loyal customer of braised fish shops on Cau Go Street. “Cau Go braised fish is irresistibly delicious. Although the price is more expensive than in other shops, it is worth a try,” he told The Hanoi Times.

Phuong Lien, a busy office worker in Hanoi, shared that she does not have time to prepare food. “I found out that cooking is time-consuming, especially with braised fish. Thus, I decided to get them from Cau Go Street,” she said.

Each kilo of Cau Go braised fish costs around VND250,000 (US$11). Although it doesn’t have competitive pricing, many people choose it because of its delicious taste and good quality.

Braised fish shops on Cau Go Street are open from early morning until late at night. The busiest hours are 11am and 5pm.

In addition to the famed delicacy, Cau Go Street also sells other ready-made dishes like thit kho or braised pork, thit rang dua or roasted pork with coconut, nem ran or spring rolls, tom rim or deep-fried shrimp, among others. To preserve their delectable flavors, they are expertly prepared by talented chefs.

The secret of the specialty

The simple ready-made food shops on Cau Go Street in Hang Bac Ward of Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi. Photo: Cao Loan- Dieu Ngan/The Hanoi Times 

Braised fish is one of the must-have meals on the customary rice tray for Hanoi foodies. However, the recipe for this delectable delicacy has yet to be revealed.

According to Pham Thi Thanh Hang, a 50-year-experienced braised fish cook on Chau Go Street, it is not simple to make a delicious braised fish, even for an expert cook.

“The secrets of Ca kho Cau Go lie in the ingredients and the way that people prepare them,” she told The Hanoi Times.

“Unlike the famous Vu Dai Village braised fish in Ha Nam Province, which is usually braised in a small clay pot over the wood fire, the Hanoi-style fish is cooked directly in a big cast-iron pot over low heat,” she explained.

The type of fish used to cook Cau Go braised fish must be black carp, weighing from 5.5 to 8kg. Live fish are gutted. The gall bladder must be removed without being broken. Only the body is used, neither the head nor the tail.

A meticulously prepared dish

Some delicious ready-made dishes are on sale at Cau Go Street in Hanoi. Photo: Cao Loan- Dieu Ngan/The Hanoi Times 

The braised fish is cooked at such a low heat that cooks need to take turn to keep the fire at a reasonable temperature. After 12 hours, the water in the pot thickens somewhat, the pot is taken off the heat and the fish is ready to be served and enjoyed. 

Based on each chef's secret recipe, Cau Go braised fish tastes significantly different from one store to the next.

The key of Hang's braised fish is in the ingredients, which include galangal, dried onion, sugar caramel, fish sauce, pepper, fresh sugarcane, salted eggplants, and others.

“To make the dish, ginger, shallots, and chili peppers are finely chopped and mixed with fish; while sugarcane, galangal and salted eggplant are cut into thin slices and placed into the bottom of the cast-iron pot. Later, the fish pot is topped with galangal slices,” she told The Hanoi Times.

“A cast-iron pot will keep the fish from burning, while other additives would make the dish flavorsome,” she explained.

 A loyal customer of the Cau Go Braised Fish dish. Photo: Cao Loan- Dieu Ngan/The Hanoi Times 

According to Hang, a few thick slices of pork are added to the pot many hours after the braising process begins to prevent overcooking. The fat from the pork will help enhance the flavor of the dish.

The Cau Go braised fish must be light brown when it is done. Flavored with aromatic galangal, ginger, and pepper, the cooked fish should be firm.

The dish is so good when eaten with steaming white rice that many Hanoians eat it for all three meals of the day: lunch, dinner, and breakfast.

Thus, it’s the reason why this Hanoi’s specialty is selling like hotcakes.

TAG: Hanoi news Vietnam news Hanoi tourism Hanoi gastronomy Cau Go braised fish Hanoi specialty of braised fish
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