Cá Sông Lô Restaurant makes a good impression on tourists to Hà Giang Province. Ngô Minh dives into its diverse menu of north-western delicacies.
Located in Hà Giang City in the northern province of the same name, the Cá Sông Lô restaurant has a prime position on the Lô River, a major artery flowing through Hà Giang, Tuyên Quang, and Phú Thọ provinces.
The restaurant sits in a spacious floating house on the banks of the river. At a length of 470km and with a basin area of 39,000sq.km, the Lô is a grand river with spectacular landscapes of waterfalls and rapids.
The section flowing through Hà Giang City, however, is quite narrow and peaceful. And what a nice view of the city is to be had while enjoying a meal at the restaurant.
Cá Sông Lô has become a popular stop for tourists to Hà Giang not only for the view but also for its delicious dishes.
Leaving Hà Nội early in the morning, we arrived in Hà Giang City at midday, just in time for lunch. We chose the restaurant based on its reputation.
The name literally means “fish from the Lô River”, and its specialty is, indeed, fish.
IMPRESSION MADE: The fish salad is truly unique with firm and tasty slices. VNS Photos Ngô Minh
The menu is quite diverse, with nearly 100 dishes using the river’s abundant sources of fish, from black carp to snakehead.
Each type is prepared in a variety of ways to create dishes favoured by Vietnamese and that intrigue foreign visitors. They may be stir-fried, steamed or grilled, or in a salad or hotpot or as a wrap-and-roll.
I recommend you try the lăng fish (hermibagrus). There is always a difference between lăng fish no matter whether you try it in Hà Nội, HCM City or another big city, because those caught in large rivers have an extraordinary quality.
I’ve been told that clean and spacious water is the ideal habitat for these fish. Strong currents make the fish strong, with flesh that is tender yet firm. The fish at Cá Sông Lô is very fresh, and so its dishes are all delicious.
ENDLESS SELECTION: Hà Giang Province’s delicacies are varied and include rau dớn (local wild vegetables), fish salad, boiled chicken, snails in a bamboo tube, and grilled fish rolled in rice paper.
The restaurant has small aquariums, allowing you to choose what suits your taste and how you’d like it cooked.
Our selections were a fish salad, stir-fried fish, and grilled fish.
I was most impressed by the fish salad. It seemed like it’s quite easy to make, just poach slices of fish in boiling water, mix them with spices and herbs, and then serve.
Though there are certainly some tips in making it as delicious as possible. For example, the shallots used should be from Lý Sơn Island, which have a purple bulb, an impressive smell, and a sweetness after being soaked in lime juice for 20-30 minutes. With simple preparation, the dish preserves the freshness and savoury taste of the fish.
FIRST UP: Grilled fish rolled with herbs and noodles and dipped in a special sauce is the ideal starter for a feast of fish delicacies.
Next we had the grilled fish. It was perfectly cooked, with the dark yellow skin of the fish and some roasted peanuts and fresh lettuce, coriander, perilla, and mint. The skilled chef is careful to not overcook it, otherwise it may be too dry.
The grilled fish fillets are served with fresh rice vermicelli, aromatic herbs, and slices of pineapple, carrot, and green banana. All are wrapped together and rolled in rice paper then dipped in a sauce with sweet, salty, spicy and sour tastes.
LOCAL FARE: Rau dớn is a special vegetable found only in the northern mountains.
Be sure not to miss the chance to enjoy rau dớn, a member of the fern family and a special vegetable found only in the northern mountains. It used to grow wild and profusely in damp valleys or near streams, but local people now grow it in gardens. It’s perhaps best when stir-fried with garlic and peanuts.
The restaurant offers a wide range of other north-western delicacies. When travelling around Việt Nam, it’s always worth trying the local cuisine. And here is a wonderful array of dishes that go perfectly with the beauty of Hà Giang. VNS