Cha ca is made to please the eyes as well as the taste buds. Everything is cooked at your table and you get to watch your meal take shape right in front of you. At one end of the spectrum, you have street food served on the sidewalk, while at the other end of the spectrum you have cha ca, which is served exclusively at restaurants, and so is considered a luxurious dish.
Deposited on the table are a frying pan filled with chunks of ca lang marinated with turmeric, a mound of rice noodles, a large bowl of fresh spring onion and dill, peanuts, shrimp paste, and fish sauce for those who can’t stand the pungent smell of shrimp paste.
Cha ca’s flavor is an assault on the senses. The soft fish chunks combine with crunchy peanuts, balanced out by raw basil, dill, and spring onion, also featuring a savory and mellow shrimp paste. Its sophisticated taste is highly praised and has even made an impression on many high profile chefs. So much so that four of them who had been to cha ca restaurants decided to bring it back to the USA and adapt it in their own way.