Update: 10:50 | 06/12/2021
In late autumn and early winter, when the weather gets chilly, one dish that Hanoians look forward to is 'cha ruoi' (ragworm omelet).
The seasonal dish is made with eggs and ragworms or palolo worms, a kind of seaworm typically harvested between late autumn and early winter in northern localities. The worms are normally found in brackish waters in the northern coastal provinces of Hai Duong and Quang Ninh, as well as in Hai Phong City.
The ragworms are put in hot water to remove their tentacles and then mixed with minced pork, tangerine peel, herbs and eggs. This is fried to a crisp.
Among the eateries favored for this dish in Hanoi, these three stand out.
Hung Thinh Restaurant
Hung Thinh in Hoan Kiem District’s Hang Buom Ward is one of the oldest cha ruoi restaurants in Hanoi, having served the delicacy for three decades.
Hung Thinh Restaurant in Hanoi's Old Quarter has served cha ruoi dish for over 30 years.
Cha ruoi can be eaten with fresh vegetables and sweet and sour sauce with slices of papaya and carrots, or with fresh rice vermicelli.
Restaurant owner Bui Thi Nga said hers was the third generation to serve the dish in the family business. Her grandfather opened it in 1986.
In 2019, Nga’s restaurant was featured in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, which described the dish as a ‘unique delicacy.’
The restaurant serves two different types of cha ruoi, one with a larger proportion of worms, priced VND35,000 to 200,000 ($1.54-8.82), and the other, with fewer worms than pork at VND20,000.
Hang Beo Restaurant
At the end of Lo Duc Street in Hai Ba Trung Street, this is another eatery that has been around for a long time, set up more than two decades ago. The owner of this restaurant is from Hai Phong, so the taste of the ragworm omelet is a little different from other restaurants.
A serving of cha ruoi costs VND25,000 and up. When it comes with a serving of vermicelli noodles, the price goes up to VND45,000. The restaurant is always crowded in late afternoon.
Cha ruoi dish is served with fresh vegetables at the restaurant near Hoe Nhai Slope in Ba Dinh District, Hanoi.
Le Le Hang, the owner, learned how to make cha ruoi from her grandmother. She said she used to sell the dish at a small sidewalk eatery. Once she became well-known, she opened the restaurant on Lo Duc Street.
The restaurant was featured on CNN last year.
Hoe Nhai Restaurant
This sidewalk eatery near the Hoe Nhai Slope in Ba Dinh District has been serving the dish for over three decades. During the harvest season, the owner will buy ragworms from Hai Duong, Hai Phong and Nam Dinh. Patrons say the cha ruoi dish at this eatery is always fresh and delicious with a special aroma.
Due to the narrow space, not many diners can eat the dish on the spot.
A piece of cha ruoi costs from VND15,000 and the eatery only serves it during the autumn-winter season.