At Pok Pok LA in Chinatown, chef-owner Andy Ricker preaches Thai authenticity, but still finds room on his menu for some Vietnamese dishes, including Pok Pok’s famed Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings and a version of Hanoi’s famed cha ca la vong.
I understand why Ike’s wings made the cut, since Pok Pok’s initial hire, Ich “Ike” Truong, hails from Vietnam and contributed to a recipe that mimics what Ricker experienced in Hanoi. Perhaps Ricker also fell for Cha Ca La Vong, Hanoi’s most famous dish, during his travels.
Regardless, Ricker’s approximation is pretty good, though he clearly doesn’t have access to snakehead fish in L.A., and doesn’t cook the fish tabletop over charcoal in a pool of butter, turmeric, dill, and spring onions. Still, we’re in L.A. and not Hanoi, and I enjoyed Cha Ca “La Vong” ($15) quite a bit. Flaky fish is marinated in turmeric and sour rice, fried in turmeric oil with scallions and dill, and served in a bowl on bouncy rice vermicelli with peanuts, mint, and cilantro, with pleasantly pungent mam nem (fermented fish sauce with pineapple) on the side.