Cha Ca La Vong – Hanoi Style Fish with Turmeric and Dill

20 Apr

Chả cá lã vọng is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes, and one that I’d never noticed before going to Vietnam. Hanoi to be exact. The bright colors and flavors are an instant mood booster and consistent crowd pleaser. I don’t know about you, but heading in to week six of being safe at home during the COVID-19 pandemic has me craving all the bright and mood boosting things. Just look at these colors:

Chả Cá Lã Vọng – Hanoi Style Fish with Turmeric and Dill Recipe

Serves four

  • Catfish, cut in 2″ chunks
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or less, depending on how much fish you have)
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbs ginger, grated or minced
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tsp fine shrimp paste (or sub additional fish sauce)
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 cup fresh dill, fronds and stems cut into 2″ pieces
  • 4 green onions, white and green cut into 1″ pieces
  • Fresh mint, Thai basil, cilantro, other herbs for serving
  • Fried shallots, crushed basil, rice paper rolls for serving (optional)

In a medium size bowl, mix up the sour cream (plain yogurt could be subbed), turmeric, ginger (sub 1 tsp ground as a sub for fresh), fish sauce, shrimp paste (if using). Dry your catfish (or whatever fish you have – salmon is quite nice, too) and cut into smaller pieces before slathering in the delicious marinade. I like to leave sit in the fridge for a full day. Let’s be real, we have the time.

When you’re ready to cook, remove the fish from the refrigerator at 30 minutes before cooking so it warms a bit. I’ve experimented with many preparation styles and most enjoy this broiling method. In Vietnam, and some restaurants here, the dish is sizzled table side or served on a hot platter (think: fajitas). That is a guaranteed trip to the emergency room with curious two- and four-year old fingers.

Table side preparation of my inaugural chả cá lã vọng in Hanoi, Vietnam

Set the oven to broil and place a rimmed baking sheet (foil-lined will help with clean-up) and oven-safe rack inside to heat up. Once hot, place the marinated fish on the rack with space between pieces. If necessary do in batches. Return to the oven in the top third and broil for 8 to 10 minutes, moving the tray around as needed for even browning. Remove and gently flip the fish, returning to the oven for another 8ish minutes until brown. Keep an eye on the fish – you can go from a perfectly brown to tripping the smoke alarm pretty quick.

While the fish is broiling, heat the oil in a pain until shimmering hot before tossing in the dill and green onions. Bathe the beautiful greens in oil until they start to sear a bit and remove from heat.

When the fish is ready, remove from the oven a prepare your serving platter. Lay down a comfortable bed of the seared dill and onions and carefully transfer the fish, the cover the fish in a blanket of the remaining oil and herbs, as seen above (I’m really losing my mind here, aren’t I?).

Serve piping hot with rice noodles, make rolls, or with rice if that’s all you’ve got. Layer on with your favorite herbs, fried onions, peanuts, etc.

Rice paper rolls are always a good idea, in my humble opinion. Here’s how I like to build them:

We had small papers on hand, which I made with mint, basil, cilantro, rice noodles, and fried shallots. These rice paper trays are a life saver – check out your local Asian market.

Fun to eat, and addicting!

Perfect bites and view, with the kids temporarily quiet and seated.

Simply prepared in a bowl is excellent, too.

My first bowl enjoyed in Hanoi.

We forego the traditional dipping sauce, which is more shrimp paste and not really our jam. You can eat with nuoc mam or other dipping sauce of choice.

What dishes are you preparing at home to keep your spirits lifted and belly full?

2 Responses to “Cha Ca La Vong – Hanoi Style Fish with Turmeric and Dill”

  1. Sybaritica at 9:02 am #

    Hi. The recipe looks interesting. Unfortunately, your pictures are not displaying. Maybe it is just my browser?

    • amandare at 9:30 am #

      I think the issue is fixed! Thanks for tour comment, let me know if you make the dish and how it turns out!

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