Chả Cá Lã Vọng – Fried Fish with Turmeric & Dill

I wish I had a travel memory of eating Chả Cá Lã Vọng in Hanoi but alas, this will need to go on the bucket list. We did not partake of this tasty fish dish when we visited Vietnam two lifetimes ago. Regardless, this is one of my favorites and below is my working attempt to recreate at home. It has the stamp of approval from several discerning and informed palates (my kids excluded). The ingredients can really vary and access to them might be limited for many depending on how close you are to an Asian grocer. I also find that the galangal and turmeric roots really do a number on the food processor (read: stain and or scratch up). Thus far using turmeric powder vs. root has been a-ok and moderately less messy. I have used galangal powder but found it to be lacking in brightness and bite (?) and need to try some other brands or hack my own galangal paste. This is served with lots of herbs, lettuce and rice noodle for wrapping and dipping with either Nước mắm / chấm (typically you pick a camp on this nomenclature) and/or mắm nêm (pineapple anchovy sauce). Our household collectively prefers nước mắm and here is the family recipe.

Tip: Do not wear white! Additional notes to follow the recipe.

cha_ca_la_vong

Chả Cá Lã Vọng (serves ~ 4)

  • 1 1/2 pounds firm white fish like cod, tilapia, catfish etc
  • Rice flour (to toss/coat after marinating before frying, optional)
  • Fresh Dill! 2-ish cups of fronds (leafy top part)
  • half a onion or shallot thinly sliced
  • 3 green onions, cut in long pieces
  • Oil for pan frying
  • Lettuce leaf for wrapping
  • Rice noodles (we love bánh hỏi and use the quick to prepare Bamboo Three brand)
  • Other freshness to wrap with: pickled carrots and daikon (Đồ chua), bean sprouts, mint, Vietnamese mint, thai basil, cilantro, fried shallots, chopped roasted peanuts

Fish Marinade

  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream or mắm tôm
  • 2 T turmeric powder
  • 1 T fresh minced ginger (~ 1 1/2 inch piece, peeled) or galangal
  • 1 tsp fish sauce (e.g. Red Boat or Three Crabs)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 T neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, vegetable)
  • 1 clove or a generous teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 T finely chopped or minced shallot
  • Optional: 1/8 teaspoon mushroom powder

Instructions

  1. Prepare the marinade. You can mix by hand, use mortar and pestle or food processor (see notes).
  2. Chop the fish into 1 to 1 1/2 inch cubes/pieces.
  3. Coat/toss the fish in marinade, cover and let it sit for at least 30 minutes but would go more like 2 hours (refrigerated).
  4. Slice onion. Prep the dill by keeping the fronds a few inches long, slicing long-ways any of the thicker stems (but don’t use to much stem). Cut the green onions in to long strips, about two inches.
  5. Heat oil in fry pan.
  6. Fry the thin onion slices until starting to brown and soften. Remove/set aside.
  7. Remove fish from marinade and if using, toss marinated fish in rice flour and then put pieces in the pan. Fry up! When done add to plate with the onions.
  8. Add the dill fronds to the pan and fry for just a minute to wilt/heat and then place on top of the fish and onions. Steal a quick taste.
  9. Enjoy! Wrapping up fish bites with rice noodles, herbs and dipping in the prepared nước mắm dipping sauce.

Notes

  • Turmeric stains EVERYTHING (and thus makes a good natural dye) so just be prepared for that. Use glass or metal if possible. When using the food processor I did everything in it EXCEPT the turmeric and just mixed that in by hand at end in a separate glass bowl. I used my mini-processor since it is not a huge amount of marinade.
  • I have used halibut with this but the flakiness makes it hard to fry up and it is almost too sweet or mild?
  • Yogurt is an option to add a little ‘sourness’ to the marinade, can also use mắm tôm (shrimp paste0 or mẻ  (fermented rice, really hard to find)
  • Can sub 1/4 tsp ginger powder and 3/4 tsp galangal powder
  • You can add some salt to the fish at the end to your taste, just remember the nước mắm is also salty. I err on side of less salt and other than the fish sauce in marinade did not add additional.
  • So many variations to this recipe!

 

Other Vietnamese Recipes

 

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