Vietnamese turmeric fish with dill and noodles is a perfect combination of white fish and traditional spices from the food culture of Vietnam. A marinade made from turmeric, galangal, and shrimp paste (or fish sauce) gives the fish a unique flavor and a captivating golden color.
When served with fresh herbs and vermicelli noodles, this Northern Vietnamese delicacy makes for a wholesome meal. Sweet, sour, and savory with a touch of umami flavor, Cha Ca La Vong will satisfy even the pickiest foodies.
Cha Ca La Vong – A Dish With More Than 100 Years Of History
“Chả Cá Lã Vọng” is a creation of the Doan family, who lived in Hanoi back when Vietnam was still a French colony. Although the Doan used to make this dish for the resistance army, it was not until 1871 that they officially opened a restaurant and started selling Cha Ca La Vong to the locals.
La Vong (Lu Wang) was the title of Jiang Ziya, a historical figure in ancient China. The locals gave the Doan family’s specialty this name since there was always a statuette of Lu Wang in their restaurant.
Cha Ca La Vong consists of white fish fillets marinated in a mixture of turmeric, galangal, and shrimp paste, then grilled and fried with fresh herbs. Not only does the marinade provide an out-of-this-world flavor, but it also coats the fish in a beautiful golden color.
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I believe the above introduction has convinced you to make this iconic Vietnamese dish, and here are all the necessary kitchen tools.
- Oven: Although the original recipe requires grilling the fish on a coal stove, baking them in an oven is a solid alternative.
- Basting brush: For brushing the oil on the aluminum foil.
- Baking tray: For baking the fish.
- Aluminum foil: For lining the baking tray and preventing the fish from sticking.
- Oven gloves: Helps you remove the fish from the oven after baking.
- Tongs: For blanching the noodles.
- Big bowl: For marinating the fish.
- Pan: For frying the fish.
- Cooking chopsticks: These are larger and longer than regular chopsticks, making stirring the ingredients easier.
- Spoon: For mixing the marinade.
- Knives: For cutting up the fish and fresh herbs. As a general rule, you should use separate knives for seafood and vegetables.
- Chopping boards: Make chopping the ingredients easier by providing a flat working surface.
- Pot: For boiling the water used for blanching noodles.
- Sieve: For draining the blanched noodles.
Prepare the following ingredients to make the most authentic Cha Ca La Vong. Some of them might be a bit hard to find, but worry not; there are viable alternatives.
- Catfish fillet: Other firm-fleshed white fish are great choices as well. You can try making this dish with monkfish, halibut, grouper, or cod.
- Turmeric juice: Turmeric powder is an easier-to-find alternative. However, I highly recommend using fresh turmeric juice for the best flavor and color.
- Galangal juice: Likewise, you can also use galangal powder.
- Ground galangal: Adds a pine-like flavor to the marinade.
- Garlic and shallots: The ultimate combo for the most aromatic dishes.
- Lemongrass: Provides a distinct flavor profile that’s a blend of mint and lemon.
- Scallions: You’ll use both the stems and leaves of these herbs.
- Dill: One of the core aromatics in the recipe. It’s slightly sweet with hints of celery and anise.
- Roasted peanuts: The earthy taste of peanuts is excellent for serving with fish and noodles.
- Fermented rice (cơm mẻ): Probably the rarest ingredient to find for people living outside of Asia. However, you can use plain yogurt as a substitute, albeit the dish will be a bit less fragrant.
- Shrimp paste: Fish sauce is a good choice for people that can’t stand this condiment’s strong flavor and smell. Note that your Cha Ca La Vong won’t have the most authentic taste.
- Vegetable oil or fat: For frying the fish.
- Vermicelli noodles: The perfect option to serve with Cha Ca La Vong.
- Kumquat juice: A squeeze of kumquat juice will elevate the flavor of the dipping sauce.
- Chili pepper: Adds some heat to the dipping sauce. You can adjust the number of peppers used based on your liking.
- Other spices: Pepper, sugar, and salt.
Let’s get to the kitchen and turn your fish fillets into a delectable bowl of Cha Ca La Vong!
Cut the fish fillets into bite-sized square pieces that are about 0.5 inches thick.
Cut ¾ of the dill into pieces and mince the remaining dill leaves. You’ll use the minced leaves to marinate the fish later.
Cut the green part of the scallions into bite-sized pieces and julienne the white stalks. The white parts have a slightly pungent taste which you can reduce by soaking them in iced water.
Mince the shallots, garlic, and lemongrass.
Remove the chili peppers’ stems. Cut the peppers into thin slices.
The com me that I use has already been filtered. If yours is unfiltered, you’ll need to puree it and pass it through a sieve. Skip this step if you’re using plain yogurt.
Wash the galangal roots, then crush or grind them. Save 1 tablespoon of ground galangal for adding to the fish marinade. Strain the galangal using a straining bag to squeeze out the juice.
Likewise, rinse to clean the turmeric and crush or grind them. Squeeze out the turmeric juice and get rid of the leftover pulp.
I highly recommend wearing food prep gloves while juicing turmeric. Otherwise, your hand will turn yellow. Besides doing this step manually, you can also use a juicer if you have one to save time.
Put the fish in a large bowl.
Season the fish with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of minced dill, 1 tablespoon of minced shallot, 1 tablespoon of minced lemongrass, 1 tablespoon of minced garlic, 3 tablespoons of galangal juice, 3 tablespoons of shrimp paste, 3 tablespoons of fermented rice, 3 tablespoons of turmeric juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of pepper, 1 tablespoon of ground galangal.
Mix well and allow the fish to marinate for 1 hour in a refrigerator.
While waiting for the fish to absorb the spices, bring a pot of water to a boil and add a little cooking oil. Blanch the noodles in the boiling water and put them in a bowl of cold water. Drain the noodles and proceed to make the dipping sauce.
Mix 3 tablespoons of shrimp paste with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of kumquat juice. Stir well until you see small bubbles in the sauce. Then, add the minced garlic and sliced chili.
Feel free to adjust the sauce’s saltiness depending on your preference.
Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Brush a thin layer of oil on the foil to prevent the fish from sticking. Place the marinated fish in the lined tray.
Preheat your oven to 390 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 10 minutes. Then, bake the fish at that temperature for 15 minutes.
Take the fish out of the oven and check their doneness. They are ready for the next step if the surface is slightly golden.
Place a pan on the stove and heat some cooking oil or fat. When the oil is heated, add the baked fish and fry them until golden brown on both sides.
Next, add the scallions (both leaves and stems) and dill to the pan. Stir gently for 30 seconds.
Turn the heat to the lowest level to keep the fish hot while eating. You can also turn off the heat but keep the pan on the stovetop.
Cha Ca La Vong is traditionally served with roasted peanuts, shrimp paste, and vermicelli noodles. Banh Da Nuong (toasted rice paper) is also an excellent addition. There are 3 common ways to enjoy this dish:
The first way, which is my favorite, is to serve the fish in a bowl with vermicelli noodles, vegetables, roasted peanuts, and shrimp paste. Drizzle a little shrimp paste over everything and mix well.
You can also put the fish, fresh scallion, and dill in a bowl and pour the hot oil you used to fry the fish on top. The heat from the oil will be enough to cook the scallion and dill slightly.
Last but not least, adding vermicelli noodles to the pan and briefly stir-frying them with the fish and veggies is not a bad idea. While this is great for infusing the noodles with flavors, some might find the dish a bit greasy.
The tips in this part will give you an easier time in the kitchen. I’ll also include some ways to change up the recipe to your liking.
- You can reduce the amount of shrimp paste used in the fish marinade since its main purpose is only to elevate the dish’s fragrance. Remember to give the paste a small taste test before adding it to the marinade and adjust the amount of salt accordingly.
- Be aware of the amount of turmeric you add to the fish marinade, as it can overwhelm other ingredients. Too much turmeric will also result in the fish having a yellowish color.
- The best, and traditional way, to cook the fish is to grill them over a coal stove. If you don’t have a coal stove, it’s totally fine to bake them in an oven or an air fryer.
- Instead of baking, you can also pan-fry the fish with just enough oil to coat the pan. However, the dish won’t taste as good.
- Some recipes might ask you to add sesame oil to the fish marinade. Doing this can prevent the fish from drying after baking and add a little flavor. However, in my experience, the fish comes out perfectly moist with the baking time and temperature in today’s recipe.
Cha Ca La Vong is among the most iconic dishes in Northern Vietnamese cuisine. Today, its popularity has spread to other regions in the country as well, and for good reasons. Once you’ve given this delicacy a try, I’m sure you’ll want to make it over and over again.
It would be a big mistake to skip this delicacy, especially if you were a fan of aromatic and flavorsome seafood dishes. Now that you’ve reached the final part of today’s post, don’t forget to drop it a like and share this delectable recipe with other people!
5 servings per container
- Amount Per ServingCalories838
- % Daily Value *
- Total Fat
- Saturated Fat 3.1g 16%
- Cholesterol 91mg 31%
- Sodium 4021mg 168%
- Potassium 1150mg 33%
- Total Carbohydrate
- Dietary Fiber 8g 32%
- Sugars 14.6g
- Protein 59.7g 120%
* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.