Growing up, we never had this Fish with Turmeric and Dill dish at home, this may come as a surprise to many as this is a famous Hanoi dish and our mom was originally from North Vietnam. Furthermore, I grew up in a household of gourmets and gourmands, so even I question why this dish was never served at home. I think it’s because our mom didn’t enjoy eating fish, so our home Chef prepared for us other fish dishes from the Central and Southern parts of Vietnam, and also from France, but no Cha Ca Thang Long.
I was introduced to this Fish in Turmeric and Dill dish when I visited Hanoi for the first time in the late 90s. A friend took me to the run-down eponymous restaurant which only had one dish on the menu: Cha Ca Thang Long. This was a sure sign that it would be a great dish.
Traditionally, this dish is prepared with snakehead fish, but nowadays, catfish is more commonly used. Actually, any firm white fish such as halibut, cod or rockfish would do. The fish is marinated in turmeric and a mixture of spice including galangal, then seared, with a generous portion of Dill and Scallion oil, onions and crushed peanuts added in the end. It would be best to marinate the fish overnight in the refrigerator, or at least for couple of hours.
It’s usually enjoyed with rice vermicelli and lots of fresh lettuce and fragrant herbs. Traditionally, this dish is also served with crispy grilled rice cracker or Banh Da Nuong to add some crunch. The Banh Da Nuong can be found in some Vietnamese grocery stores, but it’s entirely optional.
Since then, I have enjoyed this dish many times and, surprisingly, the best Cha Ca Thang Long, in my humble opinion, is from a restaurant in Orange County, California… I have searched various cookbooks and scoured the internet for the best recipe, and have tested a few in my kitchen, and made some adjustments. I’m sharing here what I feel is the best recipe and simplest method of cooking using less oil, and with less mess to clean. Typically it’s served with a fermented shrimp paste sauce, but Nuoc Cham is preferred in our home. You can check the Nuoc Cham recipe from my blog.
I hope Cha Ca Thang Long will be a hit with your family!
Fish with turmeric and dill (Cha Ca Thang Long)
- Mixing bowl, Cast Iron Grill, Parchment paper
- 1 lb 450 g white fish fillets, cut into nuggets (about 1-1/2 inch long)
- 1/2 inch Fresh galangal, chopped or 1/2 tsp galangal powder (or ginger powder if you can't find galangal)
- 1 tspn Turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp chopped shallots
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- 1/2 tspn sugar
- 1/2 tspn fish sauce
- 1 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 package rice vermicelli (bun tuoi), blanched and drained as per package instruction
- 1 cup scallions, cut in 1 inch segments
- 2 cups dill, remove the thick stem, chopped
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 cup each of fresh herbs such as Shiso/perilla, fresh mint, fresh basil, coriander, butter lettuce
- 1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
Fermented shrimp dipping sauce (mam tom)
- 1 tspn fermented shrimp paste (mam tom)
- 1 tspn minced garlic
- 1 medium chili, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp water
- Wash the fish fillets with white vinegar and water, rinse well and dry
- In large bowl, mix the shallots, garlic, turmeric, galangal, sugar, fish sauce and add the fish. Mix well, cover and marinate over night or for at least 2 hours.
- Meanwhile, boil the rice vermicelli as per package instruction and drain, set aside.Wash and dry the lettuce and resh herbs. Display the the lettuce, fresh herbs and rice vermicelli on serving platters
- Prepare the fermented shrimp dipping sauce or nuoc cham
- Put a little oil in a skillet, and fry the sliced onions till caramelized over medium heat
- Put the dill and scallions in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 tablespoon of oil, a pinch of sugar and a pinch of salt. Microwave for 20 seconds. The dill and scallions will wilt. I like to do it this way to avoid mixing the dill and scallions in the fish skillet.
- Around 30 minutes before dinner, spray some oil on a cast iron grill. Line with parchment paper cut to size. Spray a little oil on the parchment paper. This is a really neat trick to sear the fish without it sticking to the pan, using minimal oil, so the fish is crisp but not greasy. Heat the cast iron grill on high. When smoking hot, add the fish by batch, without overlapping. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side (depending on the fish thickness). Carefully remove to a heated serving platter.
- After all the fish is cooked, spread the dill and scallions over the fish, the caramelized onion, and sprinkle with the chopped peanuts. Serve immediately with the rice vermicelli, fresh herbs, dipping sauce, and the grilled crispy Banh Da (optional).
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