Wed, 29th May 2024 06:56 (GMT +7)

How to cook Hanoi-style cha ca turmeric fish with dill

Friday, 03/05/2024 | 09:04:39 [GMT +7] A  A

A mainstay of Hanoi's cuisine for years, cha ca features turmeric-marinated fish cooked with dill and herbs, served with a savory-sweet shrimp paste for dipping.

Cha ca received praise from CNN as a "must-try dish" in Vietnam in 2019.

Originating during early Vietnamese wars against the colonial French, cha ca or cha ca La Vong was first made by the Doan family at 14 Hang Son Street in 1871. Diners began referring to it as cha ca La Vong due to a statue named La Vong at the family's doorstep.

This recipe serves about 4 to 6 people, takes approximately 90 minutes to prepare, and provides around 2,017 calories in total.


- 1 kg fish fillet: Crystal eyed catfish are highly recommended. Snapper, sea bass, catfish, and tilapia are also good choices

- 1 galangal root

- 1 fresh turmeric root

- Spices: fish sauce, shrimp paste, MSG, pepper, ca cuong - lethocerus indicus extract (optional)

- Dill, scallions, water mint, coriander

- Roasted peanuts, fried shallots, lime, chili, onion (optional)

- Me - sour Vietnamese fermented rice

- Vietnamese rice wine

- Pork fat or chicken fat

- Vermicelli noodles


1. Preparation

- Clean the fish by removing any scales, entrails, or impurities.

- Then, remove the bones from the fish fillet and cut it into rectangular pieces.

- Cut the fish intestines into bite-sized pieces.

The fresh fish slices should have a creamy white color with a light pink hue. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

- Finely filter sour Vietnamese fermented rice.

- Pound and squeeze the galangal to extract its juice.

- Crush the turmeric, add a splash of lime juice or sour Vietnamese fermented rice to preserve the turmeric's color.

After filtering, the sour Vietnamese fermented rice reveals a milky white color. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

- Wash and chop dill, scallions, water mint, and coriander.

- Trim the ends of the spring onions into small pieces and soak them in a bowl of ice water to crisp them up, while adding a splash of vinegar to reduce their pungency.

Chop the herbs into pieces that are approximately the length of a finger. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

- Place the fish in a bowl and pour turmeric juice over it, ensuring to coat the surface evenly to eliminate any fishy odors.

- Add galangal juice, 3 - 4 tablespoons of melted pork fat, 3 tablespoons of filtered sour Vietnamese fermented rice, 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of shrimp paste, 1 teaspoon of MSG, 1 teaspoon of pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

- Thoroughly mix the ingredients and marinate for at least 2 hours.

- If time allows, wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When marinated, the fish is enveloped in a thick, yellow sauce. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

2. Cooking process

- Grill the fish over charcoal (or bake in the oven) until each piece is golden brown and firm.

- If charcoal is unavailable, you can grill the fish in an oil-free fryer or oven.

- After grilling, allow the fish to cool.

- When ready to serve, heat a pan and add pork fat, scallions, dill, and water mint.

After being cooked twice, the fish develops a firm texture with browned edges. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

- Roast peanuts until golden and crispy.

- After roasting, rub the peanuts to remove the shells, and set them aside for later use.

Redskin peanuts are preferred for this dish due to their nutty flavor. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

- In a bowl, mix together 3 tablespoons of shrimp paste, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of Vietnamese rice wine.

- Squeeze the juice of 1 lime into the bowl with the shrimp paste mixture.

- Whisk the ingredients thoroughly to ensure they are well combined.

- If available, add a drop or two of ca cuong extract to the mixture to impart a unique aroma. Ca cuong is a water bug found in ponds, lakes, swamps, and fields. When grilled, it releases a strong, spicy scent that can be used as a dipping sauce condiment.

After whisking, the fermented shrimp paste may develop a layer of bubbles on top. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

- Spread a layer of dill and scallions on a cast iron pan to keep warm.

- Arrange the grilled fish on top.

- Pour pork fat or chicken fat into the pan and heat.

- Stir-fry the fish until hot.

3. Final product

The fish is evenly arranged on a pan and served hot, accompanied by a variety of herbs. Photo by VnExpress/Bui Thuy

- The outer surface of each piece of fish is golden yellow in color, and when you slice it open, you'll find that the inside is soft and sweet.

- The shrimp paste should achieve a balanced taste of savory and sweet.

- The dish is typically served with shrimp paste for dipping, along with vermicelli, water mint, roasted peanuts, and sesame rice cracker.

Source: VnExpress