Cha Ca has been considered not only a delicious dish but also a trade mark of Vietnamese cuisine. The restaurant that transformed the dish into a national phenomenon began its operations in the 19th century.
Cha Ca La Vong has the origin of Doan family. In years of French domination period, in No.14 Hang Son there was Doan family who usually made delicious grilled fish to invite their guests. After a long time, this dish had become famous and it was made to mainly serve for De Tham insurgent army, these guests then helped Doan family open a restaurant where they could gather and helped Doan family to earn money to bring up insurgent army as well as their family’s members. The appearance and fame of this dish was the reason Hang Son Street changed into Cha Ca Street (one of the 36 streets in the Old Quarter of Hanoi). Especially, in the restaurant at that time, there was a statue named La Vong – Khuong Tu Nha, the God of fisherman, from that time, the name Cha Ca La Vong was born.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 1 lb of white fish fillets (traditionally catfish is used, but we prefer halibut or cod–but any meaty and flaky white fish will do)
- Fish Marinade
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/4 teaspoon galangal powder (if not available at your Asian market, substitute ginger powder)
- 1 tbs minced garlic
- 1 tbs minced shallots
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce
- 4 tbs of olive oil
Combine olive oil, turmeric, galangal, garlic, shallots, salt, sugar, and fish sauce in large bowl and mix well. Cut the fish into smaller fillets and gently mix, and allow to marinade in the fridge for about 1 hour.
- 1 large red onion, sliced
- 1 cup of green onion cut about 1.5 inch segments
- 1 bunch of fresh dill coarsely chopped (thick stems removed)
- 1/4 cup of dry roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed
- 12 oz. bag of vermicelli noodles (boiled and drained)
- Fresh mints (rau thom), perilla (tia to), lettuce, Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi)
- Black sesame rice cracker (banh da)
Fermented Anchovy Sauce
- juice from approximately 3 limes
- 2 tablespoon of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of water
- 1 teaspoon of mam ruoc (fine shrimp paste)
- 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon of chopped red chili or chili garlic paste
Traditionally this dish is dressed with a fermented shrimp paste sauce that is similar to mam nem (except without the crushed pineapples). This sauce is a bit more pungent (read stinky) than fish sauce but is prepared similar to nuoc mam dipping sauce. First start with the lime, sugar, and water making a bland lime-ade, then slowly add the shrimp paste, mix well and taste and adjust according to taste. The shrimp paste is much stronger then fish sauce so start small and slow. If you don’t care for this sauce and prefer nuoc mam dipping sauce, that’s not a problem at all.
Putting it all together…
For the best presentation use two skillets: a cast iron fajita skillet with a wooden serving tray and a non stick skillet. The fajita skillet will give you that spectacular sizzle as you bring it to the table and dazzle all your friends :) Or, if you have a tabletop burner, do everything at the table in one skillet!
Using the fajita skillet, saute the red and green onions with a bit of oil under medium low heat. At the same time have a separate non-stick skillet to cook the fish fillets about 3 minutes on each side until you get a nice golden opaque color and slight brown crust.
A minute or so before the fish is done, turn the fajita skillet to high and then place the cooked fillets on top of the sauteed onions and scallions. Remove from heat and generously top with fresh dill and roasted peanuts. Serve immediately with vermicelli noodles, fresh lettuce and herbs, black sesame rice crackers, and dress with your choice of dipping sauce.
Can you see the smoke and hear the sizzle?