Chả Cá Thăng Long (also known as Chả Cá Lã Vọng and Chả Cá Hà Nội) is an infamous Hà Nội dish. At it’s originating roots from the 100+ year old Chả Cá Lã Vọng restaurant, turmeric marinaded fish is first grilled and then fried table-side. It’s served with tons of fresh dill, other herbs, crush peanuts, and rice noodles.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I began to truly appreciate this dish with it’s complex, yet well balanced, flavors. In Orange County, I would order it as a treat when I was out with my parents in Little Sài Gòn. The only popular place to get Chả Cá Thăng Long at that time was from Viễn Đông Restaurant where it would come out on sizzling cast iron plates. Now, Chả Cá is pretty readily available at many Vietnamese restaurants.
Traditionally, in Hà Nội, this dish is made with cá lóc –or snakehead fish. Which, on a random note, was my dad’s nickname in the navy.
Here in the states, most restaurants will make it with catfish or other firm white fish. But mom also used to make it with salmon, too.
If you’ve never had Chả Cá before, you may be surprised to see how much fresh dill is used. But trust in the process because it’s the plentiful dill and turmeric that makes this dish so special.
Typically, Chả Cá is served with Mắm Nêm—a very pungent, fermented anchovy sauce. I love the stuff but it’s definitely a flavor to get used to—even if you are Vietnamese! As such, you see this dish also served with a standard Nước Chấm which is much more mild compared to its counterpart.
Not up to mixing up a batch of your own Mắm Nêm? No worries, I buy mine premixed and bottled. Mắm Nêm is just one of those tricky things that I seem to never be able to get the right ratios down.
At home, you can cook Chả Cá in several different ways. Either on a grill (or grill pan), underneath the broiler, or simply pan fry like I did. But be sure to get all the crispy brown bits in your bowl because that’s what is packed full of yummy flavor.
Thanks for reading!
On a side note, I’d like to dedicate this post/dish to our Mom who instilled in us the love for cooking and sharing food with loved ones. She would have turned 70 this coming Tuesday. Wasn’t she lovely?
Happy Mother’s Day and Happy Birthday, Mom! We miss you and love you!
Chả Cá Thăng Long (Vietnamese Style Fish with Turmeric & Dill)
1 Pound Firm White Fish, cut into 2 inch pieces
3 Tablespoons Vietnamese Fish Sauce
1 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder
1 Tablespoon Fresh Garlic, finely minced
½ Tablespoon Fresh Ginger, finely grated
2 Tablespoons Shallots, finely diced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Dill Fronds, chopped (for marinade)
¼ Teaspoon Black Pepper
4 Scallions, sliced into 2 inch segments
1 Small White Onion, sliced
1 Large Bunch of Dill, without stems
3 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil, divided
½ Cup Peanuts, toasted and roughly chopped
Fresh Dill Fronds, chopped
Red Thai Chiles, diced
Nước Chấm (fish dipping sauce) or Mắm Nêm (fermented anchovy dipping sauce)
1 Package Vermicelli Noodles, boiled according to package directions
In a large bowl, mix fish sauce, turmeric, garlic, ginger, shallots, dill fronds, and black pepper. Add fish and mix well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook the white onions until lightly golden. Add 1/3 of the dill and ½ of the sliced scallions. Sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes. Plate the onions, scallions and dill on a serving platter.
Remove fish the refrigerator and drain off the marinade. Using paper towels, pat off any excess liquids. Using the same skillet, heat the remaining oil to medium high. Pan fry the fish—about 3-4 minutes on each side until the fish is evenly browned. Plate the fish on top of the bed of cooked onions, scallions and dill. Immediately top with the remaining fresh dill and scallions. Sprinkle peanuts on top and serve immediately with vermicelli noodles and sauces.
**This is my submission to Delicious Vietnam #13, a monthly blogging event celebrating Vietnamese cuisine which was started by Anh of A Food Lover’s Journey and Hong & Kim of Ravenous Couple. For more information, please visit Delicious Vietnam**