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**
64 thoughts on “Chả Cá Thăng Long (Vietnamese Style Fish with Turmeric & Dill)”
This looks so colorful and fresh! Wonderful flavors in a lovely, and I bet delicious, dish!
What a great post dedicated to your mom and she is really beautiful in the picture! I have never tried this Vietnamese fish dish, but I am sure it tastes wonderful. The pictures are very nice as usual and make me want to eat this dish so much!
that’s a great photo and fitting tribute to your mom!
beautiful. =) much ❤ to you.
wow, the colors, the flavors, just beautiful!
I remember when grandma used to take Nina and me to Viễn Đông Restaurant and always told us to not order anything becuz she knew the thing we always wanted. The picture actually made me tear up a little… Good Post Co Nammie! ❤ Ya!
(the picture of grandma)
Love You Nini!
The fish looks delicious (I’m now hungry), and I love that photo of your mom!
Wow, this recipe looks amazing ! Always looking for new ways to cook fish, thanks for the idea !
great post! yes, it is definitely one of my favorite comfort food dishes, for flavor and eye-appeal!
That meal looks delish and your pictures are so pretty! Looking at that photo of your mom makes me miss SAS and Vietnam and you being our RA. oh nostalgia… 🙂
HELLO Jihane!!! So great to hear from you. I definitely miss the SAS days. In fact, we were just on the ship a few weeks ago when it docked in San Diego. It was wonderful being back on it! xoxo!
I love Vietnamese food, but have never seen this dish on the menu before. Or perhaps just didn’t know what it was! Next time, I will definitely keep my eye out for it. In the meantime, I will have your recipe to tide me over! Whenever I’ve had Vietnamese food, it’s always had tons of cilantro but not dill. So I’m really interested in trying the flavors of this dish out. Thanks for sharing!
This looks delicious. It is full of flavor which I enjoy when eating food. I will certainly be trying this dish. Fresh and easy.
Making ca kho the other day w/ this post on my mind got me thinking about which herbs not normally used in Vietnamese cuisine could complement or replace dill. Fennel? Thyme?
Thanks for inspiring more experimenting.
Oooh! I think fennel would be a lovely replacement!
I also think lemon thyme and oregano would be delish in Vietnamese cuisine. 🙂
Great explanation and recipe for a complex dish. Even with all those flavors bouncing around, I can taste it right there in your photos. Love it!
Foarte frumos. Imi place cum ai decorat preparatul, cu multa verdeata, felicitari!
looks yummy. Congrats on your top 9!
I am huge fan of vietnamese dish. Just a question: do you think it will be as great if the fish is substituted with chicken breast.
Hmmm….that’s a great question. At first thought I was inclined to say “no” but if you pounded boneless/skinless chicken to be quite thin, it may be able to soak in the flavors and be quite tender. I would however, think scallops would be a lovely replacement too!
Congrats on the Top 9. What a beautiful recipe and photo! I loved reading the post too, a lovely tribute to your mother.
Thanks so much Terris!
Your mother’s picture is beautiful.
Thank you, Vicki!
Great recipe! I love chả cá Hà Nội and having a sizzling pan at the table is so fun!
For making your own mắm nêm, you should try an immigrant chic variant made from canned anchovies and pineapple. It’s very simple to make, slightly less pungent but no less flavorful: http://www.rauom.com/blog/2010/12/20/mam-nem-from-canned-anchovies/
Oh my goodness—what a great idea! I’ll have to try this!
What a beautiful dish! And some of my very favorite flavors are in there! I’ve bookmarked it and will recreate it at home!
I love the picture of your mom! She’s so beautiful!
Thank You, Kath!!!
What a beautiful post to dedicate to your mum. I’m sure she would be very proud of you.
I had Cha Ca La Vong when I went to Hanoi a few months ago and was quite apprehensive about it. I couldn’t believe how much they were charging per head for a smallish serving of this dish (about $7.50/person) (damn Lonely Planet Guide!) – it had to be done anyway..
However, your dish looks great! I want to re-create this dish at home. Thanks for the recipe!
Thank you!!! I, too, couldn’t believe how much Lã Vọng charges! INSANE! 🙂
How much I love this post. Your mom looked so stunning in ao dai!
This dish is one of my very favourite things in the world! 🙂
THANK YOU, Anh!
Thanks on your marvelous posting at https://theculinarychronicles.com/2011/05/09/cha-ca-thang-long-vietnamese-style-fish-with-turmeric-dill! I seriously enjoyed reading it, you’re a great author.I will ensure that I bookmark your blog and may come back at some point. I want to encourage one to continue your great work, have a nice weekend!
This is so perfect. Tumeric/dill fish was one of my favourite dishes I tried while backpacking in Vietnam. I can’t wait to try this out at home. I love how your photos made the colours pop like crazy! Your picture of your mother and your comment were both just beautiful.
Thank You Tiana! I can only imagine what wonderful adventures you had on your backpack trip in VN! 🙂
I found this recipe through the Rouxbe website and I’m so glad I did. Your recipe looks delicious! Great photos and lovely story. Your mom was beautiful. Thanks for sharing!!
Thank You, Tuyet! So very kind of you 🙂
I only recently discovered this wonderful dish at a Vietnamese restaurant near my house. I used your recipe to make it at home and it turned out even better than the restaurants’ version. Thanks!
So happy to hear that you enjoyed it!
Hi Nam, I was looking this up on Google and found your posting. Really nice looking, great shots too! I ate this in Hanoi too and it was easily one of the most memorable dishes we had.
Hey Dylan! How fun that you found this 🙂 It really is one my favs and thanks so much for your kind words!!!
This sounds incredible!!!
I just returned from Ha Noi a few months ago and it was one of the most amazing meals while I was there. Just made this last night for a supper club and it was amazing. Surprisingly easy dish and so full of flavor. I used catfish.
I’m going to try this dish out for a weekend dinner party at a friends place. It’s going to be share food with rice between 4 of us. Do you think I could get away with serving rice instead of vermicelli?
Hi Wendy, you can definitely serve the fish with rice if you prefer it over the noodles. It’s also great as spring rolls wrapped in rice paper sheets with lots of fresh herbs and greens. Hope you enjoy it!!
Thanks for your help! I look forward to making it…looks super tasty!
Excellent recipe. Thank you!
I’ve made this dish (not from this exact recipe, but one very like it). It’s great, very flavoursome and different. It has a bit of an Iranian food taste actually (I eat a lot of that) due to the use of dill with turmeric, both of which feature quite strongly in Iranian cuisine. I think it might be traditionally served with cold noodles, but in my experience that does not go down well (even though I like the noodles cold myself)!
I was thinking about making this dish tonight. Would like to know if Sea Bass would work as a substitute for cat fish?
Hi Andy, Yes–I think the sea bass would be great in this dish! It has a firmness and fattiness that is similar to catfish. Hope you enjoy it!
Hi Nam, I was incredibly inspired by your photos and felt compelled to make this for dinner. So good! Thanks.
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