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The Hirshon Hanoi Vietnamese Herbed Fish Cha Ca - Chả Cá Lã Vọng

The Hirshon Hanoi Vietnamese Herbed Fish Cha Ca – Chả Cá Lã Vọng

  • Author: The Generalissimo


Units Scale
  • 6 oz. dry vermicelli rice noodles
  • ***
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. shallots, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. galangal, fresh ground (from a 1″ fresh root, peeled) – don’t substitute ginger for galangal!
  • 1 Tbsp. turmeric, fresh ground (from a 1″ fresh root, peeled) (BE VERY CAREFUL grinding this – it stains anything porous it touches (including your skin) almost permanently yellow!)
  • 2 tsp. fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. shrimp paste
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (a substitute for mẻ unless you can find it at a local Vietnamese grocery store)
  • ***
  • FISH:
  • 1 1/2 lbs. farmed catfish fillets, skinned and cut into 1 1/2” pieces (if necessary, Tilapia can be substituted)
  • ***
  • Mắm Tôm DIPPING SAUCE (per serving):
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp. shrimp paste (preferred) or 1 Tbsp. fish sauce (for a less strong taste more palatable to Westerners)
  • 1 Thai chili
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 DROP ONLY Mangdana essence (highly optional, but use it if you can find it!) or use Pandan essence, which has a different flavor/smell profile, but can work as a substitute
  • ***
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • rice flour or AP flour (TFD prefers rice flour)
  • Kosher salt & freshly-ground black pepper
  • 15 scallions, cut into 12 inch pieces, root end cut off and discarded on each
  • 2 cups dill, coarsely chopped (thick stems removed)
  • ***
  • 1/4 cup perilla leaves (whole), no stems – if you can’t find it, omit
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves (whole), no stems
  • 1/4 cup Thai basil (whole), no stems
  • 1/4 cup Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi), no stems – if you can’t find it, omit
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, skin off, unsalted


  1. Marinade: Place marinade ingredients into bowl or bag, making sure ingredients are mixed well. Add fish (1 ½ inch pieces), cover the dish or close the bag and place in the refrigerator 30 minutes – 45 minutes (no more, no less).
  2. Boil vermicelli according to package. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  3. Remove the fish from the marinade, placing the pieces on a paper towel, patting them dry.
  4. In a large nonstick pan (on the largest burner) add 3T cooking oil and heat over medium high, until the oil is shimmering, and you can smell the oil (before the smoking point).
  5. Quickly salt, pepper, then dredge the pieces in flour, shaking any loose flour off. Gently add fish to the pan with tongs. The oil should sizzle, not crackle. If it’s crackling, turn it down slightly. Cook until golden brown and cooked through (approx. 2-3 min per side or 4 -5 min total). Add the scallions and dill for about 30 seconds, remove from heat. Transfer to serving bowl. Alternatively, the catfish may be grilled over charcoal for greater authenticity – just cook the herbs in a separate pan per the above directions after grilling the fish.
  6. To make the sauce: Use a mortar and pestle to crush garlic and chili together into a paste, or mince well on a chopping board. Add fish sauce and sugar and mix well to dissolve the sugar. Add water and lime juice, one drop of mangdana (if using) and stir.
  7. Serve family style for small or large groups: 1 bowl with vermicelli (room temp) 1 bowl with perilla, mint, balm, thai basil leaves 1 bowl with fish, spring onions, dill 1 bowl with peanuts 1 bowl with dipping sauce. Or you can plate and serve into four bowls: serve in the same order as listed above (vermicelli in the bowl first and drizzling dipping sauce on last).