cha ca Thang Long (Ha Noi-style sizzling fish)

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recipe from my mom. Cha Cá Thang Long is the famous Hà Noi fish dish with turmeric, ginger and plenty of dill to round out the flavor. the Cha cá Lã Vong restaurant may be the most popular in Ha Noi. a friend took us there and we were lead up the narrow stairs into a cramped narrow room where everyone is literally sitting back to back, elbow-to-elbow. the pot was brought to our table, fish sizzling, aroma meltingly good.

though it doesn't have cha cá (fish cake) in it at all, believe that it was named thusly due to the fact that it was the specialty of the restaurant since 1871, when it was famous for serving fish cakes and now Cha Cá Thang Long is pretty much the sole dish they serve in the restaurant; they're sticking with Cha Cá Thang Long.

this is a dish that I would break my vegetarian diet for (the other dish is Bún riêu). extremely tasty. i prefer using catfish as it has a richer, sweeter flavor that I feel is well suited for the broiling process and that's what I grew up eating. my mom has used salmon but i think a white fish, like halibut or cod, works better with the strong flavors. and if you can get basa (pangasius bocourti), please do as it's a very delicate catfish from Viet Nam...yummy!

my mom's recipe doesn't use as much oil as the traditional method so better for ya'.

yields: 4 servings
1 lb fish fillet
5 shallots OR 1 medium onion (yellow or white not sweet), sliced
1 bunch of dill, roughly chopped
10 oz dry rice vermicelli
2 large garlic cloves, sliced 1/8-inch
2 scallions, white (chopped) and green parts (cut into 1-inch long pieces) separated
1 oz ginger, sliced 1/8-inch
1 tbsp lemongrass, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fish sauce
½ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp shrimp paste (or ½ tsp fish sauce)
2 tbsp vegetable oil or more if not using catfish
¼ c packed brown sugar
¾ c water
2 garlic cloves, finely minced or pressed
¼ c fish sauce
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2/3 c peanuts, roasted and chopped
kinh gioi (Vietnamese lemon balm)
tiá tô (Vietnamese perilla)
cucumber, julienned
lettuce greens
special equipment
large skillet or broiler-safe dish
mortar and pestle
1. mash in mortar with pestle the garlic cloves, scallions (white parts only), ginger and lemongrass into a paste.
2. mix paste with fish sauce, turmeric, shrimp paste and oil.
3. add to fish and stir to coat. add the green parts of the scallions. allow to marinate in a single layer and flipping over halfway through (at least 30 min. up to two hours) while preparing noodles and sauce.
4. soak vermicelli in freshly boiled water for around 5 minutes. When they have separated and softened, drain and set aside*.
5. in a small saucepan heat up sugar, water, garlic and fish sauce. remove from heat as soon as it boils or just until the sugar dissolves. add the lemon juice. set aside.
6. layer shallots/onions into baking dish, placing fish on top and then place dish into broiler. broil for about 3-5 min. flip fish over and allow to brown for an additional 3-5 min.
7. turn off the oven, add the dill and let rest in oven for a few minutes. bring a medium saucepan of water to boil and quickly plunge in the noodles for 30 seconds and move to serving dish.
8. spoon fish along with dill and shallots/onions, on top of bed of noodles. add garnishes and sauce. enjoy!
*after soaking the noodles, i like to twirl them into serving-size portioned "nests", approximately a handful. then I have readily portioned noodle that don't need to be pried apart.

if you don't want the smell of fish sauce permeating your home - as any seasoned Vietnamese home should - boil just the sugar, water and garlic then add the fish sauce later along with the lemon juice.

if you have rice paper, layer lettuce leaves on top of the moistened rice paper, then the noodles, garnishes and fish. roll up and dip into sauce for some finger-licking fun.

click here and here for photos to help with finding the herbs that were mentioned here.
Cuisine   VietnameseDish   Main Dish
Cooking Method   BroiledMain Ingredient   Fish
Style   One Dish MealsPrep Time   15 to 30 minutes
Cooking Time   15 to 30 minutes 
Features   Dairy-Free

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