Let’s step back in time to a few years ago and a completely imaginary pub quiz.  Let’s suppose I am poised on the brink of winning the meat tray.  Believe it or not, a meat tray is a valid prize in Australian pubs.  I won one once. It was awesome. 

Cha Ca
Cha Ca

it was a whole tray of steaks and chops and sausages and, if I recall correctly, some very nice bacon.  You may scoff, but it’s actually a pretty good prize.   As long as you’re not a vegetarian. 

And here comes the question.

And for the tray of meat “What is a Cha Ca La Vong?”

“Oh……:A Latin American Dance?”

“No, wait a moment…isn’t it the name of the slutty girl from Grease?  The one stole the dance competition from Sandy?”

 Ba-Bow.

No, Cha Ca La Vong is not the name of the best dancer from St Bernadette’s (with the worst reputation) or the type of dancing she may engage in. 

It is a super delicious Vietnamese dish of fried fish with turmeric, dill and tomatoes.

I first came across this dish last year when I did the awesome Hanoi Street Food Tour with Mark Lowerson from Stickyrice.  You can read about that here.

Cha Ca
Cha Ca

 When I had Cha Ca with Mark it was a soupy style.  And it was super, very fragrant and possibly my favourite dish (apart from the a-may-zing coffee with yogurt) of the whole tour. 

This year however, I discovered a new way to have Cha Ca.  We read about a restaurant called The Gourmet Corner.  And being cautious, we dropped in one afternoon for a cocktail.  I like to call it scoping out a restaurant before commiting myself.  You can call it afternoon boozing if you wish.

Well, one meal later this became our favourite place to eat in Hanoi. I think we pretty much ate there every night after that.   Fabulous food, great cocktails, and 360 degree views of the city. And all as cheap as chips!!!!

Cha Ca La Vong - Gourmet Corner Hanoi
Cha Ca La Vong – Gourmet Corner Hanoi

Their Cha Ca?  O. M. G.  One of the best things I have ever eaten. In. My Life. 

First up, the combination of fish and dill and onion took me right back to my first ever time in Hanoi, my first ever full day in Hanoi and the tour with Mark.  Kind of like Proust’s madeleines.  But fishy.  And second -So, so  tasty.  Perfectly cooked fish, perfectly spiced, the most amazing flavour of the dill and the tomato and the turmeric….I ate this EVERY night for pretty much a week.  And I had such a craving for it the other night, I decided to make my own!

 Two disclaimers.  One.  My version, whilst being pretty damn good, is not a patch on either version I had in Hanoi.  There really is something about eating in situ that can make any meal super special. But, that being said…it doesn’t totally suck either.  It’s actually pretty tasty.  And so fun to eat! Particularly if you have a group of people.  Set it all out and people can wrap and roll what they want.  It would be best served outside on a tiny chair and table as at a Bia Hoi Bar and washed down with some icy cold beer but failing that, your own home or garden would also be fine. But do have that ice cold beer!

Cha Ca
Cha Ca

 Which leads me to my second disclaimer.  It’s an absolute bastard to cook.  Not difficult but there are a lot of moving parts.  Don’t even try to do what I did and make it all in the same day. Do the pickles at least one day ahead.  I would also try to do the tomato and dill mixture the day before too and just heat it up when you need it. 

Cha Ca Quick Pickled Vegetables

I couldn’t find the right sort of rice paper rolls and the ones I had turned into a hot mess so I  I wrapped my Cha Ca in lettuce leaves.  They added a nice crunch.  You could also use tortillas to make it into a kind of Vietnamese Fish Taco.  

Alternatively, ditch these all together and make a noodle bowl – I had one of these with the leftovers the following day and it was super. 

Cha Ca Noodle Bowl
Cha Ca Noodle Bowl

I’ve added a few photo’s from Hanoi.  I’m really starting to love that city!  And I think even possibly more that Saigon is a great food city.  Food is everywhere and in such fresh abundance.  I hope you get a feel of the city from these…looking at them and eating the Cha Ca really took me back to our holiday.  And got me thinking about the next….

Hanoi Street Sellers
Hanoi Street Sellers

 

Hanoi Street Food
Hanoi Street Food – Suckling Pig and Duck
Hanoi Coffee Shop
Hanoi Coffee Shop

 

Hanoi  - Freshly Made Tofu
Hanoi – Freshly Made Tofu

 

Hanoi - Street Market
Hanoi – Street Market…and a fabulous rose dress

 

Hanoi - Banana Shop
Hanoi – Banana Shop

 

Hanoi Chickens dressed with roses
Hanoi Chickens dressed with roses for a festival day

 

Hanoi Cooking School
Hanoi Cooking School – So Proud!

 

Tanned and Happy At The Gourmet Corner
Tanned and Happy At The Gourmet Corner
Hanoi - Street Scene
Hanoi – Street Scene from a Bia Hoi bar.

 To make your week fabulous why not cook something from a place you love?  And don’t forget to tell me all about it!

Signature 1 Vintage Valentine Quick as Wink2

Cha Ca La Vong

Cha Ca La Vong

Ingredients

    For the Fish
  • 500 firm white skinned fish (I used kingfish)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 tbsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • For the Pickled Vegetables (optional)
  • 2 carrots, finely julienned
  • 1 daikon radish, finely julienned
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 2cm piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 birds eye chilli, quartered (optional)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar - rice vinegar would be traditional, I used white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • For the Dill Mixture
  • 1 bunch of dill, roughly chopped
  • 8 Spring onions, finely sliced
  • 18 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 chopped red chilli
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp olive oil for sauteing
  • 125g vermicelli
  • Iceberg Lettuce Leaves / Tortillas / Rice Paper (optional)
  • Accompaniments - All Optional
  • Pickled Vegetables (as per above)
  • Chopped roasted peanuts
  • Crispy Fried Shallots
  • Herbs - I used coriander, mint and vietnamese mint, roughly chopped
  • Lime Cheeks
  • Soy sauce
  • Nuoc Cham,
  • Pickled chillies

Instructions

    For the fish
  • Cut the fish into 2 cm chunks. Sprinkle the pieces with salt and let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes.
  • Mix together the fish sauce, ginger, garlic sugar and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Add the fish to the bowl and ensure that all the pieces are coated. Place them on a plate, cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
  • Heat your oven to low.
  • If using the chilli powder add this and half the turmeric and half the rice flour to a small bowl and the remaining turmeric and rice flour into another bowl. If not using the chilli powder, add all of the turmeric and rice flour into one bowl.
  • Coat each piece of fish in the flavoured flour.
  • Heat the peanut oil in a frying pan or wok until very hot. Add the fish in batches, and using tongs turn and move the fish until it is evenly cooked and golden brown. (The chilli fish will be a darker colour than the turmeric coated one).
  • Once cooked through (approximately 4-6 minutes) use the tongs to transfer the fish to an oven safe wire rack lined with paper towels and place in the heated oven to keep warm.
  • For the Pickled Vegetables
  • Mix together the vinegar, sugar and salt in small pan. Heat until the sugar dissolves.
  • Pour this mixture over the carrot, daikon, onion, ginger and chilli.
  • Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before serving.
  • For the Dill Mixture
  • Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and allow to soften. Add the garlic and chilli and cook until they have also softened. Add the dill and the cherry tomatoes. Saute until the dill wilts and the tomatoes have softened slightly. Squeeze some lime over the top.
  • For the Vermicelli
  • Boil a kettle of water.
  • Place the vermicelli in a heat proof bowl.
  • Pour the just boiled water over the top and let sit as per the directions on the packet.
  • Drain.
  • To Serve
  • If using tortillas or rice paper prepare them accordingly to the packet directions.
  • If using lettuce leaves, pull them off the head of lettuce and stack them on the platter.
  • Add your fish, vermicelli, dill mixture and the pickled vegtables, arranging them around your platter so they look pretty. Add the mixed herbs, peanuts and fried shallots. Depending on the size of your platter you may have use separate bowls for some ingredients. Ensure that you have serving implements for each part of the meal.
  • Using the lettuce leaf / tortilla / rice paper as a plate, guests can add the fish, vermicelli, dill mixture and any of the accompaniments they desire, then roll up their meal.
  • Alternatively, the vermicelli, fish and dill mixture can be placed in a bowl and guests can serve their own accompaniments.
  • Best served with an ice cold beer!
  • Enjoy.
http://www.retrofoodformoderntimes.com/2014/10/27/cha-ca-la-vong/

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