Cha Ca Thang Long -Cha Ca La Vong (Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill)

cha ca thang long

Many years ago, we climbed some treacherous old creaky and narrow staircase to a second floor restaurant in the old quarter of Hanoi where they only sold one epinymous item, Cha Ca La Vong.  Another famous restaurant also serves it but calls it Cha Ca Thang long, so to many people, the name of this dish depends on which restaurant you ate in. Although the name “cha ca” implies that it’s a fish paste, it’s actually small nuggets of meaty white fish marinated in turmeric and galangal, fried and served at your table with generous topping of dill on a sizzling straight from the pan.

In the US, it’s often served on a sizzling fajita skillet to mimick the sizzle of the table side frying at the famous Hanoi restaurant. The fragrant flavors of the turmeric and galangal marinaded fish and fresh dill goes so well together. This dish is a real crowd pleaser if you decide to cook this at the table as we do on our induction burner with a cast iron skillet.

cha ca thang long

Traditionally this dish is dressed with a fermented shrimp paste sauce that is similar to mam nem (except without the crushed pineapples). This sauce is a bit more pungent (read stinky) than fish sauce but is prepared similar to nuoc mam dipping sauce. First start with the lime, sugar, and water making a bland lime-ade, then slowly add the shrimp paste, mix well and taste and adjust according to taste. The shrimp paste is much stronger then fish sauce so start small and slow. If you don’t care for this sauce and prefer nuoc mam dipping sauce, that’s not a problem at all.
Here’s a video of how we put this dish together:


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Cha Ca Thang Long (Cha Ca La Vong)

The trick with this dish is to cook the fish nuggets without breaking them. Pan fry with enough oil to that it covers about 1/2 of fish nuggets.

You can drain out excess oil before adding the herbs.

Ingredients:

1 lb of firm white fish fillets cut into 2 inch segments or fish nuggets (catfish, cod, rockfish, halibut--but any meaty firm white fish will do) 
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon galangal powder (if not available at your Asian market, substitute ginger powder)
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tbs minced shallots
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce
2 tbs of cooking oil
1 cup of green onion cut about 1.5 inch segments
1 cup of fresh dill coarsely chopped (thick stems removed)
dry roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed, for garnish
vermicelli noodles (boiled and drained)
Fresh mints (rau thom), perilla (tia to), lettuce, Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi)

Mam Tom Sauce
2 fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon of mam tom (fine fermented shrimp paste)
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of chopped red chili or chili garlic paste

Directions:

Make the mam nem sauce and boil the vermicelli noodles and set aside.

Combine oil, turmeric, galangal, garlic, shallots, salt, sugar, and fish sauce in large bowl and mix well. Marinade the fish nuggets in the fridge for minimum 30 minutes.
Fill deep cast iron skillet with enough oil to deep fry the nuggets. Get the oil nice and hot to about 350 degrees. Rinse off excess marinade and pan fry the nuggets, flipping if necessary. Drain out excess oil if desired. When they are just just about done, top with the dill and scallions and gently work that to the bottom of the pan being. It looks like a lot, but don't worry the herbs will wilt. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with peanuts and serve immediately with vermicelli noodles, fresh herbs, and mam nem sauce.

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33 Responses to “Cha Ca Thang Long -Cha Ca La Vong (Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill)”

  1. 1

    Jenny — June 19, 2009 @ 6:46 am

    That looks so good! I love this dish (had it for the 1st time recently) although in some recipes I've read, they use some yogurt or sour cream in the marinade for the fish. Is this common?

  2. 2

    Gastronomer — June 19, 2009 @ 4:23 pm

    Cha ca is an amazingly fragrant and delicious dish. You guys are doing a superb job capturing the AWESOMENESS of Vietnamese food on the site.

  3. 3

    s. stockwell — June 19, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

    We always love your posts! This looks wonderful. Only wish we were there to taste it! Thanks, s

  4. 4

    Joy — June 21, 2009 @ 9:17 am

    An inspiring post and a dish I will try! (Even though I don't have the right pan!)

  5. 5

    judyfoodie — June 21, 2009 @ 10:36 pm

    Wow that looks delectable! I will definitely be trying this.

  6. 6

    Anh — June 22, 2009 @ 11:12 am

    This is my fav dish in the world. Have you tried the original version? It is a bit different but yours is really delicious.

  7. 7

    Ravenous Couple — June 24, 2009 @ 1:43 am

    Jenny: We've never seen it marinaded with yogurt or sourcream…perhaps that's some other interpretation of this dish…but we can't imagine yogurt or sourcream being common in Hanoi when they first made this dish.. :)

    Gastronomy: Thanks!! We definitely appreciate all the support. Can't believe it's been almost 2 months since we first started this blog pretty much on a whim.

    Sharon: Thanks so much for the support. It keeps us going and more motivated to share the "awesomeness" of Vietnamese food.

    Joy: The fajita pan is not essential. If you have a table top burner, try making it on that. Let us know–take a pix and we'll post it!

    judyfoodie: Thanks! Please let us know how you like it and take some photos!

    Anh: It's one of our favorites too. Do you mean the original restaurant in Hanoi? Can't remember if we ate it there or not..but remember going to this tiny place on the second floor in Hanoi…

  8. 8

    Jenny — June 25, 2009 @ 1:57 am

    In Andrea Nguyen's cookbook 'Into the Vietnamese Kitchen', she uses sour cream. I saw the same ingredient in 'Red Lantern' (another popular Vietnamese cookbook). Strange.
    Well, thanks for the heads up! :)

  9. 9

    Ravenous Couple — June 25, 2009 @ 2:06 am

    Jenny: We confess….we don't own any Vietnamese cookbooks! We ate in Hanoi and didn't get the sense that sour cream or yogurt was used..but recipes can certainly vary. This is how our family prepares it.

  10. 10

    Anonymous — July 23, 2009 @ 12:16 pm

    Hi,

    Can you substitute the fish for chicken? If not, I'd love some Viet recipe ideas with chicken.

    Thanks!

  11. 11

    ghweiss — August 15, 2009 @ 5:33 pm

    Oh, I am definitely going to try this one. The dill is intriguing… never thought of it as a Vietnamese ingredient!

  12. 12

    Ravenous Couple — August 16, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

    Anonymous: We've never done it, but I'm sure it won't hurt to try to substitute fish for chicken. We'll try to get more chicken recipes in the future.

    ghweiss: The combination of turmeric and dill really makes cha ca thang long great!

  13. 13

    Anonymous — February 6, 2010 @ 3:56 am

    I tried making your dipping sauce but it came out very salty and way too sour. Are you sure the measurements are right? only 2 tablespoon of water per 1 tsp of shrimp paste?

  14. 14

    Ravenous Couple — February 6, 2010 @ 4:02 am

    Anonymous: relooking at that juice from three limes might be a typo..basically, you want to dilute the shrimp paste with a bit of water to cut down on it's pungency. Then you add lime and sugar adjusting along the way to taste.

  15. 15

    Ai — June 8, 2010 @ 1:02 am

    I just made this and it was so delicious!! I used a white fish with the skin still on so it was nice and crispy!!

  16. 16

    Twee — July 29, 2010 @ 8:10 am

    My daddy uses fermented cooked white rice instead of yogurt/sourcream for this dish (one of my favorites when we manage to come home to SoCal)and I do have dreams about his version from my italian exile.. But I don't have access to it so I've been using homemade yogurt too. I also manage to get a piece of fresh galangal in sometimes and it perks up the flavor wonderfully.
    Best use of dill that i can think of!
    PS Every post of your is a new favorite :)

  17. 17

    Anonymous — September 20, 2010 @ 8:36 pm

    The sour cream they mentioned in the cookbook should be "me" which is fermented rice. It gives the fish a hint of sourness, get rid of the fishy smelt and also gives the fish a unique flavor.
    In your recipe, i noticed that you use "mam ruoc". I think that should be "mam tom". the English name is right though.
    Anyway, great recipe. I love your recipes and dishes. Great job.

  18. 18

    Anonymous — February 24, 2011 @ 4:31 am

    Thanks a bunch for this recipe! I made it twice this past month and my family and friends love it. Thank you for sharing all your recipes.

  19. 19

    Unique Culinary Careers: Lauren Shockey | DICED: The Official Blog of ICE — July 28, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    […] quite an experience. And I encountered many new Vietnamese dishes I’d never heard of before, like cha ca and banh bot loc.  And some of my favorite memories didn’t happen in the kitchen, but were the […]

  20. 20

    NamChi — October 1, 2011 @ 5:54 am

    Just tried this dish last night. It turned out perfect! The flavor was just right and the color was wonderful. Didn’t know how easy it was to prepare this dish. Thanks for the recipe!

  21. 21

    Cha Ca, Hanoi | andy oliver chef — October 28, 2011 @ 9:09 am

    […] Nice version by the lovely people behind ‘Ravenous Couple’ (great sounding dipping sauce recipe there too): http://www.theravenouscouple.com/2009/06/cha-ca-thang-long-vietnamese-turmeric-fish-with-dill.html […]

  22. 22

    Food in Vietnam « Parkers & Recreation — May 7, 2012 @ 9:55 am

    […] Cha ca– Classic Hanoi dish of fish steeped in a marinade of galangal, saffron, fermented rice, and fish sauce and then placed into a rich,oily stew, along with fresh dill and chives. It is served over rice noodles and sprinkled with peanuts. I had read about this speciality and was delighted to find it at New Day for a reasonable price. They bring out the sauteed chunks of fish in a saucepan along with a personal mini-hot plate. You finish cooking the fish by bringing the sauce to a boil, dump in the chives and dill, and then pour over the noodles.  So outstanding, I ordered it two nights in a row! Cha Ca finished tableside […]

  23. 23

    sophia — July 3, 2012 @ 8:42 pm

    wow amazing. i just made this tonight and it led an incredible flavor! thank you for the recipe!

  24. 24

    Enter the dragon | Adventures in Clueless Urban Balcony Gardening — August 13, 2012 @ 9:44 pm

    […] used it for this fish recipe. Cha ca thang long was a surprise hit for us in Hanoi. Well, not for Peter, who was […]

  25. 25

    Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill) « Dispatches from the Castle — January 13, 2013 @ 3:54 pm

    […] as we’ve mentioned before, we are always looking for more  ways to eat fish . J found this recipe from the Ravenous Couple and it didn’t disappoint. Easy to prepare, delicious and fragrant, […]

  26. 26

    Guide to Vietnam – Day 1 in Hanoi | Almost Always Ravenous — May 9, 2013 @ 1:36 am

    […] when I stumbled out of the hotel and around the corner to Cha Ca Va long for their infamous Cha Ca (see here for a nice explanation). The white fleshed fish (not sure which) has been marinated in turmeric, […]

  27. 27

    They can’t all be winners | Learning Vietnam — July 10, 2013 @ 6:49 am

    […] I essentially made my own hybrid recipe with inputs from Wandering Chopsticks, Ravenous Couple and Into the Vietnamese […]

  28. 28

    Le dinh hoa — December 18, 2014 @ 5:41 am

    I used monkfish which is less flaky when cooked.
    Also I add some natural yaourt to replace the me ( fermented cooked rice) for tartness.
    Regards

  29. 29

    Vanessa Mai — December 24, 2014 @ 10:06 am

    Thank you the recipe. We made this for dinner last night and it was a winner. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

  30. 30

    Foodie Itinerary: Vietnam | SavoryGirl — April 16, 2015 @ 2:40 pm

    […] Cha ca – this sounds like a must to try while in Hanoi where it is practically revered…fried fish with garlic, ginger, tumeric and dill. […]

  31. 31

    Hanoi Style Salmon with Turmeric and Dill — May 16, 2016 @ 8:00 am

    […] Ca Thanh Long is one of our favorite Vietnamese dishes and we’ve already wrote about it here, but this time we’re back with similar recipe but a slight […]

  32. 32

    Zobot — August 25, 2016 @ 8:52 pm

    I just love this recipe. I make this about once a week since I first found it here, Longing for it ever since the Noodle Ranch in Seattle’s Belltown closed years ago. It is the most delicious in all it’s full prep/recipe glory, but some weeknights I just marinate the fish and cook it, serve with rice or rice noodle, no onion sizzle, no herbs but dried dill sprinkled over the marinating fish. A side salad of lettuce, matchstick carrot and cukes with cilantro or mint, and some chopped peanuts, sometimes cashews even if that is what I have. I’m a nuc mam fan myself. I am also super into comments from folks that made the recipe!

  33. 33

    JazzBruce — June 30, 2017 @ 9:05 am

    Hi RC,
    I feel that your recipes are all at the top of my lists. Everything about them is great. In the above recipe’s listed ingredients should the “Fermented Anchovy Sauce” maybe have been listed as “Fermented Shrimp Sauce” instead because no fish sauce was involved?

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