Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Turmeric Fish with Dill)

cha ca thang long

Cha Ca Thang Long is a famous dish popularized in Hanoi and is a favorite meal of ours. Although the name “cha ca” implies that it’s a fish paste, it’s actually small fillets of flaky white fish marinaded in turmeric and galangal, fried and served with generous topping of dill on a sizzling hot plate.

Hong got me a fajita skillet with a wooden serving tray as a gift a while back–probably as a hint that he wanted me to make this! But I don’t mind since I’ve always wanted one and I love this dish as well. The fragrant flavors of the turmeric and galangal marinaded fish and fresh dill goes so well together. This dish is a real crowd pleaser especially when you bring out the sizzling platter for all to enjoy.

Cha Ca Thang Long (serves 4)
Printable Recipe

• 1 lb of white fish fillets (traditionally catfish is used, but we prefer halibut or cod–but any meaty and flaky white fish will do) 

Fish Marinade
• 1/2 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
• 4 tbs of olive oil

Combine olive oil, turmeric, galangal, garlic, shallots, salt, sugar, and fish sauce in large bowl and mix well. Cut the fish into smaller fillets and gently mix, and allow to marinade in the fridge for about 1 hour.

cha ca thang long

Accompaniments
• 1 large red onion, sliced
• 1 cup of green onion cut about 1.5 inch segments
• 1 bunch of fresh dill coarsely chopped (thick stems removed)
• 1/4 cup of dry roasted peanuts, coarsely crushed
• 12 oz. bag of vermicelli noodles (boiled and drained)
• Fresh mints (rau thom), perilla (tia to), lettuce, Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi)
Black sesame rice cracker (banh da)

Fermented Anchovy Sauce
• juice from approximately 3 limes
• 2 tablespoon of sugar
• 2 tablespoons of water
• 1 teaspoon of mam ruoc (fine shrimp paste)
• 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
• 1 teaspoon of chopped red chili or chili garlic paste

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.

Putting it all together…

cha ca thang long 

For the best presentation use two skillets: a cast iron fajita skillet with a wooden serving tray and a non stick skillet. The fajita skillet will give you that spectacular sizzle as you bring it to the table and dazzle all your friends :) Or, if you have a tabletop burner, do everything at the table in one skillet!

Using the fajita skillet, saute the red and green onions with a bit of oil under medium low heat. At the same time have a separate non-stick skillet to cook the fish fillets about 3 minutes on each side until you get a nice golden opaque color and slight brown crust.

cha ca thang long

A minute or so before the fish is done, turn the fajita skillet to high and then place the cooked fillets on top of the sauteed onions and scallions. Remove from heat and generously top with fresh dill and roasted peanuts. Serve immediately with vermicelli noodles, fresh lettuce and herbs, black sesame rice crackers, and dress with your choice of dipping sauce.

cha ca thang long
Can you see the smoke and hear the sizzle?
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27 Responses to “Cha Ca Thang Long (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 [...]

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