Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mom's Recipes: Chả Cá (White Fish with Dill and Green Onion)

I have been meaning to participate in the food blogging event, Weekend Herb Blogging, that features weekly posts on herbs. I've also had a very specific Vietnamese recipe in mind, chả cá, a North Vietnamese fish dish prominently featuring dill. The opportunity came for me to write a post about it while visiting my mom.

I am submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging, run by Cook almost Anything at least once. The host this month is Scott from The Real Epicurean.

I have mentioned that my mom is from Central Vietnam. Therefore, she did not grow up eating this dish. In fact, the first time she had this dish was in Canada when she befriended some Vietnamese people from the North. So please forgive us if this recipe has taken some central liberties...

Chả cá
is typically cooked as you go using a tabletop hot pot pan/burner. It consists of white fish that is a trademark yellow from the use of turmeric, green onion and dill, cooked in a large amount of oil. I remember cooking it this way but along the way, my mom tweaked the recipe to make it more healthy. She now broils it with significantly less oil. You can check out posts on chả cá when The Gastronomer ate this dish in the North and South and see how this compares.

I like this recipe because it is fairly easy to make and is relatively healthy if you do not use too much oil. The thìa là (dill), a more common ingredient in the North of Vietnam, adds a dimension to this dish that is quite unique. I also like the firm pieces of well-seasoned fish in nước chấm.

Chả Cá (Fish with Dill) - Serves 4
Use white fish like sole or bassa that will not break too much once it is cooked. This dish is typically served with bún (rice vermicelli) and fresh ingredients. There is also usually roasted peanuts that we forgot this time. The sauce can be nước chấm (diluted fish sauce) or the more potent mắm tôm (fermented shrimp paste).

* 1 lb white fish, cut into 1-2” pieces
* ½ tsp ground pepper
* ¾ tsp salt
* ½ tbsp garlic powder
* 1-½ tbsp turmeric
* galangal powder, or fresh - sliced into pieces
* 4 tbsp vegetable oil
* 1 bunch dill
* 1 bunch green onions

Season the fish with garlic powder, salt, pepper, turmeric, galangal and 2 tbsp of oil.
Mix and let it sit for half an hour.
Slice dill and green onion into 1-2” pieces.
Cook the dill slightly (it will be cooking in the oven also) in 1 tablespoon of oil.
Cover a baking dish with the dill.
Place the pieces of fish on top.
Cook the green onion in another tablespoon of oil.
Place on top of the fish and drizzle the remaining oil.
Broil on high (if you’re keeping an eye on it!) for 12 minutes or until the fish is cooked through.

Cutting the bassa into large pieces.

The turmeric makes the fish a nice yellow colour.

Chopping the dill in section made the whole kitchen smell good!

Do the same with the green onion.

Lightly cooked dill lines a baking dish.

Pieces of fish on a bed of dill.

Topped with green onion.

I like the green onion well cooked but they may be a bit burnt here!

Serve with
* lettuce, washed and torn
* cucumber, sliced
* bún (rice vermicelli), cooked
* rice paper
* nước chấm (or mắm tôm)

rice vermicelli in a bowl.
Top with cooked fish, dill, green onion and fresh ingredients.
Add nước chấm.

I opt for nước chấm but my mom likes eating this with mắm tôm.


Kalyn Denny said...

Interesting! I had no idea that dill was used in Vietnamese cooking like this.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Ah, I still have to post my recipe for this too. At Cha Ca La Vong in Hanoi, the fish is swimming in at least an inch of oil when they bring it out.

I've tried broiling and using less oil, and the healthier options just don't bring out the same flavor as cooking in a lot of oil. There's something about how the extra oil brings out turmeric and dill.

Miss.Adventure said...

Kalyn: I think dill is mainly encountered in Northern Vietnam. My old Vietnamese landlady came from the north and made soups with dill.

WC: I can't wait to see your recipe! I have to admit, I've been trained to minimize oil on many of my food so I don't mind it (except for the deep frying!!).

freak said...

i love your recipe, however i dont have a broiler :(
can this be baked instead? how do i go about that?

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