This tasty dish is something that I had never heard of while growing up b/c it is a Vietnamese dish from the northern part of the country, and my parents are from the central and southern parts of Vietnam. Quick history lesson – Vietnam has been a land of occupation for centuries, b/c that tiny S-shaped slip of land holds so much valuable coastline for any empire looking to take south east asia. During these multiple occupations, the 3 different regions of the country developed pretty different accents, traditions, clothing and, of course, foods.
Cha Ca Thanh Long is something I first had only a few years ago at a family friend’s house. I was so shocked by the wild (to me) combination of earthy turmeric against the strong, bright dill, that I couldn’t get enough. Recently, I saw people posting about this dish, but didn’t quite make the connection, b/c “Cha Ca” sounds like it should be a type of fish sausage. Turns out this dish was invented at a restaurant that was famous for their fish sausage and somehow the name stuck.
Anyway, I had been thinking about this dish and how not only do the flavors battle so harmoniously, but also how beautiful the dish is with the golden yellow against the bright green. I knew the traditional style was to cook the fish in lots of oil to get the nice crisp, and then serve it on top of some vermicelli noodles. However, wanting to give a healthy spin on it, I decided to broil the fish and serve it on top of bok choy, instead of the traditional method.
Fish & Marinade
- 4 tilapia fillets (catfish or other flaky white fish works as well)
- 1 TB turmerica
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 2 inch piece of ginger
- 1 tsp frozen chopped lemongrass
- 1 tsp fish sauce
- 1/2 onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 bunch fresh dill – FRESH is your only option here!!
- 1/2 onion
- 1/4 cup chopped almonds
- Finely dice 1/2 the onion. Thinly slice the other half. Mince the garlic. Grate the ginger. Coarsely Chop dill into big pieces about 1.5 inch sections.
- Place the garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt, sugar, black pepper, lemongrass, fish sauce in a mortar & pestal and grind into a paste-ish consistency. Mix in the onions.
- Place the fillets in a shallow dish and spread the marinade over the fillets, ensuring both sides get coverage. Let marinate for 30 min – 1 hr.
- Heat oven to Broil High
- Place fillets on foil lined cookie sheet sprayed with non-stick spray. Pour any remaining marinade on top of the fillets.
- Broil for 5 min and flip. Cook another 3 min and remove from oven.
- While fish are cooking, heat up a large non-stick pan with a lid and sautee the sliced onions with a tiny bit of olive oil.
- Also heat up another small pan to toast the chopped almonds for a few min.
- Once the fish is out of the oven, place hte fillets in the hot pan and break into 1-2 inch chunks using the spatula.
- Immediately add the chopped fresh dill and cover the pan. Let cook for about 3 min and then stir to distribute and flip any pieces of fish that need more golden brown edges.
- Once the dill is just barely wilted, you are done!
- Serve over vermicelli or other sauteed veggies. Add a few spoonfuls of Nuoc Cham to your taste.