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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cha ca la vong turmeric fish

A dish that offers an explosion of taste and smell
It is said that there is a restaurant in Hanoi that sells only  cha ca , or grilled fish in Vietnamese.  In fact, the dish is so popular that the street where the shop is situated was renamed Cha C a Street.

It would be another one odd month before I get to relish the famous fish dish. Meanwhile, in my  little kitchen in Singapore, I am pre-empting my cha ca feast by whipping up one myself.

Girlgirl, whose delicate palate does not take to anything too strong tasting , was enthusiastically attacking the fish from the word go. In my opinion, the winning factor has to do with the caramelized crust   formed by the fish sauce and sugar and the complex aroma from the herbs and garnish. To bring out the best of the garnish, toss or place the hot fish on the garnish for a surprisingly aromatic effect.

Ingredients :

Fish marinade:
1 knob of fresh turmeric
1 knob of ginger
White tip of lemongrass
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp of oil
Dash of Thai or Viet fish sauce

Salmon fillet, about the size of the palm

Dill, parsley.basil leaves - chopped

Fish sauce and lime juice

Warning : turmeric stains are near impossible to remove. Process the root in plastic bags and you will not even need to touch or stain your fingers at all.

Method :
In a double bag, place  fresh turmeric , ginger,lemongrass, garlic cloves. With a mallet, crush the contents, taking care not to break the bag.

Add sugar, fish sauce and oil into the bag. Shake to mix. Add the fish to the spices, shake to coat the fish and chill for about 3 hours.

In a pan with hot oil at medium high heat, shallow fry the fish until crispy, on both sides.

Transfer the fish to the plate with garnish. Serve with dip of lime and chilli.


  1. Salmon is my kids' favourite and they have to have this at least once a week! Will try your recipe the next time I cook salmon for them.

  2. awesome is the word! keep them coming coz I am compiling it for a theme of Vietnamese one day.

  3. A very appealing recipe and I love the golden colour of the fish. Must try!

  4. Look like i missed this famous grilled fish when i visit Hanoi few months back. Next time if i visit again, i must make sure to try this out.

  5. just went thru the recipe, but i noticed there is no tumeric added, wonder why the dish name with tumeric?

    1. Thank you for highlighting the lapse in terms. I used fresh turmeric or galangal instead of turmeric powder.

    2. Galangal is NOT the same as turmeric. Turmeric is known as kunyit (Malay) or yellow ginger (Chinese). Galangal is known as lengkuas (Malay) or blue ginger (Chinese). Galangal is more woody and doesn't stain like turmeric.

    3. Thanks! I get to learn new things everyday through this blog.