Fried rockling with turmeric, dill and vermicelli

Fried rockling with turmeric, dill and vermicelli

Chả cá

Real Vietnamese Cooking
Michael Fountoulakis

The most famous restaurant to eat this dish in Hanoi is Cha Ca La Vong, in the Old Quarter. A specialty of the Doan family, their closely guarded recipe has been handed down through generations, delighting diners huddled around tabletop burners on cold Hanoi evenings, taking in the rich aromas. Cha ca literally means ‘fried fish’. The special twist with this recipe is that the fish is cooked twice (first grilled, then fried), so you’ll need a firm-fleshed fish that does not break apart easily during cooking.


Quantity Ingredient
rockling fillets, skin and bones removed, cut into 3 cm chunks
200g dried rice vermicelli
vegetable oil, for pan-frying
dill sprigs
12 spring onions, thickly sliced
80g roasted peanuts, chopped
1 small handful coriander leaves
Classic dipping sauce, to serve


Quantity Ingredient
3cm fresh galangal, roughly chopped
1 long red chilli, seeded and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon sugar
60ml mam tom or fish sauce


  1. To make the marinade, pound the galangal, chilli, turmeric and sugar to a paste in a mortar. Add the mam tom and 2 1/2 tablespoons water and stir until the sugar dissolves. Smear the marinade over the fish and marinate for about 2 hours.
  2. Heat a chargrill or barbecue to medium. Have a hot wok or frying pan ready for the second fish cooking stage.
  3. Meanwhile, soak the vermicelli in boiling water for 5 minutes. Gently stir to separate the noodles, then drain and refresh under cold water. Cut into easy-to-manage lengths.
  4. Thoroughly pat the fish dry with paper towel; excess liquid will make the fish stick to the grill. Chargrill for 2–3 minutes on each side, until charred areas appear, but remove before the fish is cooked all the way through.
  5. Heat about 2 cm of oil in the hot wok or frying pan. Test if it is ready by dropping a small piece of bread into the pan: it should quickly turn lightly golden. Add one-third of the fish and cook for 3–4 minutes, turning once. Add one-third of the dill and spring onion and toss until wilted.
  6. Divide one-third of the noodles among six deep serving bowls. Top with the fish, then one-third of the peanuts.
  7. Cook the remaining fish and herbs; serve up the remaining ingredients, for diners to help themselves.
Real Vietnamese Cooking
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