Updated: Jul 25
Cha Ca is specifically from Hanoi, Vietnam. This has to be one of the best dishes to originate from Vietnam as it is so damn addictive. Whilst it being so simple but yet is so complex in flavour. This really is one of those dishes that sounds a bit boring but trust me its a hidden gem!
2 medium sized monkfish tails
1 pack of bun rice noodles
bunch of dill
bunch of spring onions
small red chillis
nouc cham dressing or shrimp paste
For the marinade:
2 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 finely chopped shallot
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
Nouc Cham dressing:
2 tbsp fish sauce
75 ml lime juice
60 g sugar
2 garlic cloves chopped
2 small birds eye chillis chopped
1. Let's start with the monkfish, if the fish has the spine still attached remove from the fish then dice into roughly 5cm cubes (large bite sized pieces). Next step put the fish aside and in a bowl add 2 tbsp of yogurt, 1 tsp turmeric powder, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 1 finely chopped shallot and 2 tsp of finely chopped ginger and mix. Next add this marinade to the fish and let marinade for around 2-3 hours although overnight would be perfect.
2. Just before we are about to cook the fish we can prepare the rest of the ingredients, for a bit of a sauce for the dish its traditionally eaten with shrimp paste mixed with lime juice and a touch of sugar. If you cant get hold of shrimp paste or even simply just cant take the smell of shrimp paste then you can alternatively make nouc cham. To make nouc cham quite simply in a bowl add, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 75ml of lime juice, 60g sugar, 2 chopped garlic cloves and 2 chopped birdseye chillis then mix all together and set aside. Now we have a dressing, cook the rice noodles by adding to a pan of boiling water and cook for approximately 6 minutes. When cooked drain and leave to cool naturally. Onto the herbs, wash and keep the dill whole and for the spring onions cut into large batons and set all aside. Finely toast a handful of peanuts and put into a small bowl.
3. Now everything is ready lets cook the fish! In a pan add a generous amount of oil (roughly 1/4 of a cup), yes it seems a lot of oil but this is what will make the dish. Next add the marinated fish and fry until golden, then add the spring onion and dill and lightly wilt, we can now serve...
4. To serve, in a bowl add a handful of cooked rice noodles then a generous amount of fish, herbs and a splash of whats now flavoured oil. Add peanuts, chilli and some of the dressing then mix all together and enjoy!
Don't waste time, try this recipe trust me!
What makes this dish special is that the oil should bring all the ingredients together onto the noodles! You can use other fish if preferred I recommend fresh water fish as the meat is much more firmer. I couldn't change this recipe too much as its just too good to mess with. If you would like cooking the fish in a claypot this would be perfect as it would definately enhance the flavour.