Updated: Feb 14
Cha Ca is a local dish from Hanoi, Vietnam. Cha Ca in my opinion is one of the best national Vietnamese dishes due to its perfect balance of texture and flavours. This really is one of those dishes that sounds a bit boring but trust me its a hidden gem!
Cook Time 20 mins / Prep Time 20 mins / Marinade 1hr - 24hrs
To serve 4
2 medium sized monkfish tails
400g pack of bun rice noodles
bunch of dill
bunch of spring onions
small red chillies
oil for frying
For the marinade:
100g plain yogurt
1 tbsp turmeric
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 finely chopped shallot
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
Nouc Cham dressing:
2 tbsp fish sauce
75 ml lime juice
40 g sugar
2 garlic cloves chopped
2 small birds eye chillis chopped
1. Let's start off this recipe by making the marinade for the monkfish. In a mixing bowl add 100g of plain yogurt, 1 tbsp turmeric powder, 3 tbsp fish sauce, 2 finely chopped shallots 5g of finely chopped ginger and a pinch of salt and black pepper. Mix well to combine all of the ingredients then marinade to one side and we can move onto preparing the monkfish.
2. Now that we have the marinade ready we can move onto the monkfish. Start by slicing directly down against the back bone of the monkfish tail either side to remove the two fillets. When removed, carefully slice away any excess membrane that may be attached to the flesh then when ready slice each fillet into large bite sized pieces.
3. When the monkfish is ready add the sliced pieces to the marinade then mix to completely coat in the marinade. Cover with clingfilm and allow to marinade in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before cooking or overnight world be perfect.
Nouc Cham dressing and Rice Noodles:
4. When the monkfish has finished marinating before cooking we can move onto preparing the remaining ingredients. As for sauce, traditionally this dish add a diluted shrimp paste on top of the dish acting as a sauce, however, this may be a little intense for some and you can also use a simple Nouc Cham dressing alternatively. To make the Nouc Cham in a small bowl add, 2 tbsp fish sauce, 75ml of lime juice, 40g sugar, 2 minced garlic cloves and 2 chopped birdseye chillies then mix well to dissolve the sugar. When ready adjust the seasoning if needed by adding additional lime, fish sauce or sugar then we now have our dressing.
5. For the rice noodles, add to a bowl of cold water and soak for 10-15 minutes until softened. Next drain from the water then place a saucepan full of water onto a high heat and bring up to the boil. When boiling add the drained rice noodles then cook for 4-5 minutes (depending on brand) until cooked. Carefully drain from the hot water then add to a bowl of ice cold water to chill and stop the cooking process. Drain the noodles again then place onto a tray to one side. These rice noodles can be served cold or simply briefly reheated in a microwave.
Herbs and Toppings:
6. Onto the herbs, wash and keep the dill whole and for the spring onions cut into large batons then slice into a julienne and set all aside. Then toast a handful of peanuts in a dry pan and lightly season with salt. Finally chop a few additional birdseye chillies and slice a few limes in half then we are ready to cook. and bring the dish together.
7. Now everything is ready lets cook,! In a pan add a generous amount of oil and place onto a high heat (roughly 1/4 of a cup), it may seem like a lot of oil but this is what will make the dish what it is. When hot, add the marinated fish in batches then fry for 1-2 minutes either side until nice and golden brown and the fish is cooked. To finish the dish add the spring onion and dill and lightly wilt then when ready remove from the heat and we are set to serve Cha Ca...
8. To serve, in a bowl add a handful of the cooked rice noodles then a generous amount of fish, herbs and a splash of what's now become infused oil. Finish with some toasted peanuts, additional chilli, some of the Nouc Cham and a squeeze of lime then mix everything together and nourish!
When it comes to marinating the monkfish then over night works best, however, an hour before will also work fine. If you can source catfish then that would be best used instead of monkfish but you could also use cod or even hake swell as. I hope you like this recipe and as always peace!