Vietnamese turmeric and dill fish – Ca Ca La Vong at home –

When we were in Hanoi recently we visited the 200 year old restaurant Ca Ca La Vong to try their famed eponymous fish dish. We went to the original restaurant climbing up a ladder- like wooden staircase to reach the upstairs dining room:filled to the brim with locals and tourists enjoying the only dish offered on the menu.

Fish flavoured with turmeric, ginger and garlic and then sautéed with dill and onions, it was simple but absolutely delicious. The fish is brought sizzling on a gas cooktop to the table and fresh herbs are added before serving yourself with rice noodles, peanuts and spicy sauce.

Of course I had to try to recreate it at home which I did last night with some success. I trawled a few versions of the recipe online, including one from Anthony Bourdain, I settled for a hybrid. We also didn’t have rice noodles at home so I served with steamed jasmine rice …just as good.

Here are some pictures from the restaurant itself:

And here is my recipe:

Prep and marination time: 2.5 hours Cooking time: 20 minutes

4 cloves garlic
1 large knob of ginger (at least equivalent to amount of garlic)
1/2 red onion finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon shrimp paste (optional but authentic)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1.5 tablespoons fish sauce

For cooking:
750kg swordfish or ling fillets
2 onions finely sliced
2 cloves garlic finely sliced
1 bunch of dill chopped into medium long pieces
3 stalks of spring onions chopped diagonally
1/2 bunch of coriander chopped roughly
3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Chilli sauce:
2 cloves garlic
2 red chillies
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup of water

To serve:
Rice noodles or jasmine rice
Roasted crushed peanuts
Lettuce leaves for parcels
chilli sauce(see above) or chilli oil
Vietnamese coleslaw or Salad of your choosing


1. To make marinade, pound ginger, garlic and onion in mortar and pestle or process to a paste. Add rest of the ingredients.

2. Cut fish into 2cm or so pieces, then smother in marinade and refrigerate for 2 hours.

3. Half an hour before cooking fish, cook rice and/or soak rice noodles in warm water according to cooking instructions on packet. Also prepare the rest of the herbs for cooking and make the chilli sauce if making.

4. Heat oil in heavy based frying pan, add fish and cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes to a golden brown. Remove fish with a slotted spoon to a seperate dish.

5. Add onions and garlic to remaining oil and cook until softened and starting to caramelise, then Add half the dill (the hardier stem bits) and the white parts of the spring onions, heat through, then add the fish back in and heat through for 1-2 minutes.

6. Garnish with the rest of herbs and serve with peanuts, rice or rice noodles, lettuce leaves and side salad.

Serves 3-4