Lifestyle & More

Cha Ca La Vong – An Iconic North Vietnam Dish

Vietnam was recently named one of the world’s Leading Culinary Destinations by the World Travel Awards, and it’s no surprise that the country has no shortage of gastronomic masterpieces under its belt. And, undoubtedly, one of its most iconic dishes is a Hanoian specialty: Cha Ca La Vong, or Vietnamese turmeric fish with dill.

The Origins of Cha Ca La Vong

The origin of the dish goes back a century ago while Vietnam was still a part of French Indochina. Located in the Old Quarter of Hanoi was a secret meeting place for Vietnamese resistance fighters, and to act as cover and raise funds for the movement, the house would also serve Cha Ca (grilled fish) during the day. Outside the establishment stands a statue of a fame poet and resistance fighter, La Vong, and to this day the Cha Ca La Vong restaurant (same as the name of the dish) still serves hundreds of satisfied patrons daily.

A Special Recipe

Passengers aboard Heritage Line’s latest 2-night cruise in Lan Ha Bay can experience Cha Ca La Vong for themselves as one of our mouthwatering local specialties served on board. Although our executive chef onboard Heritage Line Ylang is a bit tight-lipped with his secret technique, here is a recipe we have tried ourselves with great success!

Fish marinade
500g any type of white meat fish (cod/tilapia/catfish), cut into 3x4cm pieces
3 tbsp. mince galangal
2 tbsp. mince shallots
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground turmeric or turmeric powder
1 tsp. fermented shrimp paste
1 tsp. fish sauce
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
Dipping Sauce
3 tbsp. lime juice
2 tbsp. water
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1-2 finely chopped red chilli peppers (optional)

Final ingredients
300-500g rice vermicelli noodles
100g dill, cut into lengths of 2cm
100g spring onion tops, cut into lengths of 2cm
1/4 cup roasted peanuts (optional)
Cooking oil

  1. Marinade: Mix all the ingredients of the marinade in a bowl, adding the fish last. Let the fish marinade for at least 30 minutes, or longer for more flavor.
  2. Sauce: Whisk all sauce ingredients together
  3. Cook rice vermicelli according to package instructions and set aside.
  4. After fish has marinated, add to pan and fry on medium-high heat with cooking oil, roughly 2 minutes on each side (will need to cook a few batches of fish) OR bake fish in a preheated oven at 200C/400F for 5 minutes.
  5. (If pan frying, remove fish and wipe the pan clean) Place pan on medium heat and add oil, dill, and spring onions. Sauté for two minutes and lightly mix ingredients. (Peanuts may also be added here or served separately)
  6. Add fish, stirring gently as to not break the fish slices.
  7. Transfer to plate. Serve on individual plates over vermicelli noodles along with dipping sauce on the side.
  8. Bon appétit!