Cha Ca La Vong, or La Vong grilled fish, incorporates turmeric powder, ginger, dill and shrimp paste, offering special favor to provide one of the specialty of Hanoi
As this Hanoian specialty used to be a royal dish, its preparation is quite complex. Anh vu fish (Semilabeo notabilis) is the best choice for the dish but it is hard to find now. Lang fish (Hemibagrus guttatus) and snakehead (Channidae) are the current replacements.
Fishes will be filleted before being soaked in wine to remove their stink. They are next marinated in a mixture of spices including turmeric powder, ginger, shrimp paste and fermented rice. The seasoned fish fillets will then be cooked on a charcoal grill. The perfect La Vong grilled fish must be juicy and evenly brownish on the two sides.
The final step is stir-frying the fillets with dill and green onion in melted fat of pigs or chickens. It is the fat that gives the fish the distinctive flavor.
The dipping sauce of La Vong grilled fish is from shrimp paste mixed with sugar and lemon juice. Fresh rice vermicelli, herbs, fennel and peanuts are indispensable, too.
By Anh Quynh