Chả Cá Hà Nội is a signature dish from the North. When served at the restaurant, the fish is grilled partially before serving and then finished at the table in a skillet of oil, scallion and dill. This is one of very rare Vietnamese dish that we use dill (the northern people call it thì là) as a garnish. The fish will then be served over vermicelli noodles, with lettuce and Vietnamese herbs, topping with roasted peanuts, fried shallots and sesame rice crackers.
Recipe for Hanoi Grilled Fish with Rice Noodles and Fresh Herbs – Chả Cá Hà Nội
1 1/2 lb catfish fillets, cut into 3 inch chunks
2 tbsp plain yogurt
1 (1 1/2 inch) piece galangal or 1 tsp galangal powder
1 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp shrimp sauce
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 lb small dried round rice noodles (rice vermicelli), boiled in water or 4 to 5 mins, rinsed and flushed with cold water, drained
1/2 head red leaf lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces
1/2 bunch Asian basil
1/2 bunch Vietnamese balm or green perrila
1 bunch mint leaves
4 scallions, cut into 2 inch lengths
2 bunches fresh baby dill, bottom tough stems removed and cut into 1 inch lengths (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup whole Roasted Peanuts
2 toasted Sesame Rice crackers
1/2 cup Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil and extra oil for grilling
Make the marinade: Peel the galangal and cut into thin slices. Pound in a mortar or thinly slice it using a Japanese ginger grater until mushy. Using your fingers, or press through a fine mesh sieve, squeeze the pulvernized galangal to extract as much juice as you can from the pulp. You should have about 1 tbsp.
Rinse the catfish and pat dry with paper towels. In a large bowl, combine the galangal juice, yogurt, turmeric, sugar, rice vinegar, shrimp sauce and salt. Add the catfish and toss to evenly coat the fish.
Set aside to marinade for 30 mins.
Before cooking the fish, set the dining table with a plate of rice vermicelli and a platter of lettuce and Asian herbs. Combine the scallions and dill and put on a plate. Put the peanuts and dipping sauce in separate bowls. Provide each guest with a small bowl and chopsticks.
Start a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to high. Grill the catfish pieces just until halfway done, about 2 mins on each side. (The fish will finish cooking at the table.) Transfer the fish to a plate and keep warm.
To serve, place a portable gas or electric stove in the middle of the dining table. Heat the oil in a small skillet over moderate heat. Add some catfish pieces, but do not crowd the pan, and a generous amount (a cup ful) of dill and scallions. Using chopsticks or a long handled spoon, stir gently until the fish is hot and the dill and scallions wilted.
To eat this dish, invite the guests to assemble their own condiments by placing some noodles, tearing the lettuce and herbs into pieces and put them in their bowls. Top with the catfish, herbs, peanuts and breaking up some rice crakers. Drizzle a litle sauce on the top, mix the contents of the bowl and eat. When the catfish has all been eaten, cook another batch to keep it warm.
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