Lately, we've been doing a lot of dining out so, deciding that we needed to go "light and lean" for a day or two, we visited Fish Tales, our favorite local fish store. There on display we spied some basa, or Vietnamese catfish. Sparking our sensory memory, we thought that a Vietnamese dish would be a perfect for our spice seeking palates! We then recalled how much we had loved the dill, tumeric, and fish sauce-perfumed dish, cha ca fish, prepared by diners at their tables at the eponymously named Cha Ca La Vong in Hanoi last winter. With the key ingredient in our possession, our subsequent search led us to a recipe on the Washington Post website.
With Hiroko's skillful preparation, we found the result to be so thoroughly authentic that we were momentarily transported back to the dingy but festive, smoke-filled restaurant in Hanoi. Only the owners' faded family portraits on the walls and 16 oz. bottles of Ha Noi beer on our table were missing!
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons water
Juice of 1 lime
For the fish
2 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 pound firm fish fillets cut into chunks
8 ounces thin dried rice noodles, softened in warm water and drained
2 cups coarsely chopped dill
5 scallions, cut into 2-inch lengths
3 cups shredded lettuce leaves
1 cup mint and cilantro leaves
For the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, mix the garlic, sugar and chili-garlic sauce to make a coarse paste. Add the fish sauce, water, and lime juice, stiring to dissolve the sugar. Set aside.
For the fish: In a bowl, combine the fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of oil, the ginger, turmeric, and salt, and mix well. Add the fish and toss to coat. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the remainig oil and heat, and add the dill to the pan to sizzles at once. Add the fish and cook on one side for about 2 minutes. Turn and cook 1 minutes. Add the remaining dill and the scallions and cook for another 1 mintues.
Divide the noodles among the serving bowls. Add the lettuce and mint and cilantro. Top each bowl with pieces of fish, and drizzle with the dipping sauce.