And you can make it at home with this recipe from Stateside, the exciting new Vietnamese restaurant on Capitol Hill.
BEFORE CHEF Eric Johnson teamed up with Seth Hammond to open Stateside, their exciting new Vietnamese restaurant on Capitol Hill, they went on a tasting expedition to Vietnam.
“Before we went, we geeked out on the Internet and made a list,” Johnson says.
They spent one whole day in Vietnam with a guide tracking down 10 bahn mi places, only to find the best one, which became the model for Stateside’s sandwich, just three doors from their hotel.
Also on their list was Cha Ca La Vong. In existence for more than 100 years, the tiny Hanoi restaurant is famous for a single eponymous dish: fried white fish marinated in turmeric and served over rice noodles with plenty of herbs, in particular dill. Johnson and Hammond discovered not one Cha Ca La Vong, but two. A copycat restaurant on Cha Ca La Vong Street even uses the same street number as the original. Unwittingly, they ate at the impostor and weren’t impressed, but returned for the real deal, which inspired the spectacular version at Stateside made with black cod. We’ve adapted Johnson’s recipe, so you can make your own copycat version at home.
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Cha Ca La Vong (adapted from Stateside)
Chef Eric Johnson uses black cod but says local ling cod works well, and catfish is a fairly good approximation of the snake head fish used in Hanoi (considered an invasive species here).
¼ cup plain (not Greek) yogurt
2 tablespoons turmeric powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh galangal (or ginger), minced
1½ pounds black cod, ling cod or catfish, cut into 12 2-ounce pieces
1 pound (thin) rice vermicelli, cooked according to package directions and cooled to room temperature
2 bunches scallions, green part only, cut into 1½ inch pieces
2 cups fresh dill sprigs, thick stems removed
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
½ cup unsalted peanuts, toasted and crushed
1½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon mam nem (fermented anchovy sauce); or substitute 1 teaspoon of anchovy paste or two anchovy fillets
3 tablespoons chopped fresh pineapple
2 tablespoons fresh pineapple juice
1 clove garlic
Nuoc Cham Sauce
¼ cup sugar
½ cup nuoc mam nhi (filtered fish sauce)
½ cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon fresh Thai chilies (aka bird’s eye chilies, about 3 to 4 small chilies), minced
1. Make the marinade: Put yogurt, turmeric powder, salt and galangal or ginger in a food processor and blend until pureed.
2. Baste the fish on both sides with just enough marinade to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.
3. Make the pineapple-anchovy sauce: Puree all ingredients in a blender and set aside. (May be made ahead and refrigerated.)
4. Make the Nuoc Cham sauce: Whisk sugar into liquids to dissolve. Add ginger and chilies. (May be made ahead and refrigerated.)
5. To serve: Toss the cooked, room-temperature vermicelli with just enough Nuoc Cham to moisten the noodles. Divide noodles among four bowls. Add about one tablespoon of canola oil to a large nonstick pan. Heat to medium-high. Sauté the fish on both sides until golden. Transfer three pieces to each bowl and arrange over the noodles.
6. In a separate pan, heat one tablespoon of canola oil. Wilt the scallion greens, then add the dill briefly until just wilted. Arrange on top of the fish. Scatter cilantro and mint leaves (torn in half if large) and peanuts over the top. Serve with Pineapple-Anchovy Sauce on the side so guests can dress to their liking.