Vietnamese turmeric fish with dill

A bowl of turmeric-marinated fish with mixed herbs, served over rice noodles. Photo by El Lower
A bowl of turmeric-marinated fish with mixed herbs, served over rice noodles. Photo: El Lower

By El Lower, Michigan Sea Grant GLANSIS research associate

This colorful fish dish with rice noodles and herbs is sure to brighten up any dreary day. This recipe is a riff on cha ca, a Vietnamese dish famous in the city of Hanoi that uses local fish and is usually grilled, but this adaptation works well with any lean, mild white fish you have available and cooks up quickly in a pan instead.

Vietnamese turmeric fish with dill

Ingredients

For fish:
2 medium-sized (or 1 large) fillets of boneless, skinless white fish, such as cod, tilapia, or pollock
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 garlic clove, grated
1 ½-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 tsp neutral oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For nuoc cham dressing:
½ small red chile pepper, sliced into thin rings
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (from about one small lime)
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 garlic clove, grated

To serve:
6 ounces thin rice noodles, bean threads, or other vermicelli
1/2 bunch of dill (about 1 cup, or more to taste), coarsely chopped
4 scallions, white parts sliced thin and green parts sliced into inch-long segments on the diagonal
¼ cup roasted peanuts or cashews, coarsely crushed

Preparation

  1. Mix turmeric, ginger, garlic, and oil in a shallow bowl, then add fish fillets and toss to coat them in the marinade. Season with salt and pepper and set aside for at least ten minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook rice noodles according to package directions, then drain and rinse with cold water. You can toss them with a little vegetable oil to prevent sticking.
  3. To make the nuoc cham dressing, mix lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, half of the garlic, and the sliced chili in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves, then add a splash of cold water to thin to your desired consistency. Set aside until ready to serve.
  4. Add a tablespoon of neutral oil to a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, then add fish and spice mixture and cook, turning occasionally, until just cooked through (2-3 minutes on each side). Add the dill and scallions, reserving a little of each for garnish, and cook for another 30 seconds or so until the herbs are lightly wilted.
  5. To serve, divide rice noodles and portions of the fish into bowls, then top with crushed nuts and reserved fresh herbs. Serve with nuoc cham alongside: you can dip bites of fish and noodles into it, or just pour it on top!

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