Since I've been in my International Cuisines lab this quarter, I've been all about ethnic cuisines!  We started off with China last week and it was full of exciting new dishes – Chinese cuisine definitely goes beyond what you find at your local buffet =)

Anyway, one of my favorite Asian countries is Vietnam.  Most of the food is very humble in origin, but there is a lot of beauty and flavor in each dish.  Cha Ca is a traditional Hanoi-Style Fish w/ Dill.  The name means “braised fish” in Vietnamese.  The dish is so popular in Vietnam that there is a street in Hanoi that is named in it's honor!  Neat huh?

I think this is a great fall dish that is unique and full of flavor.  And the Nuoc Cham (one of the most popular condiments in Vietnam) is so good, you can practically put it on anything – from dipping egg rolls or dressing your salads – it's THAT good!

Ingredients:

For Marinade:
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 jalapenos
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons ground tumeric
4 tablespoons water
juice from 1 lemon

1 lb. catfish fillets
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3/4 cup fresh dill
4 green onions, chopped
rice noodles, cooked, as needed
4 tablespoons peanuts, chopped

Nuoc Cham:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 cup lemon juice (can substitute lime juice for slightly different flavor profile)
1 garlic clove, minced

For the marinade, combine the ginger, jalapenos, and sugar in a mortar and pestle. Grind until a paste remains.  Add the fish sauce, tumeric, water, and lemon juice.  Stir until combined.

Cut the catfish into 1-inch pieces and place in a shallow dish.  Pour marinade over top and cover.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan under medium high heat.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant.  Add the catfish and cook until fish is almost done, about 2-4 minutes.

Cut the dill into 1-inch pieces.  Add half of the dill and half of the green onions to the fish and cook until they are wilted.

To make the Nuoc Cham, combine the sugar, water, fish sauce, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl.  Mix until sugar is dissolved.

Place the rice noodles on the center of a serving platter.  Arrange remaining dill and green onions over top.  Top with catfish and chopped peanuts.  Serve along side Nuoc Cham.

This is definitely an interesting dish full of new flavors.  The Nuoc Cham is definitely not to be skipped, as I think it brings the whole dish together!

What's your favorite Vietnamese dish?