Jul 2017

Chả Cá Thăng Long – Northern Vietnamese Fish with Dill & Turmeric

Cha Ca Thanh Long - Vietnamese Dill and Turmeric Fish

I didn’t grow up eating chả cá thăng long. Truth be told, my family genuinely dislikes the dish. There’s something about the unfamiliar and assertive flavor of fresh dill that makes everyone from my mother to my aunts and uncles utter the words: không biết ăn, which literally means, “I don’t know how to eat,” but in actuality is a polite turn of phrase for rejecting an offering.

It wasn’t until I visited Hanoi while living as an expat in Vietnam nearly a decade ago that this dish came into my life. A northern Vietnamese specialty comprised of turmeric-marinated fish fillets served in a sizzling skillet table-side along with heaps of dill and scallions, chả cá thăng long is somehow both familiar and novel, and in spite of what my family believes, totally ngon (delicious).

This weekend’s heat wave inspired me to get into the kitchen to make something light and bright—this dish fit the bill. I started with two pounds of halibut marinated in fish sauce, ground turmeric, garlic, ginger, shallots, black pepper, and a bit of dill. After carefully pan-frying the fillets, I combined them with bunches of scallions and dill that had been wilted in vegetable oil.

The fish and herbs were served over vermicelli rice noodles with crushed peanuts, herbs, and plenty of nước chấm. It was the perfect antidote to 104-degree temps.

For fish marinade

  • 2 pounds firm white fish, cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • Fresh ginger (2-inch knob)
  • 2 shallots
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill

For fish preparation

  • Vegetable oil
  • 2 bunches scallions, sliced into 2 inch segments
  • 2 bunches dill, stems removed

Cha Ca Thanh Long - Vietnamese Dill and Turmeric Fish

To prepare the marinade, combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulverize until the garlic, ginger, and shallots are finely minced. Pour the marinade over the fish fillets and let sit in the refrigerator for no more than 1-2 hours (marinating longer will make the fish taste too salty).

Cha Ca Thanh Long - Vietnamese Dill and Turmeric Fish

To prepare the fish, coat the bottom of a non-stick frying pan with vegetable oil. Heat the oil on medium-high and pan-fry the fish, 3-4 minutes on each side, until evenly browned. Drain the cooked fish on paper towels. Work in batches to cook the remaining fish, adding more oil as needed.

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Jul 2017

Holbox – Los Angeles

Holbox - Los Angeles

Following a morning exploring taxidermied animals and dinosaur bones at the Natural History Museum, The Astronomer, June, and I headed to Mercado Paloma for lunch. This afternoon I had my sights set on Holbox, a brand new Mexican seafood stall opened by Chichen Itza’s Chef Gilberto Cetina.

Holbox - Los Angeles

After placing our order at the counter and grabbing a table nearby, we snacked on complimentary chips and salsa. Both were solid.

Holbox - Los Angeles

While I enjoyed every dish we tasted this afternoon, my favorite had to be the Taco de Pulpo en Su Tinta ($10). Served on a warm, handmade tortilla, the octopus was served atop a calamari ink-stained sofrito. The taco’s flavors and textures melded together like an oceanic dream.

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Jun 2017

KCRW Press Play with Madeleine Brand | Vietnamese Food in El Monte

KCRW Press Play

I joined Madeleine Brand, the host of KCRW’s program Press Play, to chat about where to get the best Vietnamese food in the city of El Monte, the littler Saigon in Los Angeles County. Listen here. And enjoy!

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