Vietnamese Fish with aromatic sauce and noodles

Serves 4

Let’s cut to the chase about this dish:

  1. It was titled ‘Cha Ca’ which means ‘Vietnamese Grilled Fish’. Which it isn’t. There is no grilling. Not sure how it gained that title. (The recipe is from Damien Beaumont; I found it in Delicious magazine).
  2. I cooked this after a long day out in the sun with the boys. It isn’t a quick Tuesday night number (unless you prepare it in advance) though it certainly works if you have two hours… and your boys can be trusted to get the sand out of their towels, run themselves a bath and pour you a glass of wine. Trust me; you really will deserve a wine it if you’re in the kitchen for two hours after a long day of bike riding, swimming and bush-walking!
  3. It is a wonderful dish. It isn’t light, though it isn’t heavy. It isn’t spicy though it is not without its quirks. It is very satisfying and given that you should be on your third glass of white by the time you serve, it is just what you need to nurse slight sunburn and exhaustion.
  4. The dill really surprised me in this dish. It is an excellent accompaniment and should not be skipped.
  5. As usual, I have slightly adapted the dish.


3 garlic cloves, chopped
5cm piece of fresh garlic, peeled and chopped
3 long chillies, chopped plus 1 thinly sliced chilli to serve
2 tbs fish sauce
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbs sunflower oil
½ cup chopped dill. Plus sprigs to serve.
400ml coconut cream
500gm skinless firm white fish fillets cut into 3cm cubes. (I used Barramundi which was great)
Juice of 2 limes (I used about 1 ½ of lime juice, though it is not overpowering)
250g rice vermicelli noodles
Cup each of coriander and mint sprigs to serve
6 x sliced spring onions to serve
Half cup chopped peanuts to serve (I used cashews which were fine)


  1. Combine the garlic, ginger, chilli, fish sauce, turmeric and half the onion in a small food processor. Add 2tbs of water and process to form a smooth paste. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a pan over medium-low heat.
  3. Cook remaining onion for 5 minutes, stirring, until soft a slightly golden.
  4. Add chopped dill and past, then simmer, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
  5. Add coconut cream and simmer for 20/25 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened and reduced by a third.
  6. Stand at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavour to develop. (Leave overnight if doing the day before.)
  7. Return the paste to a frying pan over low heat and cook, for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring until heated through.
  8. Add the fish, stir gently to coat, then cook for 5 – 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fish is cooked through.
  9. Add the lime juice, combine and test for seasoning. (I added a pinch of salt.)
  10. Meanwhile, prepare the noodles.
  11. Serve the fish and sauce on the noodles (4 bowls). Garnish with the herbs (including the extra dill), extra chilli, peanuts and spring onion.
  12. Have that third glass of wine. You survived a whole day in the sun and you cooked this. Leave the washing up till later.

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