Cha Ca La Vong noodles

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Food and Travels: Asia

Food and Travels

By Alastair Hendy

Published 2004

  • About

This is a beauty, now a classic, and one that you should really know. Everything is set out on the table, then each person chopsticks some noodles into their bowl, piles on the dilled fish, herb leaves and some peanuts and then spills over a little nuoc cham. If you’re non-plussed about the DIY scheme of things, serve it all assembled in bowls.


  • 3 fat cloves garlic
  • 4 cm piece fresh galangal or root ginger, peeled
  • 4 cm fresh turmeric root or 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 500 g firm white fish fillet (conger eel, monkfish, pollack, whiting), skinned and cut into chunks
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • salt and black pepper
  • pinch of ground chilli
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 very big bunches of dill, roughly chopped

To serve

  • 4 spring onions, each sliced into 4
  • 300 g vermicelli noodles, cooked, drained and rinsed, according to the packet’s instructions
  • 4 tbsp lightly crushed toasted peanuts
  • nuoc cham
  • handful each of mint and basil leaves


Pound together the garlic, galangal and turmeric to make a paste - or crush and finely grate, then mix together. Toss the fish with the fish sauce, a touch of salt, some pepper, the chilli and sugar, then toss through the paste, until the fish is evenly coated and leave, covered and refrigerated, for a good 2 hours or overnight.

Heat a heavy frying pan - something cast-iron is just the job - until smoking hot, then pour in about 2 tbsp oil. Pile in the fish. Allow to sizzle and splutter for about 2 minutes before turning the pieces over, then fry for a further minute. Add about 3 tbsp water, bubble up, then chuck all the dill on top and fold through - it should wilt but not go completely floppy. Ideally, you want to take the hot pan to the table (sit it on a thick mat) and let everyone take what they want, when they want it. The remaining ingredients should all have been piled into bowls and set out on the table.