After traveling through Southeast Asia last month, the memory that's stayed with me the most, I suppose neck-and-neck with Angkor Wat, is cha ca la vong. I know I'm late to the party, and both the Vietnamese fried fish dish and the famous Hanoi restaurant of the same name (which only serves, you guessed it, cha ca la vong) have been well documented, but I was blown away nonetheless. With turmeric, fish sauce, and a plate of fresh herbs as large as my head, something very simple was transformed into something that became more rewarding with every bite.
Vietnamese cuisine aims to hit every note on your palate, and I humbly tried to borrow a bit of that here with turmeric, dill, scallions, garlic, and lime. The most glaring difference being the absence of the fish. Fried fish does not a lunchbox item make, so I substituted with shitake mushrooms instead and was not disappointed. Well...to be home, yes. But to recreate a little bit of my favorite food memory? Not at all.
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About the Author: Suzanne Lehrer is a writer and recipe developer in New York and a recipe editor for Cooking Channel. When not curating her budding hot sauce collection, she puts her French Culinary Institute education to good use in kitchens all around town. Follow her recipes and cooking adventures at TheSuzChef.com and on twitter @the_suzchef.