Jinhee’s Cha Cá Lã Vong

Cha ca la vong

Have you been watching Jinhee on Top Chef Canada? She’s killing it. She always does.

I met Jinhee years ago, when she was cooking over at Raw Bar, and everything she made was magic. She’s brilliant and humble and generous and kind, and I love that she secretly switched from accounting to cooking but didn’t tell her mom (back home in Korea) until she made it to the helm in one of the best kitchens in Calgary.

While they were building Foreign Concept, she won the Gold Medal Plates semi-finals (which she went on to win, by the way), by cooking out of her apartment kitchen. (The restaurant was still under construction.) She has brought home the gold two years in a row, and silver the year before.

Jinhee & Cha ca la vong

Traveling through Vietnam last year, she fell in love with this Hanoi street dish – Cha Cá Lã Vong – cooked in a well used tin skillet over a small burner. It’s the only thing this particular restaurant made, and it blew her away. So she came back to Calgary and made it her own way – using local rainbow trout. Traditionally it’s made with whitefish, so really – whatever you come across that looks fresh and good. Anything goes.

Cha ca la vong 2

Cha Cá Lã Vong is one of those dishes everyone assembles themselves at the table – which makes it perfect for our current new patio situation. You pile up rice noodles and quickly pickled carrots, radish, cucumber – whatever is light and crunchy – along with lime wedges, fresh mint, store-bought shrimp crackers, little dishes of sauces (which can be done in advance) and chopped peanuts. The fish is cooked quickly in a small skillet over a hot stove – it took her about five minutes, first getting the skin nice and crisp, then adding a blob of butter and handful of fresh herbs and basting the fish with the bubbling butter to help it finish cooking.

Cha ca la vong

We all had small bowls and chopsticks, and tossed small amounts of everything in our bowls to pile on shrimp crackers and eat. I realize it’s not traditional to cook yourself on Mother’s Day, but I may just whip this up to nibble on the patio – something interesting to share, and exactly the kind of food I’ve been craving these days. And I love the kind of food that could work as an appetizer or count as the main event. (I ran this in last Friday’s Swerve!)

Go Jinhee!

Cha ca la vong
Cha ca la vong

Jinhee’s Cha Cá Lã Vong


May 7, 2018



2 lbs Alberta rainbow trout fillets, skin on (or any type of whitefish)

1 cup yogurt

1 Tbsp turmeric

rice flour, for coating

3 Tbsp vegetable oil, for frying

2 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp chopped garlic

1 bunch fresh dill

1 bunch green onions, cut into 2-inch pieces

Nuoc Cham Sauce (Vietnamese dipping sauce):

1/2 cup fish sauce

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups water

1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Thai chili pepper, thinly sliced (optional)

2 Tbsp lime juice


rice vermicelli, cooked per package instructions

shrimp crackers

chopped peanuts (optional)

lime wedges


1Cut the trout fillets into 3-inch pieces. Stir together the yogurt and turmeric, add the trout and toss to coat. Marinate for at least an hour, or preferably overnight.

2Heat a large skillet over high heat and add the oil. Dredge the fillets with rice flour and place skin side down in the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the skin is crispy and golden. Flip the fish over add the butter, garlic, dill and green onions to the pan. Baste the fish in the butter and continue to cook for about a minute. Transfer the fish to a plate and pour the butter and herbs from the pan over the fish.

3Prepare the nuoc cham sauce: bring the fish sauce, sugar, water and garlic to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add the chopped chillies and the lime juice. Chill before serving.

4Arrange the noodles on a plate and top with the fish fillets, dill and scallions. Serve with shrimp crackers, peanuts and nuoc cham sauce. Serves 4-6.


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4 comments on “Jinhee’s Cha Cá Lã Vong

  1. Val
    May 10, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    Hopefully it’s good. That’s what I’m having for supper tonight.

  2. Roll the ball
    May 14, 2018 at 3:37 am

    This food has exactly the name Ch? Cá Lã V?ng (made by fish, pepper and some chives). This is a Vietnamese food. My family loved this dish after being sent by a my Vietnamese friend. But she does not know how to make that food. poor me!! 🙂

  3. Bonnie
    May 23, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    I love Jinhee on Top Chef Canada! I’m rooting for her all the way!

  4. temple run
    January 23, 2020 at 4:59 am

    This is a Vietnamese food. My family loved this dish after being sent by a my Vietnamese friend.

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