Friday, May 21, 2010

Fried Fish with Lemongrass & Salad (Ca Chien Xa) for Regional Recipes: Vietnam

There is something fishy going on at Kahakai Kitchen and I seem to be making and eating a lot of fish dishes this week. Looking for a Vietnamese recipe for this month's Regional Recipes, hosted by my pal Joanne at Eats Well With Others, I pulled out a book I had not looked at in quite a while (hazard of a giant cookbook collection), "Healthy Salads from Southeast Asia" by Vatcharin Bhumichitr. I forgot how many delicious-sounding recipes are in this book--it's especially suited for the warmer weather of late. While this Fried Fish with Lemongrass & Salad (Ca Chien Xa) recipe may not seem all that healthy, the fish is fairly light and the rice vinegar from the fresh pickle of cucumber, carrot and red chili serves as the "dressing" for the salad. The recipe calls for whole trout but I ended up going local and using shutome (swordfish) instead.

Bhumichitr says, "I was told I must eat at Lemongrass, one of the most famous restaurants in Saigon, but the night that I went there it looked depressingly empty, and when I continued down Dong Khoi street I stumbled upon the Vietnam House, which was bustling with locals and tourists and was in every way a fortunate discovery. The two-story restaurant occupies an old French townhouse and the old-world charm is reinforced by the waiters and waitresses who wear elegant Vietnamese town costumes--the women in the svelte side-split ao dai, which as they say, covers everything and reveals everything. Many of the dishes like the stewed pork in a clay pot were Vietnamese adaptations of Chinese haute cuisine, but this recipe, a house specialty, was pure Saigon."

Fried Fish with Lemongrass and Salad (Ca Chien Xa)
"Healthy Salads from Southeast Asia" by Vatcharin Bhumichitr
(Serves 2 / 4 as Starter)

1 whole trout, about 450g (1 lb) cleaned and filleted
1 egg
1 young lemongrass stalk, finely chopped (I used 2 stalks)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
oil for deep frying
5 heaped tablespoons breadcrumbs (I used panko)
about 10 large mixed lettuce leave, Cos, frisee, radicchio, etc. (I used a combination of manoa lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and radish sprouts)

for the fresh pickle:
6 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
100g (4 oz) carrot, cut into small cubes
100g (4 oz) cucumber, cut into small cubes
1 large red chili, thinly sliced into rounds

First make the fresh pickle: warm the vinegar in a small pan and dissolve the sugar in it. Pour into a small bowl and, when cool, add the carrot, cucumber, and chili. Stir well and set aside.

Cut the fish fillets across into thin strips roughly 7.5 x 2cm (3 x 3 3/4in) at the widest point. Set aside.

Beat the egg in a mixing bowl, add the lemongrass, salt, pepper, and light soy sauce and whisk together.

Heat the oil for deep-frying to moderate-to-hot. Dip the fish slices in the egg mixture, roll in the breadcrumbs and then deep-fry until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.

Arrange the mixed leaves in a bowl, add the reserved fish slices and fresh pickle, toss and serve.

Notes/Results: Great flavor in this one--it is light and very tasty. I love the bites of the panko breaded fish with the bright taste of the lemongrass. I felt like the lemongrass stalks that I had were small so I minced two stalks and it seemed the perfect amount. I used my wok with peanut oil (about 1/3 cup or so) in the very bottom to fry the breaded fish slices--which turned out crisp and not at all greasy. The pickled veggies were good with the tangy vinegar and the heat from the red chili. A easy and delicious lunch--I will make this again.

Joanne will be rounding up all the dishes for Regional Recipes: Vietnam on the RR site here after the end of the month so stop by and check it out.

Happy Aloha Friday!


  1. You are bringing out some gorgeous fish dishes this week! I love South East Asian salads. Must make one soon!

  2. Thanks so much for this submission! I love makes for the perfect flavoring for fish. So fresh. So delicious.

  3. I love all the pickled veggies in this salad and I can never resist a good panko coating! It looks delicious.

    I have some lemongrass growing in a pot on my back porch right now. I can't wait until it gets bigger and I can use it! I just love the way it smells and I'm really hoping that it will scare the bugs away!

  4. The trout sounds so good with lemongrass! Fantastic dish!

  5. I've bookmarked this recipe, Deb. There is a simplicity to Vietnamese cooking that I found delicious and appealing. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  6. I love fried fish! Looks great with salad! So healthy!

  7. I have been craving fish all day! I think it's your fault for posting all these fabulous fish recipes. This has lots of great flavors - love those pickled vegetables too - and the method used for making them.

  8. I have to confess to never have tried lemongrass....probably have in a restaurant but now I must get some!

  9. I love lemongrass. This looks really good. Thanks for sending along the recipe.


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