Chả cá Hà Nội / Hanoi styled fish with dill @ Que Viet, Kingsland Road/Hackney, London
After Quan Viet in Deptford closed, had to look for another place for this fish dish with various spices and dill.
Found that Que Viet (probably my favourite on Kingsland Road) serves an excellent version - the fish cooked just right, the green onion tenderly wilted by the heat, the spice and herb flavours well calibrated and savoury. Perked up by the pungency of a fermented prawn sauce, added zing from red chilli slices, crunch and nutty flavour from crushed peanuts, all supported by rice noodles.
Banh Xeo / Vietnamese pancakes were as good as my last meal there years ago.
Bò cuốn bánh tráng / garlic beef for rolling in rice paper sheets were also savoury and fragrant.
Thịt kho tộ / caramelised pork was probably the only weak spot -- a little meek in terms of flavour and caramelisation.
The shrimp paste is definitely a must-have accompaniment to the dish - it adds a salty tang & pungent deliciousness which undercuts the richness/oiliness of the dish, much like what "bagoong" does to "kare-kare" in Filipino cuisine.
The other predominant aromatic in the dish is, of course, as you'd mentioned, the fresh dill which, truth be told, I'm not too enamoured with.
Not many other aromatics or condiments used in the cooking: fresh turmeric (powdered/dry turmeric would have been a *poor* substitute as it's got a steely bitterness which fresh turmeric don't have), garlic, a sliver of fresh galangal, old ginger root, chives, fresh scallions, the ubiquitous "nuoc mam"/fermented fish sauce, ground pepper and sugar.
The pleasure of having the dish is to taste the sensation of hot, freshly-fried fish juxtaposed against the cold, moist, blanched rice noodles which had been coated with the yellow, turmeric-stained oil in which the fish had been fried, plus the crunchiness from the toasted groundnuts, and the fresh, leafy crispiness of the accompanying garnishes & herbs. The "nuoc cham" side-dip: a delicious combination of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, chopped garlic and explosive bird's eye chillis provide an additional fresh bite to the overall flavours.
It's a simple, rustic dish which is quite easy to re-produce at home, but nothing beats the novelty of dining in the cramped, century-old building where Chả cá Lã Vọng's situated, located on the street named *after* the dish, and not the other way round :-)