I've said before, that when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, cooking with dill is something that is more common in the north. It's most well-known in Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill), but I also encountered Ca Kho Sot Ca Chua Thi La (Vietnamese Braised Fish with Tomato Dill Sauce) when I was in Hanoi in 2005.
It was on a boat trip down the Red River with stops at a few temples along the way, including Tien Dung Chu Dong Tu Temple, also known as the Temple of Love. There's a great story about Princess Tien Dung, daughter of Hung Vuong III, who wasn't all that interested in marriage and amused herself by exploring the countryside with her entourage.
Chu Dong Tu was a poor fisherman, who took turns sharing one loincloth between him and his father. When his father died, he borrowed clothes for the funeral and buried his father with the only loincloth. Since he had no clothes, he fished at night and during the day, he stayed in the water when selling his fish in order to conceal his nakedness.
Then one day, the princess approached his riverbank and decided it was so pretty that she wanted to bathe there. He dug a hole in the sand and attempted to hide behind some cattails, whereupon he was discovered by Princess Tien Dung. I guess she liked what she saw, decided fate had sent this man to her, and married him there and then. The long addendum to the story includes her being disinherited by the king, him becoming a Taoist monk and then a saint, a magical palace made of jewels that was whisked up to the heavens, and a temple built in its place to honor their love.
A boat cruise, a temple, a love story, and lunch was included! I don't remember what else was served, and honestly, the dish wasn't even that memorable, but the fantastic love story and the idea of braised fish with tomato dill sauce stayed with me.
If you like Ca Chien Sot Ca Chua (Vietnamese Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce), then this dish will be familiar. I used salmon, since it's often paired with dill in Western dishes. I pan-fried the salmon steak first so it would hold its shape better in a quick braise. A few tomatoes, shallots, garlic, dill, and fish sauce gets simmered until it thickens. The dill is cooked with the sauce; not tossed as a garnish at the end.
I can't promise that fate will throw true love your way if you make this dish, but hopefully my little anecdote amused you enough to try making it?
Ca Kho Sot Ca Chua Thi La (Vietnamese Braised Fish with Tomato Dill Sauce)
For 2 servings, you'll need:
1 or 2 fish steaks
2 tomatoes, diced
2 shallots or 1/2 of a small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tblsps dill, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp Nuoc Mam (Vietnamese Fish Sauce)
1/2 cup water, or more if needed
I used salmon, but any fish steaks will do. Pan-fry until browned on each side. Set aside.
Dice 2 tomatoes and 2 shallots. Mince 2 cloves of garlic. Chop a few tablespoons of dill.
In a small sauce pan on medium-low heat, add the tomatoes, shallots, garlic, and dill. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1 tsp fish sauce, and 1/2 cup water. Stir the mixture and add the fish.
Lightly cover and let simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes until the sauce is thickened to your liking. Check at the halfway point and flip the fish. Adjust seasonings or add more water if necessary.
Serve with rice.
Ah, you're still curious about the Tien Dung Chu Dong Tu Temple, aren't you? These photos were prior to blogging and with a very old point and shoot camera, but in case you were curious. The Tien Dung Chu Dong Tu Temple was built in 1894 by doctor Chu Manh Trinh, who enlisted the help of eight villages. The temple is located 20 kilometers south of Hanoi in the village of Binh Minh. This was one of the entrances as we approached from the river.
The main altar.
And further inside are statues of Princess Tien Dung and Dong Tu. Light some incense and pray for love if you wish. Psst! I don't know if it's really true love when his other wife, Princess Tay Sa, is on the other side. Nevertheless, a festival with a procession from several temples to celebrate their love is held every three years from the 10th to the 12th days of the second lunar month. There's also a plum tree along the way that's reputedly 700 years old, and when in full fruit, is supposed to be lucky for singles and unhappily married couples if you worship under there.
Or you can just make my Vietnamese fish in tomato dill sauce. That's probably easier than waiting for true love to fall into your lap. :P
My other Vietnamese fish recipes:
Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh (Vietnamese Roasted Catfish with Scallion Oil)
Ca Chien Sot Ca Chua (Vietnamese Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce)
Ca Hap Gung Hanh (Vietnamese Steamed Fish with Ginger and Scallions)
Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Braised Catfish in a Claypot)
Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup)
Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill)
1 year ago today, my mom's chao vit (Vietnamese rice porridge with duck).
2 years ago today, Figs with Bri fundraiser winner.
3 years ago today, Viva! Las Vegas! and the Bellagio Buffet.