Snapper is a delicate fish with firm, moist white meat. Chef Chris Shepherd suggests that though this fish is perfect for this particularly flavorful recipe, any other mild white fish works as well.
Snapper is usually sold skin-on, but be sure to ask the fishmonger to remove the vibrant rosy red-streaked skin.
If you're serving this dish to a group, have guests stack the ingredients into lettuce leaves for individual servings.
To learn more, read "One, Two, Cha Ca Snapper."
Cha Ca-Style Snapper
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 45 minutes, plus marinating time
Cook Time: 8 to 10 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes, plus marinating time
For the Marinade:
1 cup whole-fat Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons minced shallot (1 medium shallot)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (1 garlic clove)
2 teaspoons minced ginger (1-inch piece)
¼ cup minced jalapeño (1 small jalapeño)
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest (1 lemon)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
¼ cup roughly chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pound snapper fillets, skin removed and cut into 4 pieces
For the Nước Mắm:
½ cup fish sauce
⅓ cup rice wine vinegar
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup water
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sambal
1½ teaspoons minced fresh ginger (from ¾-inch piece of ginger)
For the Pickled Red Onions:
¼ cup warm water
1½ tablespoons sugar
1 star anise pod
½ cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup thinly sliced red onion (½ small red onion)
Pinch kosher salt
2 spring roll sheets (banh trang)
10 ounces thin rice noodles, cooked and cooled
1¼ cups nước mắm
16 to 18 Bibb lettuce leaves, torn
1½ cups shredded cabbage (¼ head of cabbage)
¼ cup torn cilantro
½ cup torn dill sprigs
¼ cup green onion, thinly sliced into rounds (green parts only)
⅓ cup pickled red onions
⅓ cup crushed roasted peanuts
1. Marinate the fish: In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except the snapper. Add the fish, cover and marinate for 2 hours or overnight.
2. Make the nước mắm: In a medium bowl, whisk together all the ingredients until the sugar dissolves. Cover and chill. Makes about 2 cups. Make ahead: The nước mắm can be made up to 2 weeks ahead.
3. Make the pickled red onions: In a small bowl, combine the warm water, sugar and star anise, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the rice wine vinegar, sliced onions and salt. Let sit until the onions turn pink and develop a pickled flavor, about 1 hour.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 400°. Remove the fish from the marinade, leaving a layer of it on the fillets, and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Discard the leftover marinade. Bake until the fish is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, crisp the spring roll sheets. One sheet at a time, grill or microwave on high until the sheet crisps and puffs, 1 to 2 minutes. Break into bite-size pieces and set aside.
6. To assemble: Divide the rice noodles among 4 bowls and lightly toss with some of the nước mắm. Place the lettuce leaves, cabbage, cilantro, dill and green onions in 1 large communal bowl or platter. To eat, place a piece of fish into each bowl and garnish with some of the greens and herbs along with the pickled red onions, peanuts, crispy spring roll sheets and additional nước mắm.