Vietnamese Fried Fish with Green Mango Salad (Ca Chien Mam Xoai) is unbelievably easy to make, yet very tasty and refreshing. The fish is fried until crispy and served with crunchy green mango and a sweet and sour fish sauce dressing.
Fried fish is in the daily meal rotation of many Vietnamese families. A plate of golden and crispy fried fish, a small bowl of fish sauce flavored with garlic and lime juice, some steamed vegetables or vegetable soup on the side and a bowl of steamed rice – it cannot get more traditional than this!
The interior of Vietnamese fried fish is sometimes slightly overcooked as a tradeoff for the super crispy and crunchy exterior. But you know, all the crispy edges are always the first on the plate to disappear.
This Southern Fried Fish with Green Mango Salad is a super simple yet interesting dish, in my opinion. When the two ingredients are eaten together, you will get both crispiness from the fish and some juiciness from the green mango. The classic fish sauce dressing (nuoc cham) pairs extremely well with both the fish and the unripe mango. Therefore it brings all the elements together nicely.
The main ingredients for Ca Chien Mam Xoai are green mango and fish.
Why Green Mango?
Ripe mangoes will not work in this recipe because they are too soft, too sweet and too juicy. You should choose unripe mangoes that are still very firm to the touch. Maybe not as hard as a rock since these can be too sour, but the mango should be very firm.
Unripe mangoes are crunchy and tangy. When you dress them with Vietnamese nuoc cham, you will have a very refreshing salad with a lot of crunch and a hint of fruitiness.
What Type of Fish to Use?
The best type of fish for this dish is meaty white fish with a firm and dense texture. Both fish fillets and whole fish will work. Traditionally, people in Saigon fry a whole catfish (ca tre) or whole tilapia (ca dieu hong) to make Ca Chien Mam Xoai.
Since I don’t like tilapia or catfish, I use fillets of parrotfish which is quite popular in Southern Vietnam. I think grouper is also a great choice. I prefer skin-on fish fillets, but fish fillets without skin are probably fine too.
The dressing requires fish sauce, lime juice, water and sugar. You may also use rice vinegar instead of lime juice. Since the green mango is quite tangy, the dressing will be on the sweet-salty side with a little bit of sourness.
How to Make Vietnamese Fried Fish with Green Mango Salad
This dish is ridiculously easy to make. The three main steps are:
- Julienne the green mango
- Make the dressing
- Fry the fish until golden and crispy
Unripe mango is still very firm, so cutting it into thin strips is quite easy with a sharp knife.
The dressing is an important element that brings all components of the dish together. To make it, I recommend simmering everything (except the lime juice) on the stove very briefly just until some bubbles start to appear. You probably find it strange because recipes often tell you to add all ingredients to make nuoc cham to a bowl and whisk to combine.
When nuoc cham is simmered, both the taste and smell will be more mellow and pleasant. When my chef friend in Saigon told me this, I was very surprised. I usually mix nuoc cham in a bowl with hot water and have never put it on the stove. After trying it myself, I have to say simmering makes nuoc cham taste finer and smoother. If you don’t feel like washing an extra pot, try to use hot water to mix the dressing.
Finally, fry the fish until the outside is golden and crispy. Put the fish and green mango on a serving plate and drizzle dressing over everything. You can find detailed instructions in the recipe card below.
More classic Vietnamese fish recipes you may want to try:
I’d love to hear what you think about this dish, so please feel free to leave a comment. New recipes are added every week so let’s connect on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram for the latest updates. You can find my collection of Vietnamese recipes here.
Vietnamese Fried Fish with Green Mango Salad
- 1 lb fish fillets (choose meaty and firm white fish)
- 1 green mango (unripe and firm)
- cooking oil
- cilantro (for ganishing)
For the Dressing
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon lime juice
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 bird's-eye chili, seeds removed, finely minced
- If you have time, remove the fish from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before cooking.
- Peel the mango and slice into thin strips. Set aside. You can refrigerate it until you are ready to put the dish together.
- Place a small saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Add water, fish sauce and sugar and heat the mixture until some bubbles start to appear, then turn off the stove. Transfer to a clean bowl and wait for a couple of minutes to let it cool down slightly. Add lime juice, garlic and bird's-eye chili. Whisk to combine and adjust to your liking.
- Sprinkle a little bit of salt and pepper over the fish fillets. Place a pan over medium heat, and add a generous amount of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the fillets and fry until golden and crispy, flip once or twice. Towards the end, you may want to turn up the heat a little bit to crisp up the exterior.
- Transfer fish to serving plates. Place julienned green mango next to the fish, garnish with some cilantro and drizzle the dressing over everything. Serve immediately with steamed rice.