Vietnamese fried fish cake noodle soup (Bun cha ca) is tasty and satisfying. The fried fish cake is slightly crispy outside and springy inside. The tomato dashi broth is light in body, but it is packed with umami.
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Fried fish cake noodle soup in tomato dashi broth

Vietnamese fried fish cake noodle soup (Bun cha ca) is tasty and satisfying. The fried fish cake is slightly crispy outside and springy inside. The clear broth is light in body, but it is packed with umami.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Breakfast, Main Dish, Noodle and Soup
Cuisine: Seafood, Vietnamese
Servings: 3 people
Author: delightfulplate

Ingredients

For the broth (see notes for substitutions)

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 pieces 4''x4'' kombu
  • 3 cups katsuobushi
  • 12 oz ripe tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce

For the fish cakes

  • 1 lb walleye fillet (or other firm white fish fillet) (no bone, no skin)
  • 1/4 cup dill
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped shallot
  • 4 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • black pepper

Other ingredients

  • dried vermicelli noodles
  • scallion, finely chopped (for garnishing)
  • dill, finely chopped (for garnishing)
  • cilantro, finely chopped (for garnishing)
  • more olive oil for frying

Instructions

  • 1-2 hours before cooking, pat dry and put fish fillets in the freezer to make them cold and firm.
  • Use a damp piece of paper towel to gently clean kombu. Please do not wipe off the white powder on the surface of kombu, it contains a lot of umami. Put kombu and water in a pot and place over medium heat. Bring it to a bare simmer then discard kombu.
    Kombu
  • Add katsuobushi to the stock, bring it to a boil and then turn off the heat. Let stand for 10 minutes, then remove katsuobushi from the broth.
    Katsuobushi
  • Turn on the heat. Quarter tomatoes. Add tomatoes and 1 1/2 tablespoons of fish sauce to the broth. When it starts to boil, lower the heat, cover the pot and let it simmer.
  • While kombu is being simmered in the step 2 above, remove fish fillets from the freezer, cut into smaller chunks. Place fish and all other ingredients to make fish cake in a food processor and process into a sticky mixture.
    Vietnamese fried fish cake noodle soup in tomato dashi broth
  • Transfer fish paste from food processor to a mixing bowl. Knead for about 2 minutes into a smooth, dense and springy fish paste mixture.
  • While steeping katsuobushi in the stock in the step 3 above, take 1/2 tablespoon to 2 teaspoons of fish paste to form thin patties.
  • Place a frying pan over medium high heat. Add oil and fry fish cakes until the edge is crispy and both sides are golden brown (about 2 minutes each side). Transfer to a clean plate lined with paper towel.
  • Prepare vermicelli noodles according to package instructions.
  • Taste broth and adjust seasoning as needed. Place vermicelli noodles in serving bowl, top with fried fish cakes and scallion, cilantro and dill. Ladle the hot broth over noodles and enjoy.

Notes

Our traditional broth for this noodle soup is fish (or pork) bone broth flavored with tomatoes. The broth in my recipe is tomato dashi-based broth, and it tastes the same as the traditional one while being much easier and quicker to cook. If you want to make this dish as authentic as possible, follow my instructions to make fish bone broth, or you can also use pork or chicken stock as substitutions.