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Monday, August 16, 2010

Bánh Canh Chả Cá (Vietnamese Fish Patty Udon Soup)

A few years back, my husband and I traveled back to Viet Nam. We hunted for good food from Saigon in the south to Ha Noi in the north. Bánh canh chả cá was one of the great dish that we tried out in Da Nang and Nha Trang. These cities are well-known for bánh canh chả cá (Fish Patty Udon Soup). The cha ca was soft and yet chewy and the soup was filled with a bold flavor. Fried cha ca has a wonderful smell while steamed cha ca added more sweetness to soup base. I love the combination of both types of cha ca as this brings out a nice contrast.

bánh canh  using potato ricer
There are two types of bánh canh - bánh canh bột gạo (rice udon) and bánh canh bột mì (tapioca udon). The tapioca udon has a chewy consistency and it goes well with bánh canh cua (crab udon soup) while the rice udon pairs well with chả cá (fish patty) or pork hock (giò heo).

My family enjoys fish a lot. Beside Cá Nướng, Chả Cá, Cá Nhúng Dấm (slices fish dip in vinegar broth) , Bún Cá (Fish Noodle Soup) , I also often make home-made bánh canh chả cá with my home-made fresh bánh canh (udon). The entire process of making fresh udon takes less than 30 minutes.

making bánh canh with hands 
The other day, we bought a big piece of King Mackerel Steak from the Saturday open market . I used it to make the broth for bánh canh broth. Both fresh bánh canh and the broth turned out wonderfully. 
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RECIPE: Bánh Canh Chả Cá

Printable Recipe


For Bánh Canh Broth
3-4 pieces of Mackerel Steaks, cut into big chunks
5 quarts of Water
1 pound of Fish Paste, fried, cut into small pieces

Fish sauce
For Bánh Canh
click here for recipe
or use store-bought bánh canh
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped, for Annatto Oil
1 shallot, sliced thinly, for Annatto Oil
1/2 tablespoon Hột Điều (to make Annatto Oil), for garnish
Spring Onion, chopped, for garnish
Rau Ram (Vietnamese Coriander), chopped, for garnish
Cilantro, chopped, for garnish
Black Pepper, for garnish
Making Fish Broth

Boil 5 quarts of water in a large pot. Add Mackerel Steak chunks into the boiling water and cook it for about 5 minutes or until it cooked. Use a strainer to remove the foam that is floating in the pot to keep the both clear. Add about 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of salt and 1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce. Taste it and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Reduce the heat to low.
Making Fish Patty (click here for recipe)

Making Annatto Oil

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of oil and sautee garlic and shallots. Stir it until it begin to brown. Pour it in a small bowl and set it aside.
In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoon oil and 1/2 tablespoon annatto seeds over medium heat. Stir constantly, until the oil becomes a rich, orange-red color, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Strain the oil into a garlic and shallots oil bowl. Discarding the seeds.
Presentation of Bánh Canh

Bring a broth pot back to a boil. Add udon into the pot over medium heat until the udon is cooked, about 5 minutes. If you only need to make a few bowls, just cook a small batch of broth and udon to keep it fresh.  Bánh canh doesn't taste and look good when it soaks in the broth for too long as it expands.

Transfer the bánh canh soup to a serving bowl, top with fried fish patty. Pour the fish broth and mackerel steak in the bánh canh bowl. Garnish it with cilantro, Vietnamese coriander and spring onion. Drizzle a little bit of annatto oil.  Sprinkle some pepper. Heat your bánh canh bowl up with a few slices of fresh red chili. 



  1. Wow, talking about a talented cook, you made fresh noodles, amazing , that's time consuming I think... Love your blog, as a Viet loves to cook too, not as well as you since I don't have anyone to turn to to ask.... thanks for wonderful, delicious posting.
    Happy eating! Dee

  2. I was wondering what are annatto seeds called in vietnamese

  3. Where do you buy your potatoe ricer?

  4. I bought it at HomeGoods but you can also find it at

  5. @Viet Woman: got your email regarding banh canh. I owe you an apology...I didn't have time to review my banh canh post until now. I agreed there's something wrong with my recipe. I just added the section on "making banh canh with potato ricer". I need to work on the "making banh canh with hands" again to get the correct measurement. As I read it, it doesn't seem right to me. Will edit it as soon as I got the correct mesurement down again. Thank you so much for your comments. I need those comments like yours so I know what's wrong with my recipe.
    Please email me so I can have your email address. Thanks. Loan

  6. Thanks for this recipe. We had a good meal the other day after trying to figure out what to eat. You are our life saver :-)