Ca cha bong
Recipe type: main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
A nice and healthy snack, very simple to prepare
  • 300g fish flesh (codfish. "cabillaud" if you're French. See notes)
  • 2-3 tablespoons nuoc mam
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1-1.5 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed into small pieces
  1. Bring a pot of water to boiling point, and cook the fish until it's done. Take it out, and mash it into small pieces with the help of a fork.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the nuoc mam (I suggest starting with 2 tablespoons and adjusting later), soy sauce and sugar (same, start with 1 tablespoon) together until well blended.
  3. On a non-stick pan on medium-high heat, put in a little cooking oil, and cook the garlic until golden. Add the fish, and mix well. Then add the mixture of nuoc mam, soy sauce and sugar, and mix thoroughly until the fish has changed colours. Lower the heat to medium-low. Taste and adjust the mix: it should be fairly salty, but not unbearably so (add sugar or nuoc mam if it doesn't suit you).
  4. With a wooden spoon, shift and press the mixture until dry. You know you're done when you can't hear sizzling sounds coming from the pan as you press down with your wooden spoon: it takes longer than you would think, around 40 minutes or so (at least it did for me, but I started from frozen fish which is very watery).
  5. Serve cold or mildly warm over rice or with bread. If not using, it can be kept in the fridge in a sealed jar for at least a week (cookbook and websites said a few weeks. I reckon the nuoc mam makes it keep, by and large...)
The fish most often given to prepare ca cha bong is snakehead fish (ca loc), followed by ca hoi (salmon) and ca thu (codfish). I used codfish because it was cheaper and because I suspect that, given the sheer amounts of nuoc mam that goes into the recipe, the actual taste of the fish is of little consequence. You might, though, need to adjust the amounts of nuoc mam and sugar if you use other fish (for instance salmon, which is fairly sweet, possibly requires less sugar). I've also seen ca ro phi (tilapia) used to make ca cha bong.
Recipe by Aliette de Bodard at