Archives for April 2021

Chả Cá Lã Vọng with Jacopever

Chả Cá

Chả Cá Lã Vọng at home

If I can not travel, my mind will, memories of Vietnamese food is driving me mad. I will happily travel to Vietnam just to have dinner at a homestay to have a portion of cơm lam (rice steamed in bamboo over a fire).
Somethings are just so damn good that it makes it easy to return time and time again. A number of years ago before going to Hanoi for the first time I had done a lot of research of where and what to eat, and at the top of my list with Pho, Bánh mì, Bun bo nam bo, Banh cuon, Bún chả bunca was Chả Cá.

The food in Vietnam is pretty healthy with so much herbs, loads of greens with the focus on freshness, balance of sweet, sour and salt.

Chả Cá Lã Vọng

Chả Cá Lã Vọng in Hanoi cooked table side

In the old quarter many restaurants specialise in one dish, I love this about eateries in Hanoi, they do not have restaurants with long menus, instead they focus on one, and do that dish very well, in the old quarter many restaurants specialise in cooking the tumeric spiced fish at your table, admittedly sometimes it does feel a little touristy, so finding the right spot is important.
We make this at home often, especially on those hot summer nights this is a very light refreshing dinner option. I often place the marinated fish like Jacopever in the weber on a used oak wine barrel plank and roast. It gives it a little smokiness which works so well with the combination of turmeric, ginger, garlic, dill, spring onion, peanut and fish sauce. Traditionally made with snakehead or catfish, any firm white fleshed fish will work.

Chả Cá Marinating

Chả Cá Marinating

Served with cold rice vermicelli noodles, handfuls of dill and spring onion with roasted peanuts with vietnamese mint, coriander and for me the part that brings it together – nuoc cham (combination of fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and red chili). If you want to be more traditional make a shrimp paste sauce – Mam Ruoc Cham.
So weather you call it Chả Cá Thăng Long, Chả Cá Lã Vọng, Chả Cá Hà Nội, or just Chả Cá do not wait for your next trip, make it at home and pretend you hear the noise of a thousand scooters outside

Prep Time:40 min
Cooking Time:20 min
600g Jacopever fillets
Oil for cooking
Fish Marinade
2 tbsp Oil
2 tsp Sugar White
1 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Fish Sauce
¼ Onion Red Chopped Very Fine
2 tsp Turmeric Ground
1 tbsp Ginger Fresh & Grated Fine
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Bunch Of Dill
10 Spring Onions, Cut 2 cm Lengths With the White Parts Sliced in Half Again in Length.
½ Cup Roasted Peanuts, Whole or Chopped

Garnish Sides
Extra Peanuts toasted as needed
300 g Rice Vermicelli dried
Handful of Mint Roughly Torn
Handful of Vietnamese Mint Roughly Torn
Bunch of Coriander Roughly Chopped or Picked
Red Chilies Red Chopped
250ml Nuoc Cham
1 ea Lime cut into Wedges

Nuoc Cham Sauce
4 tbsp Water
2 tbsp Sugar White
4 tbsp Lime Juice Fresh
2 tbsp Fish Sauce
2 Clove Garlic Minced
2 ea Birds eye Chili finely sliced
1. Combine all ingredients for fish marinade and add cut Jacopever chunks, leave for +/- 45 min.
2. Make the nuoc cham dressing by combining sugar with lime juice add the fish sauce, chili, garlic and water. It must be sour, sweet and salty.
3. Cut spring into 2.5 cm long pieces with white of spring onion split in length in half.
4. Place rice vermicelli noodles in boiling water for 2-3 minutes or according to cooking instructions. Cool and place one side.
5. Heat pan and add oil, add the fish and cook until golden brown. Do not overcrowd the pan. Repeat the second and third batch. Best part is the golden crispy bits.
6. Cook Spring and dill with leftover marinade from fish until wilted. Add fish on top.
7. To serve, place cold rice vermicelli in bowl, add fish with dill, add fresh greens with peanuts and top with nuoc cham dressing.

Try the dill and the spring onion in the weber

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You Make A Difference!

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He takes everything in his stride, as the saying goes “if you want something done, ask a busy person” this is the chef that controls our kitchen and maintains the rhythm.

This month we celebrate our hotel’s Senior Chef de Partie in the kitchen: Cebisa “Shakes” Manyela (45) winner of the coveted title: You Make A Difference.

Shakes started working in the kitchens of the Mount Nelson in April 2011 and over the past ten years he has worked his way up to the position of Senior Chef de Partie. Last year, after a significant staff restructuring due to the Covid pandemic, Shakes was faced with one of his career’s biggest challenges: with a reduced staff compliment, he had the opportunity to rewrite the way we had done things, this would not be possible if he was not super organized
Shakes takes charge of market list and orders ensuring everyone gets butcher orders, cold sauces and any hot production item needed for the day.

It is a formidable task, but then Nelson Mandela’s quote came to his mind: “It always seems impossible until it’s done”, and so he took it on, and magnificently.

We have worked together for a long time and he knows exactly how everything fits together. Shakes has been the rock on which we rely daily, he is the backbone of the kitchen. This month he excelled even further, as we asked more and more of him. Shakes will make sure everyone has whatever they need to make each kitchen function on time, consistently and accurately. He will not go home until every task is complete. But then we do not expect anything less from such a great gentleman who is an example to everyone wearing a white jacket.”

Congratulations Shakes, the team at The Nellie are proud of you.

image courtesy of Devon Labuschagne


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Finding Burger Part 18, Mushrooms!

Mushroom Burger

Mushroom Burger

I never thought I would admit it, but lately we have been selling more mushroom burgers than beef burgers, I would like to take credit but it most likely it has a lot more to do with people wanting healthier options and many are looking at plant based diets and it is here to stay. We thought we would make 15 every two weeks, now we are making 15 every 4 days. Admittedly it is slightly cheaper on the menu, but only marginally.
Before lockdown we had started developing a vegetarian burger that was doing well but needed some further development, in the end we then outsourced the burger due to some consistency issues. During lockdown I spent weeks making batch after batch of vegetarian burgers until we settled on a mushroom and black bean burger that worked and was the right texture that was not dry, that was not made up of only beans and had the right amount of softness and moisture.
The challenge is always making sure everything binds well without adding loads of flour or bread. We managed to make the mushroom burger gluten free which ended up a being a bonus.
The biggest issue was that we did not want a vegetarian burger that reminded us of meat, but rather celebrate the vegetable.
We use a sunflower dressing and hummus in the final assembly and use cider glazed onion and a sweet and sour basting sauce. What we did find is that many guests still ask for a mature cheddar instead of the vegan cheese.

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Warm Pickled Fish with Jacopever

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Easter and pickled fish always bring back old memories as a trainee working buckets and buckets of pickled fish. Previously I had shared a pickled fish recipe . The recipe is simple, coating the fish in flour then egg wash and straight into the deep fryer. Then into sweet and sour slightly spicy pickling sauce. I had received some Jacopever and was experimenting a couple of dishes from ceviche to whole roasted Jacopever served on tacos, these recipes will be published later. But I simply had to eat a favourite and the pickled fish still had to be warm on a warm toasted bun with lettuce and tomato. Warm and comforting.

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