Andy Baraghani’s Salt & Pepper Cod with Turmeric Noodles
Like cilantro, dill can be one divisive herb.
You either love cherish its distinctive taste or avoid it all costs.
If like me, you’re in the former camp, then you will much enjoy “Salt & Pepper Cod with Turmeric Noodles,” which features more than one cup of the feathery herb with the unmistakable sweet, grassy, anise taste.
The recipe is from the outstanding cookbook, “The Cook You Want to Be” (Lorena Jones Books, 2022) by Andy Baraghani, the food writer, recipe developer, and former Bon Appetit magazine food editor who cooked at Chez Panisse.
Take it from me: The cook you want to be is the one who makes this straightforward Vietnamese noodle dish. It’s a riff on one Baraghani fell for in Hanoi, especially with its liberal use of dill and turmeric, flavorings so familiar to him from his Persian heritage.
Its foundation is vermicelli noodles, which first get boiled, then sizzled in a pan with butter and turmeric, turning it an unmistakable mustard hue.
I used Star Anise Foods Vietnamese Gluten-Free Brown Rice Noodles with Green Tea that I purchased out of curiosity. Because they are already brown, they won’t take on as noticeable as a color change when the turmeric is added. Even so, they are chewy with a nice nutty taste.
A flaky white fish such as cod, hake or haddock is recommended in this recipe. I used rock fish, which worked just great. The fish gets coated with oil, grated ginger, grated garlic, and pepper, then pan-fried until golden on each side. Scallions and dill go into the hot pan, softening and releasing their aromatics.
Plate the fish atop a mound of the turmeric-tinged noodles. Spoon over a simple nuoc cham of bird’s eye chile, crushed garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and a splash of water. Then, shower over fresh mint, cilantro, and yes, more dill. Be generous here, as fresh herbs are one of the wondrous hallmarks of Vietnamese cuisine.
It makes for a light, bright supper that hits all the senses with a big flourish. There’s heat from the chile, zing from the lime, warm muskiness from the turmeric, briny savoriness from the fish sauce, and of course, a real vitality from the profusion of fresh herbs.
So, don’t dilly-dally when it comes to making this dill-happy dish.
Salt-and-Pepper Cod with Turmeric Noodles
1 bird’s eye, serrano, or Fresno chile, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves; 1 crushed, 2 finely grated
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup neutral oil (such as grapeseed)
2 teaspoons peeled, finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless white fish (such as cod, hake or haddock)
6 ounces dried vermicelli noodles
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup coarsely chopped dill
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Fresh herbs (such as mint, cilantro, and more dill) for serving
Lime wedges, for squeezing
In a medium bowl, combine the chile, crushed garlic, water, fish sauce, lime juice, and sugar. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. (The garlic is only meant to flavor the sauce, so don’t let anybody bite into it when you serve.) Taste the sauce — this is your nuoc cham; it should hit on multiple senses. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons of the neutral oil, the ginger, pepper, and grated garlic. Slice the cod into about 2-inch pieces, then add to the bowl and season with salt. Using a spoon, toss until each piece is evenly coasted. Set aside.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Turn off the heat and drop in the noodles. Give them a stir every minute or so until they’ve become soft and silky, 4 to 5 minutes but follow the times on the package. Drain and set the noodles aside on a plate. I typically give the noodles a few snips with a pair of shears to tame their wild strands and make them easier to eat. Hold on to the pot for later.
Set a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon neutral oil, and when the oil is hot, lay the pieces of cod in the pan and fry the fish until lightly golden underneath, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the fish and then scatter the scallions and dill over and watch them sizzle and wilt rapidly. Don’t stir, so that the fist doesn’t fall apart, can brown underneath, and cooks through, another 2 minutes.
In the reserved medium pot over medium heat, melt the butter then add the turmeric. Once the turmeric begins to sizzle, add the drained noodles and toss with tongs until each strand is stained gold and warmed through, about 1 minute.
Set everything out on separate serving plates if you’re going family style. Alternately, divide the noodles among bowls and spoon some fish into each bowl. Tear some of the herbs into pieces and sprinkle over the fish. Squeeze lime juice over the top. Eat a fistful of herbs between each bite.
From “The Cook You Want to Be” by Andy Baraghani
Another Andy Baraghani Recipe to Enjoy: Big Shells with Spicy Lamb Sausage and Pistachios