If you have ever been a guest at a Vietnamese eight-course fish feast (a variant of Saigon’s famed seven-course beef dinner), you will have tasted a fish gỏi made with marinated raw fish, which you scooped up with a shrimp chip or the like. In our family, we have long enjoyed this lightly cooked version, created by my aunt Bac Hang.
She makes Silverfish Salad with Sesame Rice Crackers (Gỏi Cá) with the teeny, tiny silverfish (not to be confused with the insect) sold at Chinese and Vietnamese markets. Piled high on a plate, the mound of white fish accented by orange carrot slivers, red onion, and chopped fresh herbs is beautiful. The silverfish are sold thawed in the seafood case, or in bricklike blocks in the frozen section (the latter look like freeze frames of a school of swimming fish). You will pay a little more for thawed silverfish because the excess water— and its weight— has been drained away. I usually buy the frozen package for long-term keeping. Silverfish have little flavor on their own, but they readily absorb the flavors of other ingredients, resulting in a delicious Vietnamese salad.
Silverfish Salad with Sesame Rice Crackers (Gỏi cá) may be readied through step 3 up to 8 hours in advance. Keep the fish and vegetables in separate covered containers in the refrigerator, and return them to room temperature before finishing the salad.