Silverfish Salad with Sesame Rice Crackers (Goi Ca)

  • Preparation: 20 mins
  • Cooking: 20 mins
  • Skill level: Easy
  • Servings: 4

Description Silverfish Salad with Sesame Rice Crackers (Gỏi Cá)

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.


  • 1 ½ pounds thawed silverfish (from a 2-pound frozen block)
  • 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely shredded
  • About 1 ½ cups distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Vietnamese coriander or cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds , toasted
  • ½ teaspoon Mellow Chile-Garlic Mix , optional
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (1 or 2 limes)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
  • 4 Toasted Sesame Rice Crackers , broken into shards

Method Silverfish Salad with Sesame Rice Crackers (Gỏi Cá)

1, Place the silverfish in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to drain well.
2, Cook the fish in 2 batches to ensure even cooking. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil and half of the garlic over medium heat. When the garlic is sizzling and golden, add half of the fish and increase the heat to high. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the fish turn from silver to white and take on a firm texture and a definite shape. Pour the cooked fish into a sieve placed over a bowl (or a colander in the sink) and let drain and cool. Repeat with remaining oil, garlic, and fish. Transfer the drained fish to a large bowl.
3, While the fish are cooling, in a bowl, combine the onion and carrot with the vinegar to cover and set aside for 15 minutes; the vinegar will reduce the harshness of the onion and soften the carrot. Drain, rinse under cold running water, and drain again.
4, Add the onion, carrot, Vietnamese coriander, peanuts, sesame seeds, and chili-garlic mix to the fish. Toss well to distribute all the ingredients evenly. Combine the lime juice, sugar, and fish sauce in a small bowl, stir to dissolve the sugar, and then add to the fish. Toss well again. Taste and adjust the flavors to your liking, balancing the sour, sweet, salty, and spicy. Mound on individual plates or a platter and surround with some of the rice cracker shards. Serve the remaining shards on the side. At the table, invite guests to scoop up the salad with the cracker shards.

Chef's Note

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.

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