Dill & Lemongrass Flavored Ladyfish Paste – Chả Cá Măng với Thì Là và Sả

Two-years-old chef Ethan loves eating fish, and one of his favorites is my ladyfish fish cakes and fish balls. I used three pounds of ladyfish meat to create six variations in this pictorial recipe. His favorite version is the steamed, non-spicy, lemongrass flavored fish balls.


  • 3 lb ladyfish meat
  • 7 Tbsp Viet Huong fish sauce
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp white pepper
  • 5 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1.5 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup chopped scallion
  • 5 shallots or 1/2 cup minced shallots
  • 3 Tbsp lemongrass powder
  • 1 Tbsp dill weed
  • 3 Thai chilies
  • 1 tsp homemade chili paste
  • 3 Tbsp IHA baking powder
  • extra vegetable oil for frying


1. Gather and measure out the ingredients.

2. Marinate the fish paste with the following. Set aside the chili peppers, dill weed, and lemongrass powder for later use.

3. Now with the 3 pound of ladyfish paste, mama took over the rest of the pictorial. Divide the fish paste into 3 equal portions in three bowls which average out to about 1.2 lb of fish paste after adding the previous ingredients in. In one bowl, add the dill weed. In the another bowl, add the lemongrass. In the third bowl, add the lemongrass and chili peppers. Blend the herbs into the paste well. I used my hands to fold the herb into the paste evenly.

4. Then use a tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop the paste up to form a ball. Remember to coat your hands with some vegetable oil to prevent the fish paste from sticking to your hands. Roll the fish paste into a ball the size of a golf ball or ping pong ball. This is how many fish balls I was able to roll with this batch.

5. Chef Ethan likes steamed fish balls so I steamed at least half a batch from each plate first for him. Steaming tip: I filled up the base with about 2 inches of water and bring it to a boil first. I placed the fish balls in a steam tray making sure the fish balls doesn’t touch one another. When the water boils, I put the steam tray on and steam it on medium high heat for about 8 minutes.

6. I fried the rest of the fish balls in my 14-inch Hexclad wok. I waited for the oil to be hot first and then put the fish balls in to fry on medium high to medium heat for about 2 minutes on each side or until it’s golden. Cut one in half to check if it’s done to your preference.

Chef Ethan prefers the steamed, non-spicy, lemongrass flavored ladyfish balls. Enjoy!

Flowers blooming in my garden right now include (left to right): SunPatiens, French marigold, pansy, Cassia Senna Bicapsularis, and Tibouchina Granulosa
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