Food File: Goi Ca Mai (Vietnamese Raw Fish Salad)

One of the local specialties of Vung Tau, an hour’s ferry ride from Ho Chi Minh City, is a Vietnamese raw fish salad called gỏi cá mai.

Darling Man doesn’t know the English word for cá mai but I think this small fish is called whitebait in Australia.

Gỏi cá mai is one of those wonderful interactive Vietnamese dishes, where you create your own little wrap and roll heaven.

Like ceviche, the cá mai is “cooked” in lime juice, coated with a bit of roasted rice flour and mixed with slices of onion and crushed peanuts.

The raw fish “salad” is served with a beautiful pile of fresh Vietnamese balm, lettuce, strips of cucumber and slices of green banana and starfruit. Alongside the fish salad and the herbs is a small plate of rice paper and a wonderful sweet and sour dipping sauce.

Vietnamese raw fish salad

As soon as it’s served, it’s just a matter of compiling your wrap …

Vietnamese raw fish salad

… rolling it …

Vietnamese raw fish salad

… and dipping it…

Vietnamese raw fish salad

And yes, my sexy hand model (usually known as Darling Man) DID take a huge bite of his gỏi cá mai roll before I could snap a photo. That’s how good it is!

It’s so good that double-dipping is definitely allowed.

Various versions of gỏi cá mai are available throughout the central coastal regions of Vietnam but the best one, obviously, is available in Vung Tau.

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11 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Carmel says:

    That looks amazing. I can’t wait to eat…everything in Vietnam.
    Carmel recently posted..Christmas Dinner & a Farewell (for now)

  2. Mary Moss says:

    This looks really good. Now, for the newbie who has been in HCMC less than 5 days…where in the heck is Vung Tau?

  3. denise says:

    I have a question….when you have those do it yourself rolls, are you supposed to be given some water so you can soften the rice paper? I had them once in Hanoi and the restaurant just gave me the rice paper without anything, and I had no clue how to roll them as they were so hard!!!1

    • Barbara says:

      The answer, Denise, is “it depends”. There are many different types of rice paper. Usually the paper that bends doesn’t need water (but you need to put a LOT of filling inside to moisten it, and dip before each bite.). The rice paper that breaks when you bend it, that needs water, but usually not as much as you’d think.

      Does that help?

      • denise says:

        yes it does, and suddenly it makes sense, cos I remember trying to get the waitress to get water and she didn’t understand, then I had to use LOTS of sauce for it to soften.

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