Braised Vietnamese Fish – Ca Kho To – Foodie Friday

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From the kitchen of One Perfect Bite…Among my favorite recipes is one from Vietnam in which fish steaks are braised in a sweet and salty sauce that’s made from fish sauce (nuoc mam) and caramel. Before you have a chance to say, “No way!” let me assure you that this is an easy and delicious dish. It’s a type of kho, a clay pot cooking method that’s used for braising meat and fish in Southeast Asia. Happily, this dish can be made in a heavy skillet on top of your stove, and, while I used salmon, any thick, meaty fish can be substituted, as long as it will fit in a tight layer in the pan. I know the addition of caramel to a savory sauce is strange to many, but I’m going to ask you to trust me. I’ve included a recipe for caramel sauce but if that intimidates you, use an equal measure of brown sugar in its place. Once made, caramel sauce will keep for about a month and I always try to have some on hand. The dish can be on the table in 30 minutes. Rice is a perfect accompaniment.

Braised Vietnamese Fish – Ca Kho Yo…from the kitchen of One Perfect Bite

Caramel sauce
1/4 cup cold water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped shallots or red onion
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped garlic
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon caramel sauce or brown sugar
1/3 cup water
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1-1/2 pounds salmon steaks or other meaty fish, about 1-inch thick
3 green onions, trimmed, white part chopped, green part cut into 2-inch pieces

1) To make caramel sauce: Combine cold water and sugar in a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Stir well. Cook, occasionally swirling sauce, until it becomes syrupy and color begins to change, about 5 to 7 minutes. When it is color of maple syrup, pour hot water down sides of pan. It will spit and splatter. Let it settle down. Stir and continue cooking until sauce is thin and smooth. Set aside to cool.
If not used immediately, transfer to a screw top jar and store at room temperature for about 1 month.
2) In a medium deep skillet, combine oil, shallots and garlic. Warm over medium-high heat until garlic becomes fragrant and starts to sizzle. Add fish sauce, sugar, caramel sauce, water and pepper; bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and sauce thickens a little. Carefully add salmon steaks. Return sauce to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Carefully turn fish, add green onions and cook for 5 minutes longer. Transfer fish and sauce to shallow bowls. Serve hot. Yield: 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from Quick and Easy Vietnamese by Nancie McDermotte

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