What I love most about food is that every dish has a story. Whenever I watch one of my favorite food shows on Netflix, every chef always has a story about how a dish reminds them of their childhood. Like literally every chef! I think it’s because childhood is one of the best times in your life where you don’t really have a care in the world. For me, there are so many dishes like that. On really cold days like today, I dream about Canh Chua and Ca Kho To.
Canh Chua is a sweet and sour tamarind soup, and Ca Kho To is Vietnamese caramelized catfish. They are very traditional Vietnamese dishes that aren’t served very often in restaurants, so if I want them, I need to make them. I haven’t gotten to writing a Canh Chua recipe yet, but I did have time for a ca kho to recipe this week! So here it is!
What is catfish?
Catfish is not necessarily a fish that people speak fondly of. Even me. It’s a scavenger that feeds off of dead fish parts at the bottom of lakes or oceans. That’s why the meat has a natural muddy flavor. Anything you make with catfish has to have strong flavors to counteract its natural essence. That’s why this recipe is perfect. It includes fish sauce, soy sauce, and a few cloves of garlic.
What does kho mean?
Kho is a method of cooking in Vietnamese cuisine where protein such as beef, chicken, or fish is braised in fish sauce and sugar over low heat. Some popular recipes using this cooking method include thit kho, bo kho, and ca hoi kho. Not only does it make food taste so good, but it’s also an easy way to make a tasty dinner in less than an hour and requires very few ingredients.
Making my ca kho to recipe
This ca kho to recipe is so easy to make! And yes you can do this on a weeknight. First you gotta marinate the fish for 10 minutes in soy sauce and fish sauce. Then heat some oil over medium heat. Make sure to use a small pan because you want the liquid to come up halfway up the fish. Add in your shallots and cook for a few seconds. Then add in your catfish with the marinade, coconut water, and a little more fish sauce. Bring the liquid to a boil and lower to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes and then turn the fish over and simmer for another 10 minutes. Top with black pepper and you’re done!
Notes about this ca kho to recipe
This dish is best eaten with white rice. The rice that I have is the Nishiki Premium rice. It’s literally the best! You can also substitute with quinoa for a dinner that’s a little bit healthier. Another thing to note about this recipe is that it is NOT gluten free. To turn this into a gluten free recipe, substitute soy sauce with tamari.
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Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Caramelized Catfish)
- Marinate catfish in the soy sauce and fish sauce for 10 minutes.
- After the fish is done marinating, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add in the shallots and cook until shiny and translucent (about 30 seconds). Then add in the garlic and coconut sugar, and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add in the marinated catfish, the marinade, and the coconut water. Bring the liquid to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer.
- Simmer for 20 minutes with the pan uncovered. Leaving the pan uncovered will let the fish braise and thicken the sauce at the same time.
- After 20 minutes, flip over the fish and add in the green onions. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the fish every 3 minutes. Once done, top it off with black pepper.
- Serve over white rice and enjoy!
- Substitute soy sauce with tamari to make this recipe gluten free. Dark soy sauce can also be substituted with regular soy sauce.
- Light brown sugar can be substituted with dark brown sugar or coconut sugar.
- Coconut water can be substituted with regular water.