A classic dish that makes me homesick. Caramelizing fish is a technique that my mother control like no other. Hence, the many requests from family and friends to treat them with a pan Ca kho. How often my mother explains the caramelizing technique to others, still everyone again wants this dish out of her hands. I will describe the cooking process here more extensively than usual.
This dish is called by its full Ca kho to, ‘to’ refers to the earthenware pots where the fish originally is cooked in. Stewing in caramel sauce (‘kho’) is one of the tastiest fish preparations. This cooking technique is a specialty of the Vietnamese cuisine. This dish stands or falls by the cooking process and the caramel sauce. Caramel sauce may taste bitter if it is not well made. Keep an eye on the fish while cooking for the right caramel color, so that the sauce is sufficiently absorbed by the fish.
Ca kho is also very tasty with vermicelli. Garnish with coriander and cucumber, sprinkle with a little basic fish dipping sauce. Ca kho rolled in rice paper is also delightful. Roll some fish with cilantro, cucumber and vermicelli in rice paper and dip in the basic fish dipping sauce .
- 1 dorado/sea bream: intestines removed, cut into pieces, including fish head (other types of fish like mullet or salmon)
- 1 red pepper, in large rings
- 1 shallot, cut into small wedges
- black pepper, preferably freshly ground coarse
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1½ tbsp caramel sauce Nuoc mau
- Divide the fish pieces in a pan. Add the fish sauce and sugar. Spread well over the fish. Pour the caramel sauce over the fish with chilli and stir well. Let stand for about an hour.
- Put the pan with the marinated fish on high heat. Turn the heat to soften once it starts to boil, put the lid on the pan. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the lid of the pan and move the pan so the moisture get distributed well over the fish. Place the lid on the pan and let simmer for another few minutes until it releases more moisture.
- Remove the lid from the pan, reduce the heat slightly higher and turn the fish gently. Reduce heat and let simmer without a lid.
- Sprinkle some black pepper over the fish and let the fish cook on high heat for about 1 minute.
- Put the shallots over the fish and leave it for about 5 minutes on high heat.
- Close the pan and let simmer for about 3 minutes on low heat.
- Remove the lid from the pan and cook for about 3 minutes.
- Turn up the heat again and cook another 3 minutes.
- Serve the fish on a plate. Serve with white rice and pickled vegetables such as mustard cabbage.