Wonderfully easy and tasty, this southern-style dish, called ca kho to, is a classic in most Vietnamese homes. In the south, clay pots are regularly used for cooking and they enhance both the look and taste of this traditional dish. However, you can use any heavy pot or pan. It is delicious served with chunks of baguette to mop up the caramelized, smoky sauce at the bottom of the pot, but you could easily serve it with steamed rice or vegetables.
Clay Pot Catfish
Ingredients : Serves 4
- 30 ml: Sugar
- 15 ml: Sesame or vegetable oil
- 2 cloves: Garlic, crushed
- 45 ml: Nuoc mam
- 4: Catfish fillets, cut diagonally into 2 or 3 pieces
- 1/4 teaspoon: Spring onions (scallions), cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 sprig: Ground black pepper
- Fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped, for garnishing
- Tip the sugar into a clay pot or heavy pan. Add 15 ml water to wet it. Heat the sugar until it begins to brown, then add the oil and garlic.
- Stir the nuoc mam into the caramel mixture and add 120 ml boiling water, then toss in the catfish pieces, making sure they are well coated with the sauce.
- Cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Remove the lid, season with black pepper and gently stir in the spring onions.
- Simmer for a further 3-4 minutes to thicken the sauce.
- Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
- Serve immediately straight from the pot.
When using traditional clay pot, always use a low to medium heat and heat the pot slowly, otherwise there is a risk of cracking it. They are designed t be used over a flame, so if using an electric stove, use a heat diffuser.
Very tasty and authentic steamed fish. This dish does not take the long time and quite easy to cook but it’s taste and quality can be unbelievable. The ginger, pepper, chilly and soy sauce is the most important spices for this dish.
Steamed fish with soya sauce
Ingredients : Serves 4
- 500 g: Sea bass, cleaned
- 1/4 teaspoon: Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon: Ground white pepper
- 100 g: Pork, thinly sliced
- 1: Spring onion (scallion), cut into 2.5 cm lengths
- 2.5 cm: Ginger knob, peeled and julienned
- ½: Onion, peeled and sliced
- 2 tablespoons: Preserved soy beans
- 1 tablespoon: Light soy sauce
- 2: Red chilies, julienned
- 1 teaspoon: Sugar
- 250 ml: Water or stock
- Make diagonal cuts on both sides of fish.
- Marinate with salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Leave for 15 minutes.
- Mix pork with spring onion, ginger, onion, preserved soy beans, light soy sauce, chilies, sugar, remaining pepper and water or stock. Place on top of fish.
- Steam for 15 minutes or until fish is cooked.
- Serve hot with steamed rice.
You can also use any white fish filled if you prefer not to use a whole fish for this recipe.
The north of Vietnam is well known for its use of pungent herbs, so much so that a dish of the ever-popular noodles can be served plain, dressed only with coriander and basil. There are many herbs that are indigenous to this northern region and virtually impossible to find outside Vietnam, but one herb that is easily available and used in many northern-style fish dishes is dill. In this classic dish from Hanoi, cha ca Hanoi, the dill is just as important as the fish and they complement each other beautifully. A simple accompaniment of plain rice or noodles is all that is needed to make an impressive meal.
Cha Ca Hanoi
Cha Ca Street - There is a street in Hanoi called Cha Ca Street, where all the restaurants specialize in this dish. The most famous is Cha Ca La Vong, a tiny restaurant that has been owned by the same family for generations and which claims to have first popularized cha ca. This recipe usually uses the local Red River fish, carp and catfish, and is served with piquant dipping sauces such as mam tong tom made with pineapple and dried shrimp, or nuoc cham.
Ingredients : Serves 4
- 75 g: Rice flour
- 7.5 ml: Ground turmeric
- 500 g: White fish fillets, such as cod skinned and cut into bite-size chunks
- 3 tablespoons: Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 1 large bunch: Fresh dill
- 15 ml: Groundnut (peanut) oil
- 30 ml: Roasted peanuts
- 4: Spring onions (scallions), cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 small bunch: Fresh basil, stalks removed, leaves chopped
- 1 small bunch: Fresh coriander (cilantro), stalks removed
- 1: Lime, cut into quarters
- Nuoc cham sauce, to serve
- Mix the flour with the turmeric and toss the fish chunks in it until well coated. Heat the oil in a wok or heavy pan and cook the fish in batches until crisp and golden.
- Drain on kitchen paper.
- Scatter some of the dill fronds on a serving dish, arrange the fish on top and keep warm.
- Chop some of the remaining dill fronds and set aside for garnishing.
- Heat the groundnut oil in a small pan or wok. Stir in the peanuts and cook for 1 minute.
- Add the spring onions, the remaining dill fronds, basil and coriander.
- Stir fry for no more than 30 seconds, then spoon the herbs and peanuts over the fish.
- Garnish with the chopped dill and serve with lime wedges and nuoc cham to drizzle over the top.