This is a classic southern Vietnamese “kho” dish. “Kho” is a type of dish that is braised in a thick, mildly sweet reddish-brown-colored sauce containing caramelized sugar and fish sauce. Catfish steaks are simmering in the sauce for an hours, absorbing a deep savory flavor tinged with sweetness.

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For a great result, buy a whole fresh catfish at a local Vietnamese or Chinese grocery market, then ask the fishmonger to clean the fish and cut it into 3/4 inch slices for you. Use the center cut slices for this dish and the head, tail pieces you can use to make Fish stock. This dish is served over rice, for a best taste, combine a small piece of fish, some rice and a bit of sauce on each bite you eat.

Ingredients for Caramelized Catfish – Cá Kho Tộ
1 1/2 – 2 lb whole catfish
2 clove garlic, ground
3 shallots, diced
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp Asian fish sauce
1 bird’s eye chili, sliced
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 scallion, sliced

Place the catfish flat on a board. Using a cleaver or large knife, remove the tail, fins, and head from the fish. Cut the fish from the tail into 3/4 inch sections.

Put the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat, add the garlic and shallots to the oil, and fry until garlic turns golden brown. Strain the oil through a fine metal sieve into a small clay pot, discarding the garlic and shallots.

Add the sugar and 1 tbsp of water to the clay pot over medium heat. Cook for about 5 mins to make a rich, dark caramel, then add the fish. Seal the fish on all sides in the caramel, then add the salt, fish sauce and 3 tbsp of water and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat slightly and continue to cook the fish for about 5 mins, or until cooked through. Garnish this dish with the scallion, chili and black pepper.

Serves 4

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