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Vietnamese Braised Fish - Ca Kho

Vietnamese Braised Fish - Ca Kho

3-4 Servings

00:05 Prep

00:45 Cook

Moderate - You'll be right!

A traditional Vietnamese braised fish dish, infusing barramundi with the aromatic flavours of fish sauce, anchovy salt and the sweetness of young coconut water.

Ca kho or ca kho to (Vietnamese braised fish) is a dish you’ll commonly find on the dinner table in Vietnamese households. To us, this sweet, sticky, and savoury dish often evokes a sense of nostalgia—particularly when served with freshly steamed rice, alongside seasonal leafy greens and a canh (Vietnamese soup).  

Mum would have this dish on rotation and the variety of fish would change depending on what was in season and affordable. She typically made ca kho with semi-firm to firm white fish such as snapper, cod, mackerel and barramundi. To feed our family of four, she’d often purchase a whole fish to save money, and have the fishmonger cut it up into large cutlets for braising.

Whenever she made this dish, there was a certain part of the fish that I was quite partial to: the fish collars or sometimes referred to as fish wings. The fish wing is often overlooked as its meat is encased by bones but within it you’ll find the most succulent and delicate parts of the fish.

Fish wings are sometimes discarded so be sure to enquire about them the next time you are speaking to your local fishmonger; you should be able to snap them up for a bargain. They can be grilled, pan fried, barbecued or in this case, braised. In this recipe, I exclusively use fish wings but you can substitute them for fillets or other parts of the fish.

When braised using this traditional Vietnamese method, the natural flavours of the fish complement the high levels of umami in the Son fish sauce and anchovy salt, and natural sweetness of the young coconut water.

If you’re partial to fish collars or wings like I am or would like to give them a go for the first time, do yourself a favour and give this delicious Vietnamese fish dish a go to experience the authentic flavours and aromas that emanate from Vietnamese households.

Vietnamese Braised Fish - Ca Kho
Vietnamese Braised Fish - Ca Kho

Ingredients:

  • 500g barramundi wings

  • 4 tablespoons premium fish sauce

  • ½ teaspoon Duncan Lu Anchovy Salt

  • 2 birds eye chillies (optional)

  • 1 knob ginger

  • 3 cloves garlic

  • 1 bunch spring onions

  • 2 tablespoons neutral cooking oil

  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar

  • 1 young coconut or 300ml coconut water

  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Method:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, marinate barramundi with fish sauce, anchovy salt and whole chillies.

  2. In a mortar and pestle, crush ginger, garlic and spring onion stalks (reserve the green tops for garnishing), then add to the mixing bowl and allow to marinate for 15 minutes.

  3. In the meantime, in a large heavy based saucepan or casserole pot add cooking oil and sugar, and simmer on low-medium until sugar caramelises.

  4. Once the sugar caramel turns copper in colour, immediately add the barramundi and its marinade and sauté for a few minutes or until the aromatics are fragrant.

  5. Deglaze with the water from a young coconut, top up with a splash of cold water to cover as required. Bring to the boil then braise on low to medium heat, turning fish occasionally for 15 minutes or until liquid thickens into a sticky sauce. Add freshly cracked pepper and stir in gently to finish the braise.
    Duncan’s tip: Add the young coconut flesh to the pot for a creamy and nutty touch. 

  6. Garnish with spring onion tops cut into batons and fresh chilli 

  7. Serve with freshly steamed rice and fresh cucumber or seasonal leafy greens on the side.

Duncan’s tip: Serve a Vietnamese home-style soup on the side for the complete Vietnamese home dining experience.

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