Vietnamese people use fish as the main dish in their meals. Fish and its processing has been being an indispensable part of these locals’ cuisine as they usually say “rice and fish like mom and her child”.
The main ingredients
Fish can be processed into various dishes such as dried and boiled fish, but the most outstanding one is the dish of fish simmered in coconut milk. Coconut is one of the “five fruits” which can not be missed on the southern people’s altar at Tet (Lunar New Year) festival.
Besides, coconut is a high nutrient and curative fruit: it helps reduce cholesterol in human blood and is good for digestion as well, that explains why coconut palm is a favorite plant in many countries, in Malaysia it is called “pokok seribu guna” means “plant with thousand uses” or in Philippines it is “plant of life”.
Coconut can also be used in other braised dish such as braised caramelised pork or chicken.
How to make it
Sometimes we just get tired of eating out and long for home style dishes that our moms use to make while growing up. Nothing reminds us more of our childhood memories more then ca kho to (Vietnamese Braised Fish in Clay Pot). While pho may be a special treat to eat on occassional weekends, ca kho to is a dish that families routinely eat on a regular basis. The sweet, savory and gooey goodness of the caramelized sauce of this dish is almost good enough to stand on it’s own mixed with plenty of jasmine rice.
In Vietnam, ca kho to is often cooked in a brown clay pot to retain heat and help in the caramelizing process, but this isn’t essential. We like to use our Korean stone pot, but any thick pan or dutch oven that retains heat will do just as well. Typically catfish is used, but really any variety of fish can be used. Catfish is great for braising since it has a higher fat content, rendering it moist but still retaining it’s shape during the braise. Some recipes even call for braising some pork belly with the fish as well. While it’s easy to make your own caramel sauce, we like to use the premade one since we use it for so many other things as well.
• 1lb fish fillet, trout or haddock
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
• 1 red chili.
• 2 tablespoons fish sauce
• 4 ounces coconut milk
1- Heat oil, gently fry the fish.
2- Add fish sauce, pepper, chili and coconut milk.
3- Simmer for 30 minutes over low heat until the fish is cooked and coconut milk mostly evaporates
4- Remove the fish fillets and place on a serving dish. Sprinkle with pepper.
This dish is best served with hot rice. If you have a clay pot, that would be ideal to make this dish.
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