This warm pot of caramelized and braised catfish is a comforting, delicious, and healthy dinner idea that’s sure to be a hit with family and friends. In this recipe, I’ll teach you how to make the best authentic Cá Kho Tộ, one of my favorite Vietnamese fish dishes!
Braised Catfish Fillets
Catfish is a wonderful choice of fish for braising because it’s full of healthy fats and stays moist throughout the braising process. It’s incredibly satisfying to bite into the firm and juicy braised catfish meat when it’s freshly cooked!
Farmed catfish in particular have a pleasant, slightly sweet flavor that really harmonizes with the rich and savory sauce. Because the taste of farmed catfish is mild, it’s a great canvas for stronger flavors and a good choice for both the fish-lovers and the fish-averse.
I like to buy my catfish frozen, but if you can choose to buy your catfish whole and fillet it yourself, you can use the heads and tails to make Canh Chua, a sweet and sour fish soup that is a classic pairing with Cá Kho Tộ. As you can see, Vietnamese cooking is very resourceful! No food goes to waste.
Braising Vietnamese Food in a Clay Pot
Braised dishes are common comfort food in Vietnam. There are few things better than the feeling of dipping into a warm bowl of braised meat and a rich sauce with a side of freshly cooked steamed rice.
The best and most authentic way to prepare Vietnamese braised dishes is by using a clay pot, so I highly recommend purchasing one if you love braising. You can make excellent Cá Kho Tộ, Thịt Kho Tiêu, Gà Kho Gừng, and more. But if you don’t have a clay pot available, you can get similar results by using a Dutch oven.
What to Serve with Vietnamese Caramelized Catfish (Cá Kho Tộ)?
Canh Chua and Cá Kho Tộ are a quintessential pairing at Vietnamese dinner tables. They’re both fish dishes but utilize very different flavors and textures – Cá Kho Tộ features soft catfish meat in a rich, sweet, and savory sauce while Canh Chua is a vibrant, sweet, and sour seafood broth with an array of fresh vegetables. Let me know if you want to see my Canh Chua recipe on the blog!
The catfish in both dishes brings them together while their strongly contrasting flavors and textures create a dynamic dining experience. So you can see why this is a classic combination for Vietnamese people! Of course, both of these are also best enjoyed with a serving of steamed rice to soak up the lovely sauce and seafood broth.
Top the braised fish with some chopped green onions and freshly ground black pepper, and be sure to add some Thai chili peppers before reducing the sauce for some kick and a pop of color. So delicious. If I have to choose a last meal for myself, this may be it. Haha!
Vietnamese Caramel Braised Catfish Recipe | Clay Pot Cá Kho Tộ
- 2 lbs Catfish
- 3 tbsp Sugar
- 3 tbsp Fish Sauce
- 1 tbsp Minced Garlic
- ½ tsp. Black pepper
- 2 tbsp Sugar
- 1-2 tbsp Fish Sauce (if needed – taste test to your liking)
- Chopped Green Onions
- ½ tsp Black Pepper
- Wash Catfish thoroughly with salt and vinegar.
- Marinate Catfish with sugar, fish sauce, minced garlic and black pepper.
- Marinate for 20-30 minutes.
- Start cooking by making the caramel sauce. Add 2 tbsp of sugar to your pot. A clay pot would be most authentic for this dish.
- Over medium heat, melt the sugar. Keep stirring the sugar and keep a close eye so it doesn’t burn. Once sugar has a beautiful amber caramel color, add the Catfish and try to get the caramel sauce on all sides of the fish.
- Add the remaining ingredients and liquid from the marinade sauce.
- Put lid on and cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Turn fish so all sides have a change to take on a gorgeous color. Put lid back on and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
- Now taste test and season to your liking. We usually add another tbsp of fish sauce at this time.
- Cook without lid on for 5 minutes so sauce can thicken up.
- Add chopped onions, hot Thai Chili peppers and black pepper. Ready to serve!