Tuesday, September 16, 2008


It’s sometimes called Catfish Simmered in Caramel Sauce, which I feel can be misleading. It’s not like the sugary caramel you have with flan, for example. It’s used as a savory sauce that starts out with sugar that is transformed into a deep, dark, almost burnt caramel (thus, no longer sweet or cloying). Called Nước Màu in Vietnamese, it’s like our funky version of demi-glace — in the way that it is often added to stews, braises and even stir-fries, to add color and dimension.

Ingredients: (for 4 servings, as part of a larger meal)

-1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

-4 small-med. shallots, thinly sliced

-1 lb. catfish, cut into 3/4 inch slices/steaks [with skin and bone attached] —boneless, skinless fillets will not work in this dish

-4 Tbl. fish sauce

-3 Tbl. raw sugar

-2 tsp. vegetable oil

-4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

-3-4 scallions, cut into 2- inch segments [+ 1 Tbl. oil, for garnish]

-small piece (approx. 5 oz) of pork fat (fatback), cut into thin slices

-3 Tbl. Caramel Sauce (Nước Màu) - recipe below


-In a bowl, gently toss the fish with black pepper, shallots, fish sauce and sugar. Allow to marinate for 15 min. - up to 30 minutes.

-In a separate skillet set to med. heat, add the oil and cook the pork fat until it has rendered most of it’s fat.

-Next, add the garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Be sure not to brown or burn the garlic. Set aside.

-Set your claypot on the stove and gently begin heating it on med.-low.

-Add the pork fat, garlic and any pan drippings into the claypot.

-Add the marinated fish. Pour and gently mix the caramel sauce with the fish. Turn the heat to medium.

-As soon as the pot begins to bubble, turn down the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for about 30 minute. (Check the pot at the halfway point - if it looks dry, add one or two Tbl. of water and cover again).

-At this point, the fish should be tender but still hold its shape.

-Taste the sauce and add fish sauce or sugar, if needed.

-Before serving, quickly sauté the scallions with oil and add them to the claypot.

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