Vietnamese Ca Kho Recipes

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Ca Kho Recipe: Vietnamese Braised Salmon in Caramel Sauce Recipe

Even though I live in a 9-person household, over the years baby Aria and I have become the only "omnivores". I don't know if her taste buds will change over time and she'll copy her father's vegetarian diet, but for now, Aria enjoys meat and seafood. Last evening, I prepared a typical Vietnamese meal for ourselves called "cá hồi kho nước dừa", which roughly translates to "braised salmon simmered in coconut water". As a cook and especially as a mom, I took such pleasure in watching her appreciate the meal I had prepared for her. 

The fish is cooked in a caramel sauce called "nước màu" ("colored water"), which is a "savory" sauce made of caramel where the boiling point of sugar was reached to add a brown color and to impart a slightly bitter aroma. The sauce is balanced with spicy, fresh red Thai chili peppers, ginger, nước mắm (fish sauce), whole mint leaves and green onions. My favorite way to serve this "cá kho" dish is with steamed jasmine rice and blanched Vietnamese leafy greens. It's a healthy, nutritious and complete meal. Baby Aria loved it and I'm sure you will, too. If you'd like to start with a more inexpensive fish, you could prepare the same dish with catfish or mackerel.


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Ca Kho Gung Recipe (Catfish Recipe) Recipe

Cá bông lau, "catfish" in English, is a very common fish in Vietnamese cooking. There are numerous preparations, and I've shared some in the past. Today, I prepared a caramelized sauce made of ginger and kaffir lime leaves called cá kho gừng to go with the catfish. It gives the fish a lovely light brown color.

The addition of kaffir lime leaves and red chiles gives a special zing to this seafood dish. And as usual a bowl of freshly made white jasmine rice makes a superb pairing!


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Vietnamese Braised Catfish in Fish Sauce (Ca Kho) Recipe

Cá kho literally translates to "braised fish". I cooked catfish steaks in a caramel fish sauce and let simmer until the delicate, flaky fish became an opaque white color for this fairly common Vietnamese dish.

I served the seafood dish with brown jasmine rice and leafy greens. I'm on day 2 of my "back-into-shape" plan, but don't worry, flavor is not being sacrificed!


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Ca Nuc Kho (Traditional Vietnamese Whole Mackerel in Sugarcane Sauce) Recipe

Cá nục kho mía literally translates to "mackerel braised in sugarcane sauce". It's the fish traditionally served in  a Vietnamese claypot. The dark caramel ginger sauce is made from galangal and sugarcane juice (nước mía in Vietnamese).

Mackerel is high in Omega 3 oils but can have a strong fishy flavor. There are several steps that can be taken to ensure this dish is absolutely delicious. First, when you're at the market, make sure the fish is fresh; fresh mackerel shouldn't smell fishy. Look for clear-eyed fish with bright, shiny scales. The second step is to clean the inside of the fish thoroughly in several water baths and let the fish rest in a vinegary solution for a few minutes. The last part is to use a lot of shallots and galangal, which has a sharper, more aromatic flavor than ginger. It's slightly more expensive than ginger but it's well worth it.

I served the fish with steamed jasmine rice and sautéed rau muống (Vietnamese pea shoot tendrils) with fresh chestnuts and wood ear mushrooms.


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Ca Kho (Braised Catfish in Vietnamese Fish Sauce) Recipe

Cá kho tộ ("braised fish" in Vietnamese) is delicious catfish simmered in a caramelized sauce with garlic, ginger, green onions, fish sauce and red chiles. What I love most about the dish is eating steamed jasmine rice with the sauce made with coconut soda.

I love seafood, but the vegetarians in my home aren't always happy with the aroma of fish wafting through the house. Braising fish in nước mắm gives a strong smell to this dish, so I don't make it very often, even though I love it.


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