Vietnamese Caramelised Fish (Ca Kho To)


For this recipe I wanted to create a super simple Vietnamese fish dish called Ca Kho To. This dish is traditionally braised fish on the bone in a claypot, however, for this recipe I wanted to make a much easier and faster version by using a pan and by using salmon fillets. This dish is slightly sour, spicy and sweet with a distinct caramel, fish sauce braise. Let's cook!

Cook Time: 15 minutes / Prep Time 10 minutes

To serve 2


2 salmon fillets

2 shallots

3 garlic cloves

4 spring onions

2 limes

6-8 birdseye chillies

2 tbsp white sugar

2 tbsp fish sauce

75ml water


Vegetables and salmon:

  1. Let's begin by preparing all of the vegetables, finely slice 2 shallots, mince 3 garlic cloves, roughly chop 4 spring onions, slice 2 limes into 1/2 and pick a handful of birdseye chillies. Place all of the prepared ingredients separately to one side and we can begin to cook.


2. For the salmon begin by ensuring the fillets are free from any bones and the scales have been removed. Next, season with flakey sea salt then place a large enough pan to cook the salmon onto a high heat.

3. When the pan is hot, add a small drizzle of cooking oil then carefully add the salmon skin side down. Sear on the skin side for 2 minutes or until crispy then turn the salmon over and sear for an additional 30 seconds to sear. We are not looking to completely cook the salmon at this stage and we are only want the salmon to become crispy. Remove the seared salmon from the pan and set to one side for now.

4. Place the same pan that we seared the salmon back onto a high heat then add 2 tbsp of white sugar. Cook out the sugar for 3-4 minutes or until the sugar dissolves and a light caramel is formed. To the caramel we now want to add the chopped shallots and garlic then briefly cook in the caramel. When fragrant add 2 tbsp fish sauce and approximately 75mls of water then reduce the liquid by half.

5. When reduced by half add the seared salmon back into the pan and continue to reduce until the salmon is cooked and the sauce becomes glaze like.

6. When ready baste the salmon with the glaze then add a handful of whole birdseye chillies. Remove from heat then finish the salmon with a squeeze of fresh lime.

7. To serve add the salmon to serving bowls then drizzle the glaze and chillies over the top. Serve with some freshly steamed rice or fresh cucumber on the side and nourish! Hope you like this super simple Vietnamese comfort food recipe!

Additional notes:

As mentioned in the description this dish traditionally uses fish that is on the bone. You can either apply this recipe to small whole fish or various fish that is cut on the bone such as a darne. As for what types of fish to use then catfish is more traditional, however bream, seabass, prawns are just a few to name additional fish that could also be used. If you have a claypot then most definitely use this instead of a pan to cook the fish and braise.I hope you like this recipe and peace as always!

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