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!
1. Info for Ca Kho Gung Recipe (Catfish Recipe)
- Cook Time: 30 mins
- Total Time: 50 mins
- Servings: 6
- Calories: 422 kcal
2. Ingredients for Ca Kho Gung Recipe (Catfish Recipe)
- 6 catfish steaks, boneless and skinless
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 4 green onions, cut into 2″ pieces
- 1 (3-inch) chunk freshly grated ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed and finely minced
- 2 kaffir lime leaves, torn in half
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce, to taste
- ¾ teaspoon red chili powder, to taste
- 4 red Thai bird chiles
- 1 (12-ounce) can coconut soda (or water)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 teaspoon mushroom seasoning salt (or regular salt)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Prepping the catfish steaks: Ask your fishmonger to prep 6 fish steaks. Make sure they still have the skin on. Carefully pick out all bones (pin and belly) using tweezers. Rinse thoroughly under running water. Place them in a deep dish. Barely cover with water and add lemon juice. Mix well and let stand for about 5 minutes. Discard the water. Pat dry using paper towels. Sprinkle with red chili powder. Drizzle with a little oil. Marinate the fish for no more than 30 minutes. Use a wok with its matching lid. Add 3 tablespoons of canola oil. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and half the amount of ginger. Cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the green onions and cook for 2 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Pat the fish dry one more time. Using a brush, lightly coat the catfish with oil and dredge them in flour on both sides. Place 3 fish steaks at a time into the hot wok. Pan-sear for a minute; flip the fish and sear the other side for an additional minute. Transfer the fish to a platter. Set aside. Making caramel: In the wok, dissolve the honey with 1 tablespoon coconut soda and cook with the kaffir lime leaves and the chiles for about 2-3 minutes over high heat, then slowly add the fish sauce, stirring constantly. Return the green onions to the wok. Note: I added the chiles whole so the dish has a nice aroma. If you like the dish spicy, finely chop one of the chiles and add to the caramel sauce. Make sure not to rub your eyes after touching chile pepper seeds. Add the catfish to the caramel. Add the rest of the coconut soda to barely cover the fish steaks. Bring to a boil, then lower to a gentle simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. Keep stirring every now and then (delicately flipping the fish occasionally and adding more sugar juice as it evaporates). Be careful; this fish falls apart very easily and and is flaky. Season with mushroom seasoning salt.
- Check the doneness of the fish (add another ½ cup of water and cook a bit longer if not fully cooked). The caramel-colored gravy should be thin. Adjust seasoning with more mushroom seasoning salt (if necessary) and black pepper. Cook for an additional 10 minutes over low-heat. Check doneness. Transfer to a serving platter. Discard the kaffir lime leaves. Serve immediately with jasmine rice and Vietnamese sautéed greens.
- Eat with chopsticks!