Ca Kho To, or Vietnamese Braised Fish, is a classic comfortable Vietnamese dish that is savory, healthy, and takes less than 15 minutes to put together.
🍳 Why Make This Recipe
- It's healthy and delicious, perfect for anyone who wants to eat some Healthy Vietnamese Food
- Super simple and quick – it only takes about 15 minutes to put together!
- Delicious umami flavor that is characteristic of Vietnamese cuisine
💭 What is Ca Kho To?
Ca Kho To, or Vietnamese Caramelized Fish, is a delicious Vietnamese dish consisting of a braised white fish simmered in a delicious umami caramelized sauce.
Traditionally, the dish is served in a clay pot and with a side of rice.
If you like umami fish recipes, you should also check out my Thai Chili Salmon recipe.
🍏 Calories and Nutrition Facts - How to Make It Healthy
Ca kho to is naturally quite healthy given that it consists of ingredients that are naturally low in calories already.
The main base ingredient of this dish is white fish, which is a great lean-protein source with many health benefits. Portion it with a delicious braising sauce and you've got yourself a delicious healthy meal.
A serving of Ca Kho To is only 353 calories, with 62 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, and 14 grams of carbs.
The only thing to keep in mind is portion control, especially for the sauce. Here's how I portioned it.
- Used 12 oz of cod, a lean white fish, to bulk up on protein content
- Portioned sauce ingredients to be only 73 calories
For a detailed breakdown of each ingredients, their portioning, and how they make up the nutrition profile of the ca kho to recipe, you may refer to the table below:
📋 Ingredient Notes
Stir Fry Sauce
- Fish Sauce – A keystone part of the sauce. I would not recommend omitting this ingredient, and there are not really any good substitutes. You can easily pick up fish sauce at most major grocery stores or order off of Amazon. Three Crabs Fish Sauce is my favorite brand.
- Oyster Sauce – You can also substitute with dark soy sauce.
- Sugar – Traditionally, this dish is made with palm sugar, but brown or white sugar would also work.
- White Fish – This dish is traditionally made with cat fish, but any white fish would work. I made this with black cod, which I find to be much softer and flakier.
- Thai chilis – Optional, adjust based on spice tolerance. I would recommend 1 chili for a mild spice, 2-3 for a medium spice, and anything more than that will be quite heavy
See my recipe card below for a complete list of the ingredients with measurements.
📖 Substitutions and Variations
Use Other White Fish Basa – Cat fish, Basa, cod, or any other white fish would work. Even salmon work, but not the higher calorie content of salmon.
Ca Kho To in a Clay Pot – You can cook it in a clay pot, as it is traditionally done.
Without Oyster Sauce – You can use soy sauce with a teaspoon of additional sugar, or dark soy sauce.
Make Spicier or Not Spicy – Omit the Thai chili(s) for a non spicy dish, or use fresno chilis or red pepper flights for a milder spice.
🔪 Step by Step Instructions
Prepare the fish – Start by cutting the fish into bite size pieces.
Start the sauce – Mix all the sauce ingredients (except the sugar) in a bowl and set aside.
Sauté the sugar and veggies – Begin to sauté the sugar for about 1-2 minutes, then add garlic, onions, carrots, and Thai chilis in a pan with cooking spray.
Make the sauce – Once the vegetables have softened, start to create the sauce by pouring in the sauce ingredients except water. Taste and adjust if needed. Once the sauce ingredients have mixed well together, add water as needed so that there is enough braising liquid for the fish.
Braise the fish – Place the catfish pieces in a single layer. Bring the heat down to low and allow the fish to simmer in the sauce for about 3-4 minutes each side, or until the sauce begins to reduce.
Serve – Remove from heat, garnish with scallions, and enjoy!
💡 Expert Tips
Use a spatula – The fish will become very flaky and soft while cooking. Use a spatula to flip the fish pieces to prevent the fish from breaking.
Use a softer white fish – You don't have to make this with white fish! If you prefer softer, flakier fish, you can opt for something like Cod or Rock Fish.
Be wary of the sugar burning – letting the sugar over burn can quickly turn a delicious dish into something else
💭 Recipe FAQs
I used cat fish here but any white fish could do . Other alternatives could include bass or tilapia, to name a few. Check out this article from the Kitchn on How to Choose the Best Whitefish for more tips and potential substitutions.
No, as you can see from the photos, a clay pot is NOT mandatory. In fact, most restaurants actually cook the fish in a skillet and move it in the clay pot for serving.
This dish is best consumed fresh. I would nor recommend storing it for more than 1-2 days in the fridge before eating.
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Ca Kho to Recipe (Vietnamese Caramelized Fish)
Stir Fry Sauce
- 1.5 tablespoon Oyster sauce
- 1.5 tablespoon Fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- ¼ cup Water
- Sprinkle of white pepper
- 12 oz Cod (Or other white fish)
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 1-2 Thai chilis (Optional: adjust based on spice tolerance)
- ½ Shallots
- Scallions and Red Pepper (For garnish)
- Start by cutting the fish into bite size pieces.
- Mix all the sauce ingredients (except the sugar) in a bowl and set aside.
- Begin to sauté the sugar for about 1-2 minutes, then add garlic, onions, and thai chilis in a pan with cooking spray.
- Once the vegetables have softened, start to create the sauce by pouring in the sauce ingredients except water. Taste and adjust if needed. Once the sauce ingredients have mixed well together, add water as needed so that there is enough braising liquid for the fish.
- Place the catfish pieces in a single layer. Bring the heat down to low and allow the fish to simmer in the sauce for about 3-4 minutes each side, or until the sauce begins to reduce.
- Remove from heat, garnish with scallions and pepper, and enjoy!