Saturday, May 29, 2010

Braised Sea Bass Claypot/ Ca Kho To

Of course, you all know I love food. I love baking, I love cooking, I love eating, I love gawking, I love just the smell of it all. My ultimate favorite type of food though, is Vietnamese. It's probably because I am Vietnamese, but hey, we have some good eats.
This dish is one of my absolute favorites! It's fish that is caramelized in a claypot so it's sweet and salty at the same time; the ultimate combination, I think. Traditionally it is made with catfish, but at my work they upscale it and make it with Chilean Sea Bass so I decided to give that a try. It was still just as delicious and uberly buttery and rich. The perfect accompaniment with rice, especially with all that deliciously sweet sauce.
Braised Sea Bass Claypot/ Ca Kho To
Yields: 4 servings

For the caramel:
1/4 cup water
2 tbsn. sugar

For the sauce:
1 tbsn. oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup coconut water
1/4 cup water

1 1/2 lb. sea bass filets, about 1/4 inch thick
Black pepper, to taste
3 - 5 dried thai chilis
1 green onion, julienned (for garnish)

Clean the fish filets and pat dry. Rub the filets with black pepper, to taste; set aside. In a medium saucepan, add the oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and lightly brown, about 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients for the sauce and heat over medium heat until begins to bubble and reduces slightly, about 5 - 7 minutes, then turn off the heat and set aside.

In a medium sized pan, combine the sugar and water for the caramel sauce. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves and starts to brown. As soon as the sugar mixture turns a light brown, add the filets and sear the fish on each side for 1 - 2 minutes. The sugar mixture should be darker in color and caramelized on the fish filets.

Remove the fish and add to a claypot (which is traditionally used but not necessary) or keep in the same pan. Cover with the braising sauce then add the thai chilis and cover. Cook on medium high heat for 5 - 7 minutes or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily. Top with the green onions and serve with rice. Enjoy!


  1. yumm this looks good

  2. wow, i'm going to need to try this!

    I'm wondering how much of a difference the clay pot makes in the flavor, if any?
    I have never cooked with them but read some interesting articles/recipes involving using them.


  3. Michelle, that looks great. My wife got me into anything claypot, anything fish. Nice photos. BTW, i have a new mix up on my blog.

  4. This must be the worse recipe ever to follow. The recipe is flawed, the quantity of fish sauce is insane. You can salt a whole ocean with that amount. I would use just 1/8 of cup of fish sauce, that is if you want to use fish sauce at all. Cooking fish sauce will stink your home for a whole week. I would seared the fish in oil to give a golden color before even putting it in the caramelized sugar. Doing it without oil would just boil the fish without any color. I tried following this recipe and I end up throwing $30 of fish in the garbage and ordered pizza after. Then I had to pump air freshener in the house for a whole week before the smell turned back to normal. I'm Vietnamese and my mom used to make the same thing when I was young. It was simple and delicious. Nothing like this nightmare.