Ca Kho To Recipe – Vietnamese Caramelized and Braised Catfish

Do you know the Vietnamese traditional Ca Kho To recipe ?

To in ca kho the in the word ca kho to is the clay pot the dish is traditionally cooked in. I do not have any clay pans in my kitchen and I’m betting that most of you don’t have one either, so we’ll cheat and cook this in a good old good old non-stick pan.

The old restaurant where my mom worked served ca kho cooked in clay, but she confessed to me that it was made in a skillet, and was then transferred to the pot. They even warmed the clay pot in order to trick the unsuspecting customers into thinking it was the real cooking vessel. Wow. (shh!)

This was a common dish in the southern part of Vietnam since fish and meat were abundant. There were many varieties of fish that were readily available, however certain dishes are more likely to stick to specific varieties or be influenced by local supply.

What kind of fish do you prefer?

Ca loc (snakehead fish) is commonly used in Vietnam due to its low cost. Another option that is popular and more expensive is ca tre. Both are found in the freezer section at Vietnamese markets, however this frozen option is not worthy of a try.

In contrast, those in the States prefer to steer clear of “fishier” options such as Mackarel and opt instead to catfish.

You can replace catfish with salmon to make Ca Kho To salmon

It is popular due to its higher quantity of flesh and bones, a attractive American option, isn’t it? The braised catfish can be eaten anytime in the day all year long. It is common to use the filets of the middle to prepare this braised fish recipe and then use the tails and heads for canh chua (a spicy soup that is full of vegetables-recipe to be released shortly!).

My aunt came over this morning to cook ca kho using tinfoil fish (ca he) in a pressure cooker which I’ve not had the chance to try. This fish has a stronger scent which is why she balanced the taste by adding tea(!).

Vietnamese Ca Kho To recipe

Comments on Fish Sauce

On my earlier Thit recipe for kho (Vietnamese braised pork and eggs) I suggested the use of Three Crabs the brand of fish sauce as I have learned the most from my mom , who has created a lot of her recipes with this brand. There’s a wide variety of varieties of fish sauce to taste but there are a number of top products in recent years.

I’m looking to test different types to increase my understanding. Kyle Hildebrant and his friend conducted a blind taste testing through his web site Our Daily Brine. It’s like the best fish sauces came made in Vietnam and were more likely to contain the least amount of ingredients, which are mostly salt, fish, and water. The ones that weren’t as great coincidentally (or perhaps not?) included a mix with hydrolysed plant protein MSG or caramel color.

Another thing to take into consideration when choosing an appropriate fish sauce is health. Some brands contain sodium benzoate, a common food preservative. It is a preservative used in many food products. Center for Science in the Public Interest defines that it is safe for the majority of people, except for “sensitive individuals.” Pair with this ingredient and you’ll get an off flavor in several brands and it’s enough to cause me to stay away from it as much as it is possible. At the very least, I would suggest the search for superior brands.

How to Serve It

Canh chua ca kho to

Ca kho is a salted and rich dish, which is why it pairs well with lots of veggies to make it more balanced. Serve this dish with cucumber slices and boiled vegetables or perhaps several salad greens that have been picked up (Dưa Chua) despite the salt amount. If you’re a fervent seafood lover like me it is a good idea to try making whole fish that you grill.

See more: Ga Xao Sa Ot – Vietnamese Spicy Lemongrass chicken

If you’ve ever cooked recipes that you found on Vietnamese Cusines I’d like to see photos of it and hear your thoughts! Cheers!

Vietnamese Caramelized & Braised Catfish (Ca Kho To Recipe)

This is an Vietnamese traditional dish of caramelized, spicy and sweet braised fish served with an excellent moutwatering sauce to go with plenty of rice.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine vietnamese
Servings 2
Calories 398 kcal


  • 1 lb catfish filets bone and skin optional
  • salt to clean the fish


  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 yellow onion sliced


  • 1.5 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • About 1/2 teaspoon thick soy sauce
  • 1/2 c coconut juice or replace water & coconut juice with 1 cup coconut soda
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1 chile sliced (to taste, optional)
  • freshly ground black pepper or add as a final topping when serving


  • black pepper freshly ground
  • 1 green onions roughly chopped
  • 1 red chile sliced, optional


  • Generous salt fish and rinse it under water to wash it. Place it the fish aside and let it dry.
  • In a saucepan, add oil and sauté garlic over medium-high heat until lightly brown.
  • On top of that, layer onion and then add the fish equally spaced.
  • Incorporate the seasonings and cooking liquid (and optionally chillies) and then turn the heat up to high until it is boiling. Test the sauce and alter the seasoning.
  • Reduce the heat to a simmer for around 20 minutes. Make adjustments to the seasoning as needed.
  • Flip the filets of fish and cook for 10 minutes while the lid is partially sealed.
  • Be there to watch it during the last 10 minutes to stop it from burning! In this time, constantly spoon the sauce over the fish.
  • Include green onions in the final 2 minutes of cooking time to soften and then finish with sliced chiles and freshly crushed black pepper.
Keyword ca hoi kho to, ca kho to, ca kho to salmon, canh chua ca kho to

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