Flavorful Ca Kho To: A Traditional Vietnamese Fish Recipe

Welcome to the world of Vietnamese cuisine with this flavorful recipe for Ca Kho To, or Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce. This dish is one to remember, featuring tender fish braised in a sweet and savory caramel sauce with hints of coconut milk and fish sauce.

The beauty of Vietnamese cuisine lies in its vibrant colors and complex yet balanced flavors. With an emphasis on fresh herbs, spices and bold accents of ginger, garlic and shallots, this recipe is the perfect way to transport your taste buds straight to the heart of Vietnam.

Cooking up authentic dishes from different cultures has never been easier thanks to modern-day accessibility to international ingredients. I believe that learning how to cook dishes from around the world not only broadens palates but brings people together by creating a shared appreciation for culture and food.

So why not take a chance on this delicious Vietnamese dish? It’s sure to become one of your favorites! Read on for all the ingredients and tips you’ll need to make Ca Kho To with ease.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Ca Kho to (Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce)
Ca Kho to (Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce)

Are you in the mood for some sweet and savory Vietnamese food? Look no further than Ca Kho to, or Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce! This dish is sure to satisfy your taste buds and leave you wanting more.

First and foremost, this recipe features tender, succulent pieces of catfish simmered in a rich caramel sauce made from sugar, shallots, garlic, fish sauce, and coconut milk. The combination of sweet and savory flavors creates an irresistible taste that will have your senses tingling with anticipation.

But that’s not all – this dish also boasts a range of health benefits. With the added use of coconut milk and honey, Ca Kho to provides a nutritious meal for those who are health-conscious. Not only is it tasty, but it’s also a wholesome dinner choice for anyone looking to switch things up.

Plus, this recipe is versatile! While catfish steaks are commonly used in this dish, it can also be made with salmon or other sturdy fish fillets. You can experiment with different types of fish and adjust the seasoning to suit your personal preferences.

Incorporating Ca Kho to into your meal rotation will add some flare to your culinary creations while providing a multitude of mouth-watering flavors that hit the spot. Try it out today and discover why this Vietnamese braised catfish dish has become one of my favorites.

Ingredient List

 A flavorful and savory dish that is sure to please anyone who loves seafood!
A flavorful and savory dish that is sure to please anyone who loves seafood!

Let’s dive into the ingredients you will need to make this Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce recipe. Don’t worry, you can easily find all of these ingredients at your local Asian market or online.

Here are the key ingredients for this dish:
For the sauce:

  • 1 ½ cups of coconut milk
  • 3 cups of water
  • 4 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

For the caramel:

  • ¼ cup of honey
  • ¼ cup of brown sugar
  • ¼ cup of fish sauce

For the fish:

  • 2 lbs. of catfish steaks (or other firm white fish), cut into bite-sized pieces

Optional garnishes:

  • Sliced scallions
  • Chopped cilantro

Make sure to have all these Ca Kho Vietnamese ingredients ready before getting started so that your cooking process goes smoothly.

The Recipe How-To

 This Vietnamese favorite combines sweet and salty in every bite.
This Vietnamese favorite combines sweet and salty in every bite.

Now let’s get into the fun part – cooking! Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make this flavorful dish.


  • 2 lbs. of catfish steaks (4-6 pieces)
  • 1 tbsp. of minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp. of minced shallots
  • 1 can (13-14 oz.) of coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 4 tbsp. of sugar
  • 4 tbsp. of brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp. of fish sauce
  • 1 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper


Step 1. Rinse and pat dry the catfish steaks with paper towels, then set aside.

Step 2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the minced garlic and shallots.

Step 3. In a clay pot or large skillet over medium-high heat, add the sugar and heat for a few minutes until dissolved, stirring constantly to avoid burning. Once it turns amber in color, turn off the heat.

Step 4. Add the garlic and shallot mixture to the pot, stirring for about a minute until fragrant.

Step 5. Place the catfish steaks in the pot, arranging them so that they are evenly spaced.

Step 6. Add the coconut milk and water to the pot and gently stir to combine with the caramel sauce.

Step 7. Add brown sugar, fish sauce, and ground black pepper then gently stir to combine.

Step 8: Cook uncovered over medium heat, keeping the heat low enough that it’s just simmering but high enough that you hear a faint sizzle bubbles popping on top periodically for about an hour or until the liquid has thickened slightly and reduced by at least one-third.

Step 9: Taste test for seasoning; adjust with more fish sauce or sugar to your liking.

Step 10: Serve hot with steamed rice, garnished with some fresh herbs, onion rings, and chopped scallion.

Enjoy your Cá Kho Tộ!

Substitutions and Variations

 Ca Kho To- Bringing the heat to your table!
Ca Kho To- Bringing the heat to your table!

The beauty of the Ca Kho to recipe lies in its versatility. Not a fan of catfish? No problem! You can substitute it with any other firm, white-fleshed fish like salmon or sea bass.

If you’re looking to change things up a bit, instead of using fish sauce, you can experiment with soy sauce for a different flavor profile. Additionally, chicken broth can be used in place of water for added depth of flavor.

For those who want to create a vegetarian version of this dish, tofu works perfectly as a substitute for fish. Simply follow the same recipe without fish and enjoy the caramelized tofu goodness.

Feeling adventurous? Add some vegetables such as eggplant or okra to the recipe for a delicious twist on traditional Vietnamese fish stew.

No access to clay pots? Don’t fret! You could use a regular pot or pan and still get a great result. Just make sure you adjust cooking time accordingly.

The possibilities with Ca Kho to are endless, so feel free to experiment and make it your own. Whether you stick with the classic catfish recipe or go off-script with your own variation, this sweet and savory dish is sure to delight your taste buds.

Serving and Pairing

 Caramelized fish never tasted so good!
Caramelized fish never tasted so good!

Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce is a dish that is best served hot and fresh. You can serve it with steamed rice or crusty bread to soak up all the delicious sauce. This dish is perfect for any occasion, whether it’s a family gathering or a dinner party with friends.

Pair this dish with a light and refreshing salad or some stir-fried vegetables to balance out the rich and savory flavors of the caramelized fish. A side of pickled vegetables or kimchi can add a nice crunch and tangy contrast to the sweet and savory tones of the dish.

To elevate the flavors of this dish, I recommend pairing it with a light-bodied red wine, such as Pinot Noir or Gamay, or an aromatic white wine, such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer. Alternatively, you can also pair it with a chilled beer or cocktail of your choice.

So gather your loved ones and indulge in this delightful Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce dish that is sure to impress your taste buds and satisfy your cravings for an authentic Vietnamese-style fish stew.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

 This traditional Vietnamese dish is a perfect way to introduce new flavors to your dinner table.
This traditional Vietnamese dish is a perfect way to introduce new flavors to your dinner table.

Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce, or Ca Kho To, is a dish that you’ll likely want to savor over and over again. Luckily, it’s a dish that can be made ahead of time and stored for later enjoyment.

To make-ahead, simply prepare the dish as directed in the recipe and allow it to cool to room temperature. Once the pot has cooled completely, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When you’re ready to serve your dish, simply reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until it’s warmed through.

If you have leftovers and need to store them, transfer any remaining fish and sauce into an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You’ll want to reheat it slowly on low heat on the stovetop so that the meat and sauce keep their flavors and textures.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy leftover Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce is by serving it with freshly cooked jasmine rice or vermicelli noodles. The savory sweetness of this braised fish makes for an even tastier and heartier meal when paired with these staples.

As with any make-ahead meal, reheating can sometimes change the texture of the dish, so I recommend adding a little bit of coconut juice or water while reheating if you find that the sauce has thickened too much.

So go ahead and enjoy your Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce whenever you like thanks to its make-ahead potential and easy storage options.

Tips for Perfect Results

 The perfect balance of flavors will have you coming back for seconds, and even thirds!
The perfect balance of flavors will have you coming back for seconds, and even thirds!

Preparing Ca Kho To requires consistent attention to detail in order to achieve the perfect balance of flavors that will make your dish stand out. Here are a few tips to help you achieve the best results for this Vietnamese braised fish dish.

1. Don’t Skimp on the Fish

When it comes to Ca Kho To, choosing the right fish is essential. Go for a firm-fleshed fish like catfish or salmon, as they hold up well when cooked in the caramel sauce. Make sure that you purchase fresh fish, and cut it into steaks that are about an inch thick. This will ensure that the fish doesn’t fall apart during braising.

2. Cook Caramel at High Heat

Caramel plays a crucial role in this recipe—it gives the dish its characteristic sweet-savory flavor while also adding a rich brown color to the sauce. To achieve this, cook your sugar at high heat until it turns dark brown. However, be careful; cooking it too long will cause it to burn and turn bitter.

3. Keep an Eye on Water Levels

One common mistake people make when preparing Ca Kho To is not watching their water levels closely enough. As the fish braises, it will release liquid into the sauce, which is why it’s important to add just enough water to cover the fish at the beginning of the cooking process. If you add too much water, your sauce may be too thin and lacking flavor.

4. Let It Simmer Slowly

Simmering your dish slowly allows flavors to meld together and develop complexity. Be sure to adjust your heat so that it’s low enough for slow simmering, but not so low that nothing happens.

5. Add Ingredients in Stages

To keep ingredients from losing their texture or becoming overcooked, it’s important to add them in stages throughout the cooking process rather than all at once. For example, finely grated shallots and garlic should be added toward the end of the cooking process, while larger pieces of onion can be added earlier.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to make a delicious Ca Kho To that will impress your guests and warm their hearts with its comfort food flavors.


Now that you know how to cook Ca Kho To, I’m sure there might be some questions you still have. Before we conclude, here are some Frequently Asked Questions and their respective answers that can help make sure that you have success with this recipe.

What is Vietnamese fish sauce made of?

Fish sauce, a staple ingredient in Vietnamese and many other Asian cuisines, is traditionally made by fermenting small fish like anchovies with salt in earthenware pots left to sit in the sun. This process can last up to a year, and results in a pungent and flavorful condiment that adds depth to a wide range of dishes.

How many calories are in Vietnamese caramelized fish?

Looking for a healthy and satisfying meal? Look no further than Ca Kho To, a Vietnamese dish that is both delicious and nutritious. When served with a delectable braising sauce, this dish clocks in at only 353 calories per serving. Plus, with 62 grams of protein, 0 grams of fat, and 14 grams of carbs, it’s a great choice for those watching their caloric intake.

How do they make fish sauce?

The process of making fish sauce involves mixing fish and salt in a ration of 1:3 and allowing it to ferment for a period of 3-12 months. In fermentation tanks, the mixture produces a liquid that contains fish extract, which is the end result – fish sauce. Typically, it takes around 4-6 months to get the desired outcome.

What is fish sauce used for?

An ingredient that is both salty and savory, known for its ability to add umami to various dishes, including pad thai, can also be used to flavor meats, vegetables and soups. It can even be used in making salad dressings and homemade condiments.

Bottom Line

your meal with a delicious and authentic Vietnamese dish that’s easy to make at home. Ca Kho To, or Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce, is a must-try recipe for seafood lovers. With its sweet and savory flavors and tender braised fish, it’s no wonder Ca Kho To has become one of Vietnam’s most beloved dishes.

I encourage you to give this recipe a try and experience the authentic Vietnamese taste that will transport you straight to the streets of Saigon. Don’t worry if you don’t have a clay pot at home; this dish can be made in any sturdy pot or skillet.

To elevate your cooking even more, consider using fresh and high-quality ingredients such as wild-caught salmon instead of catfish. And for an even richer version, experiment with adding coconut milk to your caramel sauce.

Whether you are new to Vietnamese cuisine or an experienced home chef, Ca Kho To is sure to impress your guests and keep them coming back for more. So why not choose this recipe for your next dinner party, family gathering or just a cozy night in?

In conclusion, don’t miss out on the opportunity to surprise your taste buds with this incredible dish that’s easy to make but hard to forget. From my kitchen to yours, happy cooking!

Ca Kho to (Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce)

Ca Kho to (Vietnamese Fish in Caramel Sauce) Recipe

This is an authentic Vietnamese fish dish. I have to admit that the first time I heard of fish with caramel sauce, I thought that it sounded like an awful combination! Boy, was I wrong! It is delicious and very unique-- the flavors actually work very well. Soooo good!
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Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Vietnamese
Calories 271.1 kcal


  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3 shallots, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 lbs catfish, filet (can substitute with halibut, striped bass, or pacific flounder)


  • In a bowl, mix the fish sauce, brown sugar, honey, pepper, garlic and shallots.
  • In a dutch oven, melt the sugar and cook until golden brown. Add the water. Add the coconut milk and stir. Add the fish and the contents of the bowl. Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and let simmer for at least ½ hour to 45 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the fish over so that both sides soak in the sauce. Add more coconut milk if the sauce starts to dry out. Before serving, take off the lid so that the sauce can thicken a bit. Serve immediately with jasmine rice.

Add Your Own Notes


Serving: 127gCalories: 271.1kcalCarbohydrates: 25.1gProtein: 18.2gFat: 10.8gSaturated Fat: 5.3gCholesterol: 62.3mgSodium: 593.4mgFiber: 0.2gSugar: 22.2g
Keyword < 60 Mins, Asian, Easy, Vietnamese
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