Kim Fay's Caramelized Clay Pot Fish

by Celeste Heiter, Nov 21, 2010 | Destinations: Vietnam
Kim Fay's Caramelized Clay Pot Fish

Kim Fay's Caramelized Clay Pot Fish

Kim Fay's Caramelized Clay Pot Fish

In an excerpt from her book Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam, author Kim Fay included this prelude to her recipe:

"We made variations of this dish in Nha Trang, Dalat, and Saigon. After much experimentation, I came up with a recipe that is a crowd pleaser. When multiplying it, cut back on the oil and fish sauce in both the marinade and the sauce. And don't forget to remove the chilies before serving. The clay pot I usually use for this recipe and its doubled portion is the equivalent to a two-quart saucepan. If you can't find a clay pot, a heavy-bottom saucepan will do."

Serving: 1 as a large main dish over rice.

Preparing the fish:

1/2 lb. firm white fish such as halibut cut into 1-inch chunks (chicken or shrimp can also be used)
1 tbsp. fish sauce
Up to 1 tbsp. peanut oil

1. Marinate the fish in fish sauce with a little oil for half an hour at room temperature.
2. Once it has marinated and the sauce below has been prepared, warm your clay pot with a cup or so of hot water, to keep it from cracking as it heats up on the stove. This is especially important for a new pot.
3. Remove water and put fish in clay pot. Pour the remainder of the marinade over the top of the fish.

Preparing the sauce while the fish marinates:

2 tbsp. peanut oil
4 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. shallots, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1-inch chunks ginger, peeled
1/2 cup coconut juice, not coconut milk, warmed (for a less sweet version, you can substitute water)
2 whole red Thai chilies
1 tbsp. fish sauce
pinch black pepper

1. Heat oil in a heavy-bottom saucepan. Add sugar, and stir until sugar dissolves. The mixture may seem too dry at first, or the sugar may crystallize a bit. Be patient, and keep stirring. Make sure the heat is high enough. Eventually, the sugar will dissolve.
2. Add minced shallots, garlic, and ginger.
3. Add coconut juice or water. Make sure it's warm before you add it. If not, the cold liquid hitting the hot oil/sugar will cause an instant case of hard candy. If this happens, just keep stirring until the "candy" dissolves.
4. Stir in chilies, stir in fish sauce, and add a pinch of black pepper.
5. Bring the sauce to a boil and then down to a simmer.
6. Put clay pot with fish on a burner and heat. Don't brown the fish, but simply warm it up a bit. (Now that I've used my clay pot a few times, it produces the most mouth-watering smell when I heat it up.)
7. Add caramel sauce to clay pot.
8. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
9. Remove chilies and ginger before serving. Serve over rice.

Preparing the rice:
This dish is good over white or brown rice. Prepare the rice according to the instructions on the package so that it is ready by the time the clay pot fish is done.

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Watch the video: click here

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