Vietnamese: Clay Pot Cat Fish (Ca Kho To)

One of my favorite dish to eat with rice is the Clay Pot Cat Fish (Ca Kho To). It is a caramelize cat fish cook in a clay pot. Of course the clay pot part is optional these days, but in the old days it was cooked in clay pot.

Ingredient :

To marinate
  • 1lb - 1 1/2lbs cat fish - clean and cut into 1" pieces
  • 1/3 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of Honey or Corn Syrup
  • 2 chop scallons
  • 1 whole garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of black pepper
  • a few slices of ginger (4-8 slices)
 To Cook
  • 1/2 can of Coconut Soda or Coconut Juice

Mix all of the ingredient together in a large stainless steel container and let it sit for at least 2 hours. Overnight is better. Transfer it to a large clay pot or a nice non-stick pot. Pour the coconut juice or soda inside and cook @ medium high heat for 1 hour with lid covered. Increase heat to high until the sauce starts to caramelize. Now serve with rice. YUMMY!!!
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Vietnamese: Grill Pork (Thit Nuong)

A few weeks ago, I made one of my favorite Vietnamese dish. It is light, refreshing, and full of flavor. It is called Bun Thit Nuong (Grill Pork Rice Vermicelli). For those who know me would think, wait this is grill pork. There is nothing saucy about it? The sauce comes from the special Lemon Fish Sauce you add in afterwards! In a large bowl, you would combine some leafy lettuce, mint leaves, rice vermicelli, grill pork, and a splash of lemon fish sauce. It is full of flavor and aroma. Plenty healthy and refreshing! If you want to kick it up a notch (as Emil would say), add some pickle veggie and roasted peanuts. Oh so yummy!

Ingredients - Grill Pork
Tip #1: If you have a food processor / chopper, you can combing garlic, shallots, and lemon grass together to chop / blend. Save time mincing them individually. 
  • 2 lbs pork butt or shoulder, thinly sliced just under 1/4 inch. You can ask the butcher to do the slicing for you to save time. 
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 2 tbs ground pepper
  • 2 whole garlic, minced
  • 2-3 shallots, minced.
  • 3 tbs sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of veggie oil
  • 1 tbs thick soy sauce or caramel sauce for the color
  • 3 tbs roasted sesame
  • optional: 2 tablespoons Hoisin Sauce
  • optional / recommended: 8-10 green onions, thin slice long length, leaf only. It will give it nice aroma during the grilling process
  • optional: 1/4 cup lemongrass minced (i usually use it if the meat was beef, but will work well on pork too)

Ingredients - Tangy Fish Sauce (Nouc Cham)

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeeze lime
  • 1 cup luke warm water
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 thai chili pepper
  • optional: 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar
Let's get started: 

Grill Pork

Tip #1: If you are planning to use bamboo sticks to skew the meat, soak the stick in ice cold water for a couple of hours prior to skewing. This will prevent the stick from burning too easy during grilling process. I personally would use the Flex Grill Basket

Tip #2: For best flavor, use charcoal. Slow grilling over amber charcoal allows the meat to cook to perfection without drying out the meat. Also, the juice dripping on the amber would create a nice smoke burnt around the edge of the meat for great flavoring. 

  • combine all the pork ingredients into a large stainless steel bowl and mix them with your hand. Let it marinate for at least 24 hours before grilling. 
  • Right before cooking, you can skew them in bamboo sticks or use grill basket

Tangy Fish Sauce
Tip #1 - There are many versions of this recipe out there. So hard to remember the "exact" portions. My mom came up with a simple portion formula to help me remember and adjust accordingly from there. The formula is 1-1-1-4. One part fish sauce, one part fresh lime juice, one part sugar, four part water. The other ingredients are optional. So if you are using tablespoon, or cup, the portions would be in equal part. Adjust to taste. 
  • Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir it until all the sugar dissolved
  • Adjust more or less sugar / fish sauce to your taste. For me, I prefer a bit on the sweet side. 
  • Chill in the refrigerator for an hour before serving.    
How To Eat 
There are many ways to use the grill pork to eat. 
  • Rice Vermicelli Bowl - Most common is to combine the meat in a bowl with rice vermicelli and some fresh leafy lettuce and a splash of tangy fish sauce. 
  • Rice Bowl - Another way is to serve it over broken rice and a splash of tangy fish sauce. 
  • Spring Roll - Similar to Vietnames Spring Roll, you can use rice paper and roll the grill pork with some fresh leafy lettuce. Dip it in the tangy fish sauce
No matter which way you eat it, it is all good. Let me know your version of this dish or how you decide to eat it. Would love to hear. 

Picture taken using Samsung Galaxy S Phone

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Vietnamese: Pork Rib Braised (Thit Suon Ram)

Dishes I enjoy are usually the saucy ones like Memphis Style BBQ with a thick layer of BBQ sauce or good old fashion spaghetti with simple tomato sauce so I can slurp. I grew up with mommy home style Vietnamese cooking. Is it traditional, maybe? I know she loves to explore and add her flare to it. One of my favorite Vietnamese dishes is called Thit Suon Ram, also referred to as Pork Spare Rib Caramel Braised. Today, I will share with you my version. It was derived from what I was shown from my mother, a little research of other styles, and my own finishing touches to it. Each chef has something about their cooking such as Rachel Ray enjoyed using extra virgin olive oil. For me, I enjoyed a lot of garlic, onions, and spices! Yummy!

2 lbs Pork Baby Back Ribs
2 Thai Chili minced
4 shallots minced
2 whole garlic minced
3 tablespoons of fish sauce
4 tablespoon of black pepper
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of Honey
3 tablespoons of cooking oil
1/2 can of Coconut Soda (I use Coco Rico brand)
5 tablespoon of Maggie Seasoning
Side Note: For those who don't know what Maggie Seasoning is, it is made by Nestle and very popular in Vietnamese usage due to the French influence. It is similar to Soy Sauce in a way. There are may versions out there, but I find the one made in France or made in Switzerland to be best tasting. 

Tip #1: If you have a food processor / chopper, put the shallots, garlic, and Thai chili together to blend. It will save time and evenly distributed the flavor.

Tip #2: If you don't have Coco Rico, you can use Coca Cola! I've tried with that before, came out pretty nice. The whole idea is there is corn syrup in Soda. This will give it a nice golden caramel at the end. I prefer Coco Rico because of the coconut flavoring.  

Let's Start Cooking!
  • Clean and cut the pork baby back ribs into small 1" cubes. You could have the butcher to slide it horizontal through the bones for easier cut at home. 
  • Boil the ribs in a small pot at medium heat with 2 tablespoons salt until it is almost tender (approx: 20 minutes). Then drain out most of the liquid leaving just the ribs and maybe about 1/4 of liquid left for cooking. 
  • In a wok or large sauce pan, stir fry in the garlic, shallots, and Thai chili in oil until they are clear in high heat (approx: 30 seconds)
  • Toss in the ribs with all the liquid you had earlier and combine the rest of the ingredients. Stir fry for a few seconds and lower the heat to medium-low. Let it simmer and braised in the sauce while it is being reduced. (approx: 20 minutes)
  • Once you notice the meat is soft, bring the heat up to high so burn off most of the liquid and start to caramelize around the meat in a nice dark color. So let it burn too long or you will have an unpleasant burnt taste. 
  • Plate in a nice dish and garnish it with some greens, serve with Jasmine Rice
Pictures taken with Samsung Galaxy S phone:

I would love to hear your thoughts and version of this. Please do share! Until Next Time!
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