Ca Kho – Simmered Fish

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Ca Kho - Simmered Fish
Ca Kho - Simmered Fish

If you get invited to a traditional Vietnamese dinner, chances are you will probably be treated to this ca kho. It is so basic and popular that in many homes served it almost every other day.

>>Bun Thang – Culinary Arts of Hanoi

Ca kho – a popular Vietnamese food

“Cá kho“ in Vietnam can be divided into two types: ”kho khô” (dry simmering) and “kho nước”. “Cá kho nước” is usually made with sea fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel, garrupa…, its taste is quite light and it often cooked with a lot of water that can be used to souse on steamed rice, “bún” or noodle. On the other hand, ”Cá kho khô” is  saltier and cooked until nearly all water in the pot evaporates, it usually made with fresh water fish like long-jawed anchovy, carp, goby, mullet and so on.

Ca Kho - Simmered Fish
Ca Kho – Simmered Fish

How to cook?

To make a ”Cá kho”  in both two kinds, we need prepare ingredients carefully. First of all, seasoning includes: salt, pepper, “nước mắm”, sugar and a little ”kẹo đắng”, a liquid made from well-cooked sugar like a caramel syrup, has a bitten taste and dark reddish-brown colour- it is often used to create a sweet, bitten taste and nice colour for dishes. Secondly, we can use some vegetables called ”phụ gia” such as small slices of ripe pipe-apple, tomatoes, carambola, jack- fruit and  several chunks of  sugar-cane. One more and most important ingredient is fish, we should choose fresh fish that will make our dish more delicious. Fish is scrapped off the scales, then washed carefully by water and vinegar.

Ca kho – a popular Vietnamese food
Ca kho – a popular Vietnamese food

After careful preparation, fish is chopped up into small chunks and mixed  with spices, vegetables for  about 30 minutes before cooking. Then they are put into pot, often clay pot because it increases taste of fish and filled with water and small cup of tea. We simmer the pot for several hours depending on different kinds and sizes of fish. During cooking, we need to care about level of  fire and  always keep level of water higher than face of fish up to 1-2 centimetres. We stew the pot until fish is well-done and gain a desirable level of water, for “Cá kho nước” we keep quite a lot of water left in the pot but for “Cá kho khô” there is a little of water left.