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5 from 8 votes

Cá Kho Tộ Recipe - Vietnamese Caramelized & Braised Fish

This is a Vietnamese classic of caramelized, sweet and salty braised fish with a moutwatering sauce perfect with lots of white rice.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: braised, caramelized, fish sauce, traditional
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 397kcal
Author: Hungry Huy


  • 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

Seasoning & cooking liquid

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


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


  • Generously salt fish and rinse under water to clean it. Set aside to dry.
  • Add oil to a pan and saute garlic over medium heat until lightly browned.
  • Layer onion on top, then the fish, evenly spaced.
  • Add the seasoning & cooking liquid (& optional chiles) and turn the heat to high until boiling. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning.
  • Bring it to a simmer for ~20 minutes. Adjust seasoning if needed.
  • Gently flip the filets of fish over and simmer for a final ~10 minutes with the lid partially covered.
  • Stand there to watch it the final ~10 minutes to prevent it from burning! During this time you can continually spoon the sauce over the fish.
  • Add green onion during last 2 minutes to wilt & top with sliced chiles, and some freshly ground black pepper.


Calories: 397kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 132mg | Sodium: 2393mg | Potassium: 1216mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 602IU | Vitamin C: 73mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 2mg