International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Ca Kho To

Ca Kho To (Vietnamese clay pot fish with caramel sauce)

(Vietnamese clay pot fish with caramel sauce)

Image Creative Commons by Charles Haynes

Average: 4 (13 votes)

Vietnamese kho (pronounced "kaw") dishes are comforting braised foods cooked in clay pots, and flavored with nuoc mau, a delectable caramel sauce with deep notes of molasses and coffee. This kho recipe features fish (), but pork, chicken, seafood, tofu or eggs are also popular kho dishes.

4 servings


  • Catfish steaks or fillets -- 1 1/2 pounds
  • Fish sauce -- 1/4 cup
  • Shallots, minced -- 2 or 3
  • Garlic, minced -- 4 or 5 cloves
  • White pepper -- 1 teaspoon
  • Oil -- 2 tablespoons
  • Nuoc mau caramel sauce -- 1/3 cup
  • Scallions, chopped into 2-inch pieces -- 3
  • Cilantro sprigs -- for garnish


  1. Place the fish in a large bowl with the fish sauce, shallots, garlic and white pepper. Mix and let marinate for about 30 minutes. Remove the fish from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and pat dry.
  2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a medium-sized claypot or Dutch oven. Add the fish and brown on both sides.
  3. Stir in the reserved marinade, caramel sauce and scallions and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to a fairly thick syrup.
  4. Adjust seasoning to taste with fish sauce and sugar. Garnish with cilantro sprigs and serve with steamed rice or sliced baguette.

Ca Kho To Notes and Variations

  • Catfish is the most common fish for ca kho to, but you can use any kind of fish you like. Fattier fish like salmon, trout or mackerel tend to hold up better.
  • One tablespoon of minced ginger and/or a tablespoon of finely chopped cilantro stems can be added to the marinade. Add one or two minced red chilies for a little heat.
  • Add 1/2 cup coconut juice (not coconut milk) when you add the marinade and caramel sauce.
  • If you don't want to make your own caramel syrup, you can use the commercial version found in many Asian markets. A common brand calls it "coco caramel surup." Or try using Indonesian kecap manis.
  • Claypots can be purchased at most Asian markets and are fairly cheap (usually about $6 to $8 each).

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