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SPICY CARAMEL FISH!?!

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Ever had the craving for exotic food every once in a while? Dishes that are not part of our everyday lives often attracts our attention, doesn’t it? One major obstacle in the way is usually cost and the hassle of going and waiting for hours in restaurants. That’s why I am going to tell you how to make one of those mouth watering dishes that doesn’t cost much and can be made in a short time by anyone as well. It is a traditional Vietnamese serving, called caramel fish that I learnt from a friend. The instructions below will help you recreate one of Asia's finest cuisines. Look below for the magic formula!!

Ingredients: 1/2lb catfish fillets, sugar, garlic, fish sauce, onions, salt, black pepper, oil, red chilies
Cooking Time: 30 min



 
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Step 1: THAW THE FISH

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Put about 10-12 fillets in a bowl and fill with warm water. Let it thaw for about 10 minutes. This is done so that the fish that is normally frozen, would become tender. The more tender the fillets are, the more flavor it will absorb from the ingredients and sauce that would be added to it.

Step 2: DICE THE ONIONS

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Cut the onions into tiny cubes. Make sure you don’t slice the onions. This would be added to the fish to be marinated with it. The purpose of dicing and not slicing, is so that it would have a better effect on the marination process. The more surface area it has, the more the fish will be able to absorb the flavor of the onions. The onions shown in the picture needs to be cut some more into cubes.

Step 3: MARINATE THE FISH

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Remove the water from the fillets after it is thawed. Add 3 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 3 pinches of salt, teaspoon of black pepper and about 2 tablespoons of garlic powder. Mix it all up and let it marinate for 1 hr. You can even use garlic as a whole instead of powder. Essentially, you want the flavor needs to be passed to the fish. This is an important step of the cooking process. Once again, it is done with the intent of letting the flavor soak into the fish in addition to tenderizing it. Marinating can be time consuming, but believe me, you’re going to thank yourself once you taste it!

Step 4: PREPARE THE INGREDIENTS

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Mince 2 or 3 chilies. Slice ½ onion and put in hot dry pan for about a minute. Add 3 tablespoons of oil and let it fry for 2 minutes. Although the picture here depicts Thai chilies, you can also experiment with Mexican jalapenos or other types of chilly depending on your preference. Be sure to mince the chillies instead of just cutting them. The purpose is to allow the chilly to be easily mixed with the dish. If it is cut, then it needs a longer period for it to be fully absorbed.

Step 5: ADD THE FISH

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CAUTION: Be careful as the hot oil may sizzle and burn you.
Put the fillets in one at a time slowly. The heat should be at about a scale of 8 out of 10.
The reason of setting the heat at this value, is so that the fish will be slightly crispy as you stir fry it. You don’t want the fish to be watery or dilute because then the taste will not be prominent. Also, at this heat, the fish would turn to that appetizing golden- brown color.


Step 6: ADD THE SAUCE

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Once the fish turns slightly white, as shown in the picture,add the marinated sauce to it. This is done to give the maximum amount of flavor to the fish in addition to the marination process. The essence of the flavor lies in the sauce, thus making it an important ingredient. When you actually add it, you might find that there is probably very little. So, a little bit of water can be added to the sauce to fully capture all the leftover spices. Don’t add too much though!

Step 7: MAKING THE CARAMEL

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Fill a small pan with 3 tablespoons of sugar. Add a teaspoon of oil to the sugar after a minute .NOTE: Be sure to set the heat slightly less than the fish at around 7/10. The reasoning behind this is that the sugar that is heated will melt after a few minutes and should be kept that way. If the heat on the fish is less than the sugar, it will recrystallize or become solid again. If that happens, then the sweetness from the caramel will not be transferred to the fish. But, don’t worry, you can always increase the heat to the fish and melt it again, although its not preferable.

Step 8: ADDING THE CARAMEL

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Once the caramel is dark brown, it should be added equally to the fish. The sugar that was white originally, turns dark brown after a few minutes. This is because the heating process breaks it down to its essential particle, carbon, which is brown. So don’t worry if you think you’ve overheated it, its supposed to be like that.

Step 9: SPICE IT UP!

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Put in the minced chilies to add the spiciness. As you can see, the fish should look something like shown in the picture. Golden-brown is what you want it to look like at the finishing stage. Observe the minced chilies in there that’s going to thrill your taste buds!

Step 10: LET IT BE

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Let the fish simmer and absorb the ingredients for about 10 minutes. You can probably add some tomatoes, as I have done here, if you like. They normally, dilute the dish slightly for those who don’t want it to be that spicy in addition to giving that nice taste. Once your at this stage, it might be tempting to take it out quickly for tasting. DO NOT do that, as this is an essential step. It ensures the fish has absorbed all the possible flavors that just gives that delicious taste you won’t forget!! Feel free to experiment with potatoes and other spices the next time around. ENJOY!!
ABadie5 years ago
Upon reading this forum, i got really quite interested as i learned a lot from all the other postings in here. I pondered whether it is really possible to do that cooking technique with fish. I thought that fish was mainly for frying and with soup or sometimes grilled, but not in that manner though. I consulted my program about that and to my surprise, it was listed there! Good thing that i had that program to help me clarify my thoughts. Definitely will try this recipe as soon as I get to send this. By the way, is there any kind of fish that I could do this with?
kavilan (author)  ABadie5 years ago
Its best for catfish but you can always try some other fish of your choice. Good luck!
chndt20085 years ago
Praise from the Chinese people: you're great!
canida5 years ago
Wow, this sounds great! I can't wait to try it. Thanks for sharing the recipe.
mrtfor20085 years ago
Sounds delish, and as soon as I get a real kitchen at my disposal, I will give it a shot... I would like to add a couple of tips for food safety. Frozen food should be thawed under cool running water, not hot or warm water, especially meats. It doesn't take much, just a trickle of cold tap water into a bowl of frozen goods is enough. It's much safer and you'll be surprised how quickly it thaws. Also, marinating should be done in a refrigerated environment. Yeah, I know, it will take longer in a cold environment and there is enough salt in the fish sauce to yadda yadda yadda... I just don't like seeing unsafe food handling procedures being given. Marinade in a fridge in a container that won't spill. Hell, you could save yourself some water and time by placing the marinade into a zip top bag with the frozen fish and letting that rest in the bottom of your fridge for a day, shaking it around every few hours or so to maximize distribution and aid in quicker thawing. Long marinade time? Check! Saving water? Check! Proper food handling methods used? Check! Sounds tasty to me.
That sounds surprisingly delicious. I'll have to try this next time I get my hands on some catfish... Have you tried experimenting with this recipe with any other fish?
kavilan (author)  valhallas_end5 years ago
Ideally, I think its best to use catfish although I have not tried it with other fish. I suggest you try it with catfish first and then other types later on.
lemonie5 years ago

Ideally you would use palm-sugar?

L
kavilan (author)  lemonie5 years ago
Yes, its better to use palm or brown sugar.