Caramelized Catfish Clay Pot is one of the must-included-dished in our national anthem recipes. The dish is often paired with Hot & Sour Tamarind Soup. These are a perfect combination for any family meal.
Catfish Clay Pot is so popular and yet, so hard to make. Believe me, in order to achieve such a perfect recipe, one must cook this dish at least a thousand times. Ok, it was exaggerated, of course not thousand times, but like 20 to 50 times maybe. And I would be proud to announce publicly that I've found such recipe.
The essential equipment used to make this Catfish Clay Pot
The name Catfish Clay Pot is derived from a special cooking equipment we traditionally use in Vietnam. The pot is specially made from clay and like cast iron, it requires special care. The traditional Vietnamese hot pot is super easy to break after 10-15 usages. And it is made 100% from clay.
I would recommend if you've ever wanted to own a earthenware pot, you should always go with Japanese style clay pot called Donabe. It's quite more expensive compared to other types and brands of clay pot. But trust me, it'll last forever. I bought mine in 2015 and until now it's til in good shape. It's extremely durable and long lasting.
For this caramelized catfish clay pot recipe, I did not use any white sugar or brown sugar. So if you're not a big fan of these two, this is definitely a recipe for you. Instead I replace sugar with these two wonderful ingredients come from two different countries: Japan and Taiwan. It's safe to say that this version of catfish clay pot is a perfect Asian fusion dish. It includes fish sauce from Vietnam, sweet mirin from Japan, and sweet soy from Indonesia.
Sweet soy is such an amazing ingredients that I think all of us must has it in our pantry. Sweet soy is made from palm sugar, star anise, galangal, and other Asian aromatic. Mirin is a popular cooking ingredients in Japanese cuisine. It is made of starch syrup, sake (lower than 1%), rice, and brewed vinegar. The combination of fish sauce, sweet mirin, and sweet soy create a beautiful texture and taste for catfish's caramelized sauce.
Before going into the recipe, I just want to clarify that although the recipe is called Catfish Clay Pot, it is totally fine if you cook this in any kind of cookware. Stainless steel pot, aluminum cooking pan, or copper pot is still OK.
Caramelized Catfish Clay Pot
- Clay pot OR
- Stainless steel pot
- Shallow pan for fried blanching
- Big plate lined with oil absorbed paper
- 3 piece catfish steak clean, pad dry
- 3 clove garlic minced
- 2 shallot minced
- green onion chopped, for garnish
- black pepper as needed
- steamed rice as needed
- ½ c sweet soy sauce
- ¼ c fish sauce 33N or 40N (adjust water amount below accordingly)
- ¼ c mirin
- ½ c water if using 33N fish sauce
- ¾ c water if using 40N fish sauce
For caramelized sauce:
- In a clay pot or stainless steel pot, heat one tbsp of vegetable oil, add minced garlic and shallot. Cook for 2 minutes or until garlic turn golden brown.
- Add all ingredients for caramelized sauce in. Bring to boil and reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes or until the mixture reduced by half.
- In a meantime, fill 2 cups of oil in a shallow pan, make sure the oil reach at least 350F. Quickly add each piece of catfish in and cook for 1 minute each side.
- Place blanched catfish on plate with oil absorbed paper to get rid of excess oil.
Cook caramelized catfish
- After the caramelized sauce is reduced by half, carefully add blanched catfish in piece by piece. Bring the heat to medium high and continue cooking.
- The sauce will form many bubbles on top of the catfish surface, this is totally normal. Just remember keep an eye on the pot. DO NOT go anywhere or multi task at this point.
- Cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the sauce reduce almost by half again. You can check the consistency of the sauce by using the back of a spoon. Dip a spoon into the sauce, if it is coated with the sauce and there is no dripping down. The sauce is done.
- Turn off the heat. Add ground black pepper and chopped green onion for garnish. Enjoy with a hot bowl of steamed rice.