Ca Kho



B got a night off from #paternitycooking last night, and instead I got to make fish! This is my favorite dish at Le’s (formerly Pho Pasteur) in Harvard^2, and eventually I decided to learn to make it. I have had great success in the past, but my last attempt, a few weeks ago, was completely inedible, so I was a bit nervous.

Turns out I needn’t have been—this turned out great! I didn’t get a clear idea of what went wrong last time, though.


  • Last time we had 1.5 lbs of cod instead of 3/4 lbs catfish. It fell apart to mush, but that doesn’t account for the taste issues.
  • Last time I put dulse in the fishless fish sauce. This time I only used garlic, lime juice and soy sauce
  • Last time I may have burned the sugar. This time I watched it more carefully and took it off the heat just as it turned brown
  • Last time, I used an entire tablespoon of powdered garlic, a tablespoon of black pepper, and a tablespoon of powdered ginger. This time, I shorted the ginger and pepper a little (maybe 2/3 tbsp) because I only had 3/4lb of fish, but cut the garlic to 1 tsp

Anyway, one of those made a difference, because this time it was delicious!


  • 1/3 c white sugar
  • 4 tbsp fish sauce OR 1 tbsp soy sauce, 4 tbsp lime juice and 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 small onions (I used red) or scallions or 1-2 large onions
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp black pepper (or less to taste—this is reasonably spicy
  • 1 tsp red chile flakes (or to taste, these contribute less to the spicyness than the black pepper)
  • .75 to 1.5 lbs catfish, fresh or frozen, cut into 1″ strips.
  1. In a heavy saucepan, cook the sugar over medium heat. Swirl/stir with a heatproof rubber spatula until the sugar melts and just turns golden-brown.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and dump in the fish sauce.
  3. Return to heat and boil, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves
  4. Add onions and cook 1-2 minutes, then add everything else.
  5. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.
  6. Cook until fish is tender, 20-25 minutes for 3/4 lb, 30-40 for 1.5 lbs
  7. Serve with white rice and tea.

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