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.
- 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.
- Remove the pot from the heat and dump in the fish sauce.
- Return to heat and boil, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves
- Add onions and cook 1-2 minutes, then add everything else.
- Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.
- Cook until fish is tender, 20-25 minutes for 3/4 lb, 30-40 for 1.5 lbs
- Serve with white rice and tea.