Friday, July 20, 2012

Catfish: More than just a bottom dweller

While I love me some fried catfish (I am from Southeast TX, y'all), there are other ways of preparing catfish that doesn't involve battering and frying those suckers. 

[Courtesy: Wikipedia]

Catfish is extremely prevalent in Vietnamese cuisine and you know damn well that we use the WHOLE FISH, yep, that includes the HEAD! Squeamish people beware. 

 I think it is safe to say that most Viet people love canh chua ca (sour fish soup). It's a soup that excites your taste buds but is also fairly healthy.

When I make this, I usually buy the whole catfish at the Asian market and ask the fish monger to chop the body into 1in. steaks. The steaks will be turned into ca kho (caramel braised catfish - recipe for another time). I keep the head and the tail for this soup. In a normal meal, you would make the braised fish dish + the soup and have a full catfish meal with rice. YUM!

          • 1 bag of bean sprouts
          • 2 tomatoes
          • package of okra
          • 1-2 stalks of bac ha (taro stem and elephant ear)
          • 2 shallots (minced) 
          • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
          • 1 cup canned pineapple (cut into bite-sized chunks)
          • catfish head and tail + 1 catfish steak 
          • Sarap tamarind soup base + fish sauce to taste


1. Saute the garlic and shallots in a tablespoon of vegetable oil. When it's fragrant and slightly browned add the catfish head and tail. Cook the fish for two minutes on each side. Then add the catfish steak.

{Is he looking at you?}

2. Add enough water to cover the fish but leave enough room for all the veggies (this pot is close to 6 quarts, so on average about 4-6 quarts of water will do). Add half of the tamarind soup base and one tablespoon of fish sauce. Let the broth simmer while you prep the veggies.

3. Clean the bac ha: You just take off the green tough skin. What's left is just the spongy stalk. Cut on a bias into 1/4 inch pieces.

{L: take the tough layer off the bac ha. R: cut on the bias into 1/4 inch pieces}

4. Trim the ends off the okra and slide the tomatoes into wedges.

{Micah asked me one time, "Viet people eat okra?!" The answer is yes.}

5. Skim off any foamy particles off the soup. Add all the hard veggies and pineapple into the pot! Let the soup simmer for 30 minutes before adding the bean sprouts, these go in at the last minute. Taste the soup to see if you need more fish sauce, I usually end up adding another tablespoon or two. If it's not sour enough, add a touch more of the tamarind base. The dominant flavor should be sour, then salty, then sweet. Adjust to your liking.

{everyone into the pot!}

Fill up a bowl with some jasmine rice, ladle on some soup and you've got Vietnamese comfort food.

Now you ask, what do I do with the head and tail? Take those babies out and ladle on the high-end fish sauce. Just pick at it with your chopsticks. That is good eating right there!

{Are you brave enough to eat the eyeball?!}

No comments:

Post a Comment