Vietnamese Braised Fish (Cá Kho)

Vietnamese Braised Fish (Cá Kho)

Braised fish
Today we are making one of my favourite comforting meals, Vietnamese Braised Fish - Ca Kho. Growing up, I never enjoyed eating fish and I would cry and beg my parents not to make me eat it! My palette for food hadn’t  matured yet and I hated anything that tasted remotely like fish. However, Ca Kho was one of the rare fish dishes that didn’t taste like fish to me and I actually enjoyed it. The
braising method infused with so much more flavour that it tamed any “fishy” taste. I’ve come a long way since then and now enjoy ALL kinds of fish. Especially now that I’m married into a Portuguese family - they LOVE their fish and now so do I! Look at me now, I never looked happier eating fish 😄

happy eater

Personal Anecdote

Growing up, my mom's braised fish was a staple at our family dinners. She usually opted for tilapia (I found this out after I made the dish haha) because she enjoys this more than catfish (the traditional choice). However, I ended up making this recipe with cod today as I couldn't find catfish. To my delight, cod's meaty texture and quality enhanced the dish, making it a new favourite. The secret lies in the sautéing of garlic and shallots, which, as mentioned earlier,  beautifully tames any strong fish scent.

braised fish

What it tastes like

Expect a symphony of flavours - the sweetness and depth from caramelized sugar, the umami from fish sauce, and a subtle heat from the Thai chilis. The cod fish, tender and rich, absorbs these flavors, creating a dish that's hearty yet not overwhelmingly 'fishy'. It's a perfect introduction for those cautious about seafood.

braised fish on rice


Side Dish (Canh): Long Squash Soup

Long squash, akin to zucchini and cucumber in texture and taste, makes for an ideal side. It's mild flavour and soft texture form a soothing contrast to the rich braised fish. It's typical to have some sort of "Canh" to accompany a braised dish like this one to make this meal more wholesome! 


Ingredients for Braised Fish

  • 2 pounds cod fish
  • 2-3 tbsp sugar (brown or cane preferred)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1/2 cup coconut water or water
  • 2-3 Thai chilis
  • LOTS of cracked black pepper
  • chopped green onion to garnish

Ingredients for Long Squash Soup

  • 1 shallot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 100 - 200 grams of shrimp
  • 2 long squash
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • Salt, to taste 
  • Garnish with green onion, cilantro, and black pepper

Cooking Steps

Braised Fish:

  • Caramelizing Sugar: Heat a little oil in a pan and add sugar. Stir continuously to avoid burning and achieve a uniform caramel colour.
  • Aromatic Base: Add minced garlic and shallots, stirring to release their fragrance.
  • Creating the Sauce: Introduce a few drops of water to prevent solidification. Mix in fish sauce and chicken bouillon.
  • Adding the Fish: Carefully lay the cod fillets in the pan. Allow them to simmer for 5 minutes, then gently flip them over.
  • Final Steps: Add coconut water and Thai chilis. Cover the pan and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.

Long Squash Soup:

  • Preparation: Sauté garlic and shallots in a pot. Add chopped long squash.
  • Simmering the Soup: Pour water over the vegetables. Season with chicken bouillon and fish sauce.
  • Cooking: Let it cook until the squash is translucent.

The Art of "Kho" - Vietnamese Braising

"Kho" is a traditional Vietnamese cooking method, involving caramelizing sugar and then braising with a liquid. This technique, likely having Chinese influences, imparts a unique combination of sweetness, savouriness, and depth to dishes, making it a beloved method in Vietnamese culinary traditions.

Tips and Tricks

  • Sauce Consistency: If the sauce is too thin, thicken it with a cornstarch or tapioca slurry.
  • Fish Preparation: Avoid overcooking the fish to prevent it from becoming tough.


This Vietnamese Braised Fish, especially when made with cod, brings out the best of Vietnamese culinary traditions. It's all in the unique flavours and techniques, showcasing the versatility and depth of Vietnamese cooking. Paired with a side of long squash soup, this meal isn't just nourishing but also a delightful exploration of textures and tastes. Whether you're a seafood lover or cautious about fish, this dish will have you pleasantly surprised and coming back from seconds! YOMM!

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