In Vietnam, this dish is traditionally made in a clay pot with catfish. In this updated version, sugar is caramelized on the stove top, mixed with umami-rich fish sauce, coconut water, ginger, onion and garlic, then combined with meaty white fish in a slow cooker. Choose a fish fillet no less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick for the best results. The size of the fillet will determine the cooking time, so check the fish regularly to avoid overcooking it.
Slow-Cooker Vietnamese-Style Caramelized Fish with Ginger
- 1/2 cup (4 oz./125 g) sugar
- 2 Tbs. water
- 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) coconut water
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) fish sauce
- 2 Tbs. canola oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1-inch (2.5-cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 fresh red Thai chiles, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise
- 3 green onions, including tender green parts, sliced
- 2 lb. (900 g) skinless firm, mild, white fish fillet such as halibut or cod, cut into 6 equal pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Steamed jasmine rice for serving
1. In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stir together the sugar, water and lemon juice. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally to ensure even cooking (do not stir), until the sugar melts, comes to a boil, and turns a deep caramel brown, about 5 minutes. As the caramel cooks, use a brush dipped in cold water to wash down any sugar crystals that form on the pan sides and watch carefully to prevent burning. Remove from the heat, then carefully whisk in the coconut water and fish sauce until well combined. Transfer the contents of the pan to a slow cooker.
2. Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and warm the oil. Add the yellow onion, garlic, ginger, and chiles and cook, stirring often, until just starting to soften, about 5 minutes.
3. Transfer the onion mixture to the slow cooker, add the green onions and stir to combine. Cover and cook on the low setting for 2 hours to blend the flavors.
4. Season the fish on both sides with salt and pepper. Using tongs, add the fish to the slow cooker and turn to coat evenly with the sauce. Re-cover and cook on the low setting until the fish is firm and opaque throughout, about 25 minutes.
5. Spoon the rice onto individual plates. Using a slotted spatula, place the fish atop the rice, then spoon the sauce over the fish and serve. Serves 6.
Discover the secrets to making the most of your slow cooker with
Everyday Slow Cooking, by Kim Laidlaw.