Caramel fish with galangal

Caramel fish with galangal

Cá kho tộ

Real Vietnamese Cooking
Michael Fountoulakis

We came across this dish during our very first journey to Vietnam in 1994, on a trip to the Mekong Delta, where it is prepared from carp at roadside stops. On the coast, it is made with mackerel.

The recipe below, which uses galangal and coconut milk, is typical of the version served in the southern beach town of Nha Trang.


Quantity Ingredient
3-4 mackerel cutlets, each 2-3 cm thick
3 red asian shallots, finely diced
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
150ml coconut milk
3cm knob fresh galangal, cut into thin strips
1 long red chilli, cut into 5 mm rings
4 spring onion, thinly sliced
coriander sprigs


  1. Coat the mackerel with the shallot, 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce and the pepper. Set aside to marinate for 20 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  3. Meanwhile, put the sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons water in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, then cook for 3-5 minutes, until the sugar becomes richly golden; do not stir the mixture during the boiling process.
  4. Standing away from the pan, pour in 250 ml water. When the spluttering has stopped, stir until the caramel sauce is smooth.
  5. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Brown the marinated mackerel on both sides, leaving the shallot sticking to the fish.
  6. Add the caramel sauce, coconut milk, galangal, chilli and remaining fish sauce to the pan. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat.
  7. Transfer the fish and sauce to a clay pot or casserole dish. Cover and bake for 10 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for a further 4-5 minutes.
  8. Serve the fish in the clay pot or dish, sprinkled with the spring onion, coriander and some extra black pepper.
Real Vietnamese Cooking
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