Vietnamese caramelised fish in clay-pot – cá kho tộ

If you love Vietnamese food and have been to some Vietnamese Restaurants abroad, you’ve probably heard of Ca Kho To ( stewed fish in clay pot).

A sweet, salty and a little spicy stew fished from Southern Vietnam which goes so well with plain rice, like Japanese eel, but that’s not it’s all, order green mustard pickle to go with it, you’ll be delighted!

Breakdown the meaning

cá: fish

kho: stew, braise

tộ: clay pot

Ca kho to is a fish stew in a clay-pot called tộ, the dish is named after that earthenware pot, stress how importance it is, but if you do not have one, use the thick bottom cast-iron pot instead.

The fish, after being marinated, will then be stewed in caramelised sauce with sliced belly pork – the fatty belly pork will enhance the flavour and texture of the fish, so even if you don’t like to eat pork, put some in, experiment with smoked lard as well.

Ca kho to 2

Choose your fish for the dish

You might heard that “any fish would do” and they are right – no one could prevent you try whichever fish you like, but these fish, works best.

Tiny river fish or rice paddy fish (slow cook till the bone disintegrate, we’ll eat the whole lot)

Fatty or/and sinewy fish such as basa, catfish and snakeheaded fish

How to cook

Following chef Nguyen Dzoan Cam Van with a little adjustment.


7 oz. snake-headed fish, sliced into chunk (any kind of fish above would do)
4 oz. belly pork, thinly sliced, 1/12″

5-6 tbsp. fish sauce
1-2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
Toasted black pepper, freshly ground

1-3 bird eyes chilli, smashed
2-3 Spring onion: white part sliced lengthwise, green part cut 1″ length.

Ca kho to 3


1. Marinate: Marinate fish with 1 tsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. pepper, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1 tbsp. fish sauce; marinate pork with 1 tbsp. fish sauce.

2. Bring the clay pot to medium high heat, add 1 tbsp. sugar and 1 tbsp. fish sauce, stir till caramelised and add 1 tbsp. fish sauce; add belly pork and cook for few minutes to concentrate flavour; add fish including the juice, seasoning with fish sauce, sugar, salt and oil.
Bring to high heat for a rolling boil, add water, enough to cover the fish, put the fish bellow the surface, surrounded by belly pork. Reduce heat, put lid on and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Remove the lid, bring the pot to high heat to reduce the sauce and concentrate the flavour, add oil, chilli and cook for few minutes; add spring onion and turn of the heat.