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Vietnamese Caramelized CatFish

Catfish braised in a sweet, salty mixture of fish sauce and coconut water. This popular Vietnamese dish is rich and full of flavors. Perfect over rice and steam veggies. 

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4


For the fish seasonings:

  • 1 lb catfish filet or catfish steaks
  • 5 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 small shallot (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black or white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon chicken powder
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (more to taste)
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut water

For the caramelized sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoons water


  1. Wash fish in salt water and pat dry. Set aside. Once dry, place garlic powder, salt, fish sauce, chicken powder to marinate. Let sit for 15 minutes if time permits. 

  2. Heat oil over medium heat over a skillet. Once hot, add in garlic, shallot and fry until brown, about a minute. Carefully transfer the fish filets and sear on both sides until brown. Add in coconut water and turn the heat to medium low to braise.

  3. While the fish is simmering, prepare the caramelized sauce. Place water and sugar in a separate small saucepan over medium heat. Gently swirl the pan until the sugar starts to bubbles and turn into a caramelize liquid. Quickly pour over the fish. 

  4. Continue to simmer the fish on medium low heat for 25-30 minutes until sauce thickens and the fish filets become firm and has nice caramelized color. Season to taste, add more fish sauce if you like it on the saltier side, or more sugar, if needed. 

  5. Sprinkles with black pepper and chilis to finish. Serve over rice and steam veggies.