Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Vietnamese Fish in Curry Sauce

This recipe comes from The Book of Vietnamese Cooking, by Deh’ta Hsiung. While there are better Vietnamese cookbooks out there, this one does contain a few excellent recipes. Here’s my favorite; it includes some minor, time-saving changes to the original. Expect your preparations and cooking to take approximately 45 minutes.

I should add that I’ve never had a dish exactly like this in Vietnam. Even so, the lemongrass, fish sauce, chilies, lime juice, and cilantro are quintessential flavors found throughout the south. This tastes like southern Vietnam to me, and I highly recommend it.

Main Ingredients
1 lb fish fillet or steak (I recommend halibut for its firmness, but you can also use other whitefish such as cod or monkfish) cut into bite-size pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2-3 shallots, finely chopped
1 cup Vietnamese hot sauce (see below)
1 1/2 cups water
12 oz. firm tofu, cut into small cubes

Ingredients for Vietnamese Hot Sauce
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 red chilies, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon ginger root, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili sauce
4 tablespoons pre-chopped lemon grass (or 2 sticks of lemon grass, peeled and chopped)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
5 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2-3 tablespoons mild curry powder (reduce this is you can’t handle spiciness)


1. In a dish, marinate the halibut with a mixture of pepper, sugar, and fish sauce.

2. Prepare the hot sauce.

A. Heat oil in a medium saucepan and gently stir-fry the garlic, chilies, ginger, chili sauce, and lemon grass for one minute.
B. Add mixture of soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, lime juice, and water. Bring to a boil.
C. Blend in chopped cilantro.
D. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Remove from heat.
E. Add 2-3 tablespoons of mild curry powder. (No need to mix.)

3. Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan and stir-fry the garlic and shallots for one minute.

4. Add the hot sauce and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

5. Add 1 1/2 cups water, blend well, and bring to a boil.

6. Add the fish and tofu. Stir gently, then reduce heat. Cover and let simmer for ten minutes.

7. Serve hot. (The dish is also good when served cold.)

For garnishing, I recommend adding more chopped fresh cilantro to taste. You can also add 2-3 green onions, cut into short lengths, and/or 1-2 red chilies, seeded and chopped.

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