Friday, June 12, 2009

Vietnamese-Style Braised Seafood Pot

One of my favorite Vietnamese dish is caramalized catfish. I had them at Tay Do in Houston in my childhood.

When I lived in Paris, I experimented alot with cooking Vietnamese-style food. I think because it was easier to buy those ingredients than Chinese food made from Taiwan imported products, which I'm more used to. In France, you'll be hard-pressed to find any Taiwan imports. All the Chinese food products come from the P.R.C. In the states, you'll find a better mixture of P.R.C. and R.O.C. food stuffs.

Anyways, I developed a special craving for this dish and decided to make it on my own rather than trek all the way back to Houston. I find that catfish is way too fatty, and they look kinda gross when you buy them live from the market. To avoid that, I use sea bass. Granted, there's still alot of fat, but the quality of the meat is better I think. Sea bass has large, easily detectable bones, which makes the fish easy to consume. I also added other seafood.

Sea Bass
Frozen Clam Meat (use fresh clams with shell when in season)
Frozen Calamari
(Shrimp with shell is also a good addition)
Lots of Garlic
White Wine
Fish Sauce
Soy Sauce
Thai Basil
Lime Juice
Start by browning the sea bass. If there's excess water or oil, make sure to spoon them out. Add garlic into the pot to brown, then the calamari, clams, and ginger.

After browning the seafood for a couple of minutes, pour in half a bottle of white wine and some soy sauce (maybe 1/4 cup). Let it simmer for 20 minutes. It should look like the photo below.

Next, add approximately a tablespoon of fish sauce, several spoonfuls of sugar, a handful of Thai basil, and fresh lime juice. Be careful with fish sauce. It can make this dish really salty.

Vietnamese-Style Braised Seafood Pot

Ok, so I need to work on making the fish stay whole, but it really doesn't matter. It's damn good regardless of appearances.

If you use fresh clams and shrimp with the shells intact, save the shells and the fish bones as you eat. Afterwards, you can boil them in a pot of water to make an amazing seafood broth that is a good base for any seafood soup or for pho! Trust me. You'll end up wanting to make this dish for the awesome trash it produces.

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