Catfish stays moist and meaty in this comfort-food treatment, perked up by the crunch of thinly cut scallions and shreds of mint. Adding drops of hot sauce or your favorite chili sauce works fine if you find yourself without a small red chili pepper.
Serve over steamed rice, rice noodles or shredded iceberg lettuce.
- 1 1/4 pounds skinless, meaty white fish fillets, such as catfish, halibut or whiting
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil or toasted sesame oil
- 3 medium shallots
- 2-inch piece fresh ginger root
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small red chili pepper (may substitute a few drops of your favorite hot sauce)
- 1/3 cup superfine sugar
- 1/3 cup coconut juice
- 3 or 4 scallions
- Fresh mint leaves, preferably Vietnamese, for garnish
- 2 or 3 limes, for garnish
Cut the fish into large chunks. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle with the fish sauce plus 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil or toasted sesame oil, turning to coat.
The following ingredients can go together on the cutting board or in a bowl as you work: Mince the shallots. Peel the ginger, then mince. Cut the garlic into very thin slices. Stem and seed the red chili pepper, then mince.
Heat the remaining oil in a large, heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the sugar, whisking constantly to form a melted caramel-colored mixture.
Carefully pour in the coconut juice -- this will create a fierce bubbling -- then add the marinated fish and the red chili pepper mixture, stirring to coat. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook (steam) for about 10 minutes or until the fish is opaque and just cooked through. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, trim the scallions. Slice them lengthwise into very thin strips, then cut them crosswise into 1 1/2-to-2-inch pieces. Stack the mint leaves, then roll them tightly and cut them crosswise into thin strips. Cut the limes into thin wedges.
Taste, and add fish sauce as needed. Stir in half of the scallions.
Divide among individual bowls. Garnish with the remaining scallions and the mint. Serve with lime wedges.
Adapted from "Take One Pot: Super Simple Recipes to Cook in One Pot," by Georgina Fuggle (Kyle, 2013). * An earlier version of this recipe omitted the word "mixture" after "red chili pepper," in the step where the marinated fish is added to pot.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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