Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ca Nuong--Roasted Catfish

Roasted whole catfish is one of my many favorite vietnamese dishes, and one of the healthiest.  This dish uses very little oil, catfish's high in omega-3 fatty acids, and it's eaten with lots of veggies. 

The problem is, the way I love it cooked is with the whole catfish DEEP FRIED so the skin's crispy and the fish is juicy on the inside.  It's also one of my mom's time saving tricks.  You go to the asian supermarket, buy two catfish, have them clean, gut, and deep fry 'em for you.  Then you walk out with two parchment wrapped fish bouquets smelling like fried goodness.  Then you go home, top them off with roasted peanuts and scallion oil and crunch and munch away on the crispy skin.  THAT's how I like my Ca Nuong--fast, fried, and delicious.  Fish skin should always be crispy in my (and George's) book. 

But since our seafood section of the asian market only cleans and doesn't deep fry, I have to roast the damn thing in the oven.  All around bOooOs from George because there was no crispy fried skin and it was a healthier meal.  But it was still so good!

The end product:
Ca Nuong topped with scallion oil and roasted peanuts.  Hats off to whoever discovered the combo of fish, green onions and peanuts, wrapped in rice paper, dipped in spicy fish sauce.  GENIUS!

Step 1: Get your catfish cleaned and gutted at the supermarket.  Some places will also clean off the black skin for you, some won't.

Step 1a: My super market didn't so I took an extra step at home.  To clean off the black gook on the skin (which gives the fish a fishier smell and taste AND will prevent your fish from getting a gorgeous brown color), dunk it for 1 minute in boiling water.  Then take it out and scrape off the black gook w/ a brillow pad.  I used a butter knife..which left knife marks on my fish =(.  Don't do that...=/

I cleaned some black off but it could have been cleaner.  Anyways, HUNGRY.
Step 2: Rub your fish down ..heheheh. 
On the skin, rub about 1/8 cup of honey per fish.  This will get you that delicious brown roasted color and crispy skin (not as crispy as deep frying =( but whatever!)
Then rub on olive oil, salt, pepper, minced ginger, a couple swigs of fish sauce mixture on the outside + inside of the fish.  Some people also use minced lemongrass.  I should have been more generous with my seasonings.

Step 2a: Marinade for a few hours or over night..I baked it right away.  Too hungry!
ALSO: I should have done this --make 3 slits just barely through the skin of your fish on both sides.  This relievs the tension on the skin when you roast at high temperature  so the skin crisps up instead of tearing like mine did. 

Step 3: Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  If you fridgerated your fish to marinate, take it out and let it come to room temperature.  Then pop it in the oven.
For a 3lb fish, it's about 40 mins.  My fish was a lot smaller, around 1.5 lbs, so roast for about 15 mins.
During the last 5 mins, turn it up to BROIL for a crispy golden color.  Make sure you watch the fish so it doens't burn!
(Looks creepy i know...but it'll taste good! Promise!)

Step 4: Meanwhile, make your Nuoc Mam Cham dipping sauce.  If you need a recipe, The Ravenous Couple (recipe)--one of my go to blogs for Viet food has a great one.  I just went by taste to make my sauce.

* 1 cup of hot water
4 tablespoons of sugar
* juice of about 1 whole lime
* 6-8 cut thai chile peppers (I like it spicy!!)
* 5 cloves of minced garlic (I like it garlicky!)
* 1/4 cup fish sauce.
* Adjust to taste. It should be sweet, with a small hint of sour (and if you prefer, a kick of garlic and spicyness!)
* some people also add pickled carrots & daikon (recipe)

Step 5: Toast your peanuts.  Watch 'em and move them around, these suckers burn FAST!

Step 5: I like lots of peanuts and scallion oil on my fish.  I chopped up about two bunches of green onions , then add olive oil to the height in the picture.  Let it soak in lowwww heat then remove off heat once the onions have slightly wilted.  We don't want the green onions to turn brown.

Step 6:  Once the catfish's done, top it off with scallions in oil, and tons of roasted peantus.
I'm ghetto so I lined my table with old Washington Posts for easy breezy clean up!  Fish sauce is NO joke if you get it on your table!

My ginormo roll--some veggies, some fish, lots of skin, lots of peanuts and green onions.  Now dip baby dippppppppp ! Let me see that ca nuong roll =D

It was good but not greeaaat--I must get a deep fryer!

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