Lighter and fruitier than its Chinese ancestor, the sauce of this Vietnamese-style sweet and sour fish is made with lime juice and not thickened with starch.
This dish is not the same as ca kho to, or catfish braised in caramel sauce. This is just plain fried fish steaks doused with sauce, topped with onion slices, chilies and cilantro. The sauce itself is already a bit spicy; the chili garnish is for those who like extra heat.
What fish is good for this dish? Any firm and fleshy fish should be good but oily fish is even better.
Haven’t heard of oily fish? Even if you haven’t, surely you’ve noticed that the texture of fish flesh varies.
Oily fish is the term used for fish with oil in their tissues and around the belly gut. My best examples are salmon and tuna.
At the other end of the spectrum are white fish which contain oil only in their liver. Cod, halibut and sea bass are examples of white fish.
I am not a huge fan of white fish but if you prefer that over oily fish, you may use your preferred white fish to make this Vietnamese-style sweet and sour fish too.
Vietnamese-style Sweet and Sour Fish
For the sauce
Make the sauce
In a small sauce pan, mix together all the ingredients for the sauce except the onion.
Pour in a quarter cup of water. Boil the sauce just until the sugar is melted. Taste. If you want a different balance between sweet and sour, add more sugar or lime juice. If the sauce is too strong for you, stir in more water.
Off the heat, stir in the sliced onion. Set aside.
Cook the fish
Rinse the fish steaks and pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with starch; shake off excess.
In a frying pan, heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least two inches.
Deep fry the fish steaks until golden and crisp. Scoop out and arrange on a serving plate.
Assemble the dish
Ladle the sauce over the fried fish.
Garnish with lime or lemon slices, scallions, chili and cilantro.