Cá Kho To (Vietnamese Caramelized Fish) with Seared Sesame Cabbage

Cá Kho To (Vietnamese Caramelized Fish) with Seared Sesame Cabbage

Pronounced (gaa-ko-doe), this Vietnamese dish is something you will cook over and over again. The burnt sugar and umami flavor from the fish sauce sets a deep and bold backdrop for the cod. Seared cabbage gives the dish just the right amount of crunch and also balances the sweetness of the sauce. Word to the wise, be prepared for some strong smells! We think you'll find them worth it though.

Cá Kho To (Vietnamese Caramelized Fish) with Seared Sesame Cabbage | Sitka Salmon Shares

Prep time: 10 min
Cook time: 35 min
Total time: 1 hr
Serves: 4


  • Jasmine rice:
  • 1 cup Jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ½ cup cold water
  • Caramelized Pacific cod:
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot
  • 1 small garlic clove, sliced
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bottom 6-inches, finely chopped
  • 1 dried red chile (or freshly ground pepper)
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup fish sauce
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 pound Pacific cod, cut into 2-inch strips or cubes
  • ¼ lime to juice
  • 1 small bunch cilantro for garnish
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • Seared cabbage:
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 medium purple cabbage, quartered
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ lime to juice


Make the rice

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, bring rice and water to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Remove from heat, leave covered, and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, transfer to a bowl, and cover with towel until ready to plate.

Make caramelized cod

In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, add oil, shallot, garlic, lemongrass, and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until everything softens, about 4 minutes. Stir in sugar and let sit undisturbed. The sugar will slowly begin to turn a golden amber color. When sugar is almost a deep caramel, about 6 to 10 minutes, remove from heat and slowly add fish sauce and water, taking care not to splatter. Gently stir to dissolve the sugar and return to low heat. Add the fish and cook for 5 minutes. Turn over fish and cook until the bubbles and the sauce have thickened a bit more, about 7 minutes. Squeeze lime juice into the thickened sauce, remove from heat, and let sit until cabbage is ready.

Sear the cabbage

Wipe a medium skillet with sesame oil and set over medium heat. When skillet is hot, add a few quartered cabbage wedges, cut-side down, and salt the top. Sear until dark brown, about 4 to 6 minutes. Gently flip, salt, and sear the other side until dark brown and cabbage is tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from skillet, drizzle with additional oil if desired, and squeeze ½ lime over the top.


Scoop a serving of rice into 4 bowls and snuggle in a cabbage wedge with a few sprigs of cilantro. Place pieces of fish on top of the rice and spoon sauce over the fish and rice, being careful to avoid any large lemongrass pieces. Top with scallions.

Ready to try this recipe?

Shop our seafood boxes for next week delivery.

Shop Seafood Boxes
Join our community.
Subscribe Now
Join our community.
Subscribe Now