One popular way to cook Vietnamese food is to braise meat and fish in a caramel sauce. You get that sweet, slightly bitter, and salty mixture with the protein of your choice. My all time favorite meal in the countryside of Vietnam, especially around the Mekong Delta, is catfish braised with the caramel sauce in a claypot. It does take some time to master this caramel sauce but it will last in your fridge for a while.
Getting this caramel sauce right takes a few tries. There is a crucial period when the melted sugar foams and turns into a dark coffee color. The caramelization process stops when water is added. I had a few incidents where I waited for just a few seconds too long and was left with either burnt caramel or caramel splattering all over the stove. Be cautious when you are attempting to make this sauce for the first time. Once you master this sauce, the possibilities are endless.
This recipe makes about 8 oz of caramel and has a medium rating in terms of the level of difficulty.
1 cup of sugar
½ cup of water
Add 1 cup of sugar to a big pot. Turn the heat to medium.
Once the sugar starts to liquefy, lightly stir the melted sugar.
Watch carefully as it starts to foam and turn to a coffee color. Turn the heat to low.
Stir until it turns to a dark coffee color which will take only a few seconds.
Slowly add water. If the mixture foams too much, the sauce will splatter and burn.
Turn off the heat and keep stirring.
Let the mixture cool to thicken.
Store at room temperature.
Now that you have mastered the caramel sauce, it’s time to make catfish braised with caramel in a clay pot. Check our next Eat post for the recipe and tutorial.