Brushed on barbecued meat, seafood or used as the base for curries and hot pots, caramel is Vietnam’s signature flavour. It sounds unorthodox, but once mixed with fish sauce and lime it transforms into a magic elixir for Vietnamese cooking. Traditionally this dish is cooked in small clay pots, but you can use a donabe or heavy saucepan with a lid.
Place the chilli, garlic and ginger in a food processor and pulse until chopped. Alternatively, you can hand chop them.
In a medium pan, donabe or large clay hot pot, heat the oil. Add the chopped mixture and cook over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Pour in the sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon water. Heat for about 2–3 minutes until melted and bubbling. Add the fish sauce, tamarind and stock. Bring this to a simmer.
When you are ready to eat, add the salmon fillets to the liquid. Place a lid on and let simmer for 5–8 minutes or until the fish is done (thicker fish might take another minute or two).
Add some fresh coriander or mint to the hot pot and serve with steamed rice, green vegetables and lime wedges.
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