Baked Catfish (Ca Nuong)

We’re raising our family with health conscious in mind for both parents, grandma and the kids. We like to have well balanced meals every week. Since Cholesterol is the main concern for older people these days, we try to eat as lean as possible without losing any taste, because we love to eat good and healthy food, especially our chef Audie and her assistant Brando.

Fish is good for brains as my wife always says to the kids, so we like to eat fish at least once a week, baked catfish is our favorite, only on the weekend because it does take time to prepare but it’s yummy and healthy.

We live not to far from Ranch 99, Lions Asian supermarkets so we can get these whole catfish (previously frozen), the ones they put out are normally small, the bigger ones (5 lbs and up) they put in the back freezer, we always have to ask for them, especially 7-9 lb ones.

If we go to these nice Vietnamese restaurants, they will have the baked whole catfish for about $35-$40 (4-5lbs) with all the trimmings, but majority of the fish meat is dry inside because they deep fried them first before they bake them for customer orders. The way we do at home is to bake the fish fresh, the skin will be crispy and the inside meat is moist just like steamed fish and not dry and brown like deep fried fish.

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PREPARATION

At the supermarket, ask for a fish of the size we want, we use 5lbs for our little family. Ask the fish to be cleaned, inside and out, leave the whole body, not chopped, remove all fins. Normally the catfish skin needs to be clean when we get home, because the store doesn’t have time to clean it well. Most of catfish skin is black and thick, we need to clean it until it’s gray or white. We use latex glove, a straight edge small knife, hot water to scrape all the black stuff off the skin, the motion is like shaving. When we’re happy with the way it looks, then we can proceed with the skin preparation.

We use vegetable oil mixed with a littl sesame oil to kill the fish smell, mixed with the oil, some curry powder, some brown sugar, some soy sauce, some balsamic vinegar, mix them well and paste the oil over the skin, start with the inside stomach first. Before putting the oil over the fish, make sure the skin is dry, we use paper towels.


Make sure the stomach portion is spread open so the heat can go inside to bake it also. We put it on the rack so the heat can go inside the stomach portion.

Every 20 minutes, take it out and paste some more sesame mixed oil all over the fish. With 5lb fish like this one, paste 2 times, and the last one is about 10 minutes and ready to eat, total is about 45-50 minutes.

The skin now is pretty crisp and the inside meat will be so moist and tasty.

On a plate, some chilled zinfandel, all the trimmings and we’re ready to have a great meal. How moist is the meat, the picture can’t do justice but it’s white and moist, not brown and dry as if we deep fried it.

How do we eat our fish?

Rice paper, green apple sliced, cucumber sliced, red lettuce, stirfried chopped green onions (scallions) in vegetable oil, roasted peanuts (chopped), cilantro, beansprouts, ,purple leaves, rice noodles, and mixed fish sauce, not raw, fish sauce can be prepared with garlic, sugar, water (3 even portions boiled a little).

Dip the rice paper to a warm bowl of water, lay it flat on a plate, lay a right size lettuce on the rice paper, purple leave, a slice of green apple, cucumber, cilantro, peanuts, fish meat, some rice noodle, roll it up and dip in the sauce and enjoy.

Well, if anyone can complain that this is not healthy and delicious, I have nothing to say 🙂 . Yes, it does take a long time to prepare, that’s why we only eat this on the weekend, yes, it’s better to go to restaurant, shell out $40-$50 for a small dry fish, but with us, we like the home atmosphere and all we can eat with less than $20.

Cheers,

Chef Audie’s Dad


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