This week’s Mom’s 52 recipe is a simple, minimal ingredient dish: Ca Chien – Fried Fish. First, find a good place to get fresh fish. Do not be intimidated to order fresh fish at the counter, as opposed to pre-packaged fish. This way, you can see the fish before it’s cleaned. Select fish that does not have a fishy smell, and whose eyes are clear.
Below, we have instructions for both whole fried fish and fish steaks for your Ca Chien. Whole fish yields a nicer presentation, but steaks are easier to handle while cooking. For whole fish, Mom likes the Golden Pompano, which is a scaleless fish that does not have many small bones, making it easier for your guests to eat. Other good options for whole fried fish are bass or tilapia. In my experience, whole tilapia has a bit too many small bones, so beware if serving children. For steaks, the best option is catfish. In addition to selecting catfish with clear eyes, the better catfish are those with a more narrow head.
An outdoor cooking surface is recommended, but Mom has cooked Ca Chien for years indoors too. Just turn on that air vent!
Ca Chien – Fried Fish
INGREDIENTS – makes 2-3 servings
- 1.5 lbs of fresh fish (whole, cleaned & gutted; or steaks)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 C. flour (for fish STEAKS only)
- oil for frying, i.e. vegetable or canola (do not use olive oil)
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
STEP 1: PREPARE THE FISH
FISH STEAKS: Dry the fish well. Place the fish steaks into a large plastic bag and add 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 C. flour. Close the bag, and shake well to coat the fish steaks.
WHOLE FISH: Dry the fish well. Cut 3 long slits into the side of the whole fish. Sprinkle a total of 1 tsp. salt on both sides of the fish.
STEP 2: FRY THE FISH
- Pour enough frying oil into a large, wide skillet to rise about 1/2 an inch on the sides. Turn the heat on to medium.
- After the oil has heated for 3-4 minutes, add the peeled garlic.
- Carefully add the whole fish/fish steaks. The fish will immediately sizzle. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes, watching closely to keep the fish from burning.
- Flip the fish after 5 minutes. It should be golden brown on the cooked side. Cook an additional 5 minutes to cook the other side, turning up the heat just slightly during the last minute to really crisp the fish.
- Remove the fish from the oil and drain on paper towels. Serve with a side of Nuoc Mam Cham – Dipping Fish Sauce, a recipe that can also be found in our Mom’s 52 recipe series. Enjoy!
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