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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh (Vietnamese Roasted Catfish with Scallion Oil)

I know, I know, I tease you with a roasted catfish picture and then I veer off into discussions about chicken! What can I say, I'm not a sequential thinker. :P But mmm, let's see that catfish again yeah?

Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh 1

My dad had just caught the catfish the day before in Oregon before he came down to SoCal. I was all hopeful when he told lil' sis, "Ma lam ca bong lau cho con (Mom made catfish for you)." Lam could mean anything from to work, to cook, to do, to make. Unfortunately, in this case, it only meant my mom had cleaned it. :(

Darn it! I wanted some homecooking. I actually had never roasted a catfish before so I decided to use the marinade from Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Braised Fish in a Claypot), figuring that if it doesn't char properly, at least the marinade will make it taste good. And boy, did it!

I also had some scallions in the fridge that needed to be used up so I decided to make mo hanh (Vietnamese scallion oil) to pour sizzling over the top. The recipe turned out better than expected. So much so that the fish was eaten in minutes.

As my brother picked a section for his wife, he told her our mom made it. No, she didn't. I did! Mommy only cleaned it. Huh! (Actually, he said the same thing a few years back when I made Cua Rang Muoi Tieu Me Toi Gung (Vietnamese Crab Stir-Fried with Salt, Pepper, Tamarind, Garlic, and Ginger). He started talking about how mom makes a sauce from the crab butter. Nuh uh! Mommy only sent down the Dungeness crabs. I made the sauce. Huh!) Anyway, since the first batch went so well, I made it again a few weeks later when my dad came down again and brought me two catfish.

Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh (Vietnamese Roasted Catfish with Scallion Oil) 

For a 2 to 3 lb catfish, you'll need:

For the marinade, you'll need:
2 tblsp fish sauce
1 tblsp brown sugar
1 tblsp honey
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 shallots, finely minced

For topping:  
Mo hanh (Vietnamese scallion oil)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Clean and gut the catfish. Make cuts along the side of the fish spaced every 2 inches or so in order for the marinade to penetrate.

In a separate bowl, mix 2 tblsp fish sauce, 1 tblsp brown sugar, 1 tblsp honey, 1 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp salt, 3 cloves minced garlic, and 3 minced shallots. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Then slather the marinade all over the fish, making sure to get the shallots and garlic in the cuts to soak in flavor.

Place the catfish on its side and bake in the oven for half an hour. Flip the fish so it can absorb the marinade on the other side and bake for another half an hour.

Meanwhile, make the Mo Hanh (Vietnamese Scallion Oil). You can turn the heat off and let the mo hanh rest until just before serving, then turn the heat on to high so the mixture will be sizzling when you pour it over the fish.

After baking for an hour, turn fish right side up. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes until the skin chars and crisps like so.

Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh 2

Here's a close-up of that tender flesh and crispy skin.

Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh 3

But wait! You're not done yet. It gets even better. Take the fish out of the oven. Turn the heat on to high to heat up your scallion oil again and pour piping hot sizzling mo hanh on top. And look at it now!

Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh 4

And another close-up of the fish.

Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh 5

Serve with rice or rice paper and a plate of herbs for rolling. Dip with various fish sauces, or right into the marinade. The marinade is so tasty that I like to add a spoonful of chili paste and make that into a dip.

Ca Bong Lau Nuong voi Mo Hanh 6

The things I do for the blog. So after setting up that photo, I bagged the herbs and carried the ca nuong off to my youngest aunt's house for dinner where it joined the Hainanese chicken rice.

Chinese American Live Poultry 5


Who made my recipe for ca nuong mo hanh?
Hedgehog of Diary of a Novice Cook used trout and said, "The mo hanh (spring onion oil) makes this dish so worth-while. It feels sooo bad to see the chopped spring onions swimming in what seems like a sea of oil (I use nut oil) but boy, it tastes sooooo good."

My other Vietnamese fish recipes:  
Ca Chien Sot Ca Chua (Vietnamese Fried Fish with Tomato Sauce)  
Ca Hap Gung Hanh (Vietnamese Steamed Fish with Ginger and Scallions)  
Ca Kho To (Vietnamese Braised Catfish in a Claypot)  
Canh Chua Ca (Vietnamese Sour Fish Soup)  
Cha Ca Thang Long (Vietnamese Hanoi-Style Turmeric Fish with Dill)

 I'm submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging, a world-wide food blogging event created by Kalyn's Kitchen celebrating herbs, vegetables, or flowers. If you'd like to participate, see who's hosting next week. Why, the host is gonna be me! :) WHB is hosted this week by Cate of Sweetnicks.

1 year ago today, Atiso! Atiso! But I Am Speaking English!: Tra Atiso (Vietnamese Artichoke Tea) and Roasted Artichokes with Chili Aioli.


  1. I don't know if this catfish would make it for the car ride to anyones house. I'd be picking at it all along the way! Your crispy fish lathered in scallion oil is wickedly good.

  2. The catfish looks good and the meal at your aunt's place looks awesome! It looks so comforting and homey. Can I come over?

  3. Oh, what a delicious looking fishy!

  4. Your dish looks awesome. The scallion oil is a great addition. And, how cool is your Dad? He brings you fish he caught from Oregon!

    My mom makes something like this - she adds peanuts and fried shallots along with the scallion oil and we wrap it in rice paper with lettuce and herbs. So yummy.

    I can't wait to try this too.

  5. What a "fatty" catfish!

    Yes yes...I'm taking part in WHB as you are the host this week! Happy hosting :)

  6. yay, a recipe I've been waiting for. I've got a post for WHB but I need to tidy it a bit first. :D

  7. Tasty! The way you arranged the fish...looks like it was swimming in the sauce, hehe. I usually only eat this at Phong Dinh (Garvey and SG) b/c I get lazy when dealing with whole fish.

  8. WoRC,
    I wanted to soak that rice paper and dig in right after I took the photo.

    You're always welcome for dinner. :)


    Peanuts and shallots are awesome. Will keep that in mind for next time.

    Hehe. You're my first guest.

    Yeah, it takes me a while to get around to posting some things.

    I'll have to make a trip to Phong Dinh. I've eaten there before, just not the fish.

    It was very delicious.

  9. That looks like one incredible catfish! Great post (though my kids would be creeped out by the fish head looking at them!)

  10. Sounds fantastic. I really like catfish, which isn't that common in Utah. I've never had it cooked whole though.

  11. I don't even like catfish, and I"m tempted to try it. I will be back to your site for sure!

  12. Deborah,
    I grew up eating fish with heads attached so it's no big deal to me. Perhaps you can get your kids used to it too?

    You can try this with catfish filets. The presentation will be different but it'll still be tasty.

    This dish will make you a catfish convert for sure. :)

  13. For some reason, whenever I look up Vietnamese recipes, your blog ALWAYS comes up! :)

    How do you gut a catfish? I googled it but I didn't really understand my search results and it made me kind of scared. Should I just buy fillets!??! (am looking to make goi cuon, or whatever it's called if there's catfish in it)

  14. Chloe,
    Ah, well, that's nice to hear. :)

    I use scissors to gut fish. So much easier to slit down the side and trim off fins and all that. You can buy fillets. Or buy a fish from an Asian supermarket. Most of them will gut and scale a fish for you.

    I'll have to post my instructions for gutting a fish then and once you see how easy it is, you can do it yourself.

  15. Thanks for the tip!! I went to a Vietnamese supermarket owned by Shun Fat on Beach near the 405 and the man behind the counter gutted the fish for me (after I handed him a piece of paper that I so carefully transcribed from my mom's translation via email). I'll let you know how it goes!! I think I'll follow your recipe minus the hanh because I'm lazy. It was the first time I ever went to a supermarket and pointed at a fish. My mom's always done it, even in front of me, but it's so different doing it yourself...

  16. Chloe,
    Some Asian supermarkets will also deep-fry the fish for you too. If you're feeling particularly lazy.

  17. Good job!!! I will try this recipe out to morrow

  18. Hi WC,
    I made this recipe last week for the first time for my sis and bros-in-law and it was a BIG hit. They kept asking if I made it or it was store bought:) I made 2 of 3.5lbs catfish for 8 people and they were gone quick. I left the fish laying on the side cuz I couldn't "stand it" up. what do you think if I marinate each side 30min first, then put it in the oven in the position like your pics for 1hr?
    BTW, I added water to the marinade cuz it was abit too salty. it works out fine.
    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I'll definitely make it again.

  19. Christine,
    That's great to hear! Did you tell them you got it from me? :P

    Experiment. See if it works? The reason why I cook it on each side is so the fish has time to absorb the marinade. Standing it up at the end is just to crisp it.

  20. Hi WC,

    I'm wondering how do you end up with so much marinade at the end? Twice I made this and what's left the marinade just dried onto the pan. Still both times came out yummy but I didn't get to enjoy much of the dripping. I'm confused...........

  21. Hang,
    Are you using fresh or frozen fish? Mine are from my dad, so they're frozen. Even though the fish is defrosted before I cook it, maybe more water is retained and then melted when it's cooked? If that's not the case, then I suggest adding water into the pan when you notice it drying out. Add the water near the beginning so it'll have time to thicken into the sauce at the end. Hope that works!

    The dripping is my favorite part. I scoop it out into a dish and add chili sauce and dip the fish with rice paper into that sauce.

  22. Hi WC,
    I used fresh catfish. Next time I'll definitely add the water. Thanks! :)

    P.s. I shared the recipe to my sister and friend. They both loved it!!!

  23. Hang,
    Glad that was easily solved. And glad that you liked the recipe and so did your sister and friend! :)

  24. This was totally amazing. I didn't have a whole catfish, so I used fresh catfish filets from the local fish market. It worked just as well and the cooking time was much shorter.

  25. Ariana,
    Thanks! It's nice to know that the recipe works even with filets.


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