Any fish should be seasoned with this spice to make the fish firm, flavorful, and not fishy

With this secret sauce, just a spoonful of it will ensure that your dish is always flavorful, aromatic, and irresistibly delicious, without ever getting tired of it.


Braised fish is one of the dishes that frequently appears on the Vietnamese dining table, especially during cold days. Depending on preferences, you can choose different braising techniques, types of fish, or spices. However, no matter what kind of braised fish you are cooking, you need to add a tablespoon of this spice to make the dish always flavorful and enticing.

A must-have spice when braising fish

It is no exaggeration to say that fish sauce is an essential ingredient when cooking braised fish. Whether it is saltwater or freshwater fish, fish sauce always plays a vital role in seasoning the dish.

Just add a few tablespoons of pure fish sauce to the braised fish, and you will experience the sweet, fragrant, firm, and flavorful taste of the fish.

How to braise fish to make it sweet, fragrant, firm, and not fishy

When braising fish, it is recommended to choose fresh fish with bright, clear eyes and slightly puffy belly. The fish meat should be firm, without any unpleasant smell, and the fish parts should not be torn apart.

After preparing the fish, you should marinate it with spices. Depending on your cooking style, you can adjust the seasoning to suit your taste, but fish sauce is indispensable.

To make the braised fish flavorful, you should marinate the fish for about 2 hours. In case you have limited time, marinate the fish for at least 50 minutes before braising.

If you want the braised fish to have an appealing color, a delightful aroma, and a rich taste, you can caramelize the sugar with cooking oil until it turns dark brown, then add filtered water, coconut water, and some pungent spices like garlic, chili, and purple onion. Coconut water not only gives the braised fish an attractive brown color but also helps the fish become sticky and more aromatic.

In case you do not have coconut water, you can add molasses or palm sugar to the braised fish to make the broth sweet, fragrant, and “rice-catching”.

To make the braised fish tender and fatty, you can braise it with a small amount of pork belly. If you do not like pork, you can add a little lard or cooking oil to prevent the fish from becoming dry, making it tender, soft, and more aromatic. Arrange the pork belly alternately with the fish and then add the broth. If the broth is not enough to cover the fish, you can add warm water and bring it to a boil. After that, reduce the heat and braise for about 40 – 50 minutes to let the fish absorb the flavors and cook the fish until it is tender.

If you want the fish to be dry and firm, you should braise it twice or more. After the first braising, you can let it cool and then braise it again. The braised fish will become firmer, more delicious, and evenly absorbed with the flavors. To make the braised fish more fatty and flavorful, you can add lard or cooking oil at the end.

Frequently asked questions

Choose fresh fish with clear, bright eyes and a slightly puffy belly. The meat should be firm and smell pleasant. Marinate the fish with spices, including fish sauce, for about 2 hours before cooking. For a time-saving option, marinate for at least 50 minutes.

To improve the overall presentation and taste of your dish, try caramelizing sugar with cooking oil until it turns dark brown. Then, add filtered water, coconut water, and spices like garlic, chili, and purple onion. Alternatively, if you don’t have coconut water, add molasses or palm sugar to achieve a similar effect.

Braise the fish with a small amount of pork belly, or add a little lard or cooking oil to keep it moist and tender. If using pork belly, arrange it alternately with the fish and add your choice of broth. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 40-50 minutes.

Braise the fish twice or more. After the first braising, let it cool down and then repeat the process. This will result in a firmer, more flavorful, and evenly cooked dish. You can also add lard or cooking oil at the end to enhance the fattiness and flavor.
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