I called dibs on the fish carcass following our baked catfish feast at Phong Dinh. While little was left of the fish’s flesh, I saw great potential in the remaining bones. Namely, an opportunity to transform what would have been waste into one of the most comforting dishes ever: cháo cá (Vietnamese fish porridge).
To start, I made a light stock using the bones along with fresh ginger, scallions, and cilantro. According to Mom, the aromatics are essential for balancing the fish’s intrinsically “fishy” flavor and aroma. Next, I added rice to the broth and let it simmer for the better part of an hour. Once the rice was fully bloomed, thickening the porridge just so, sautéed fish and mushrooms were added in. Chopped cilantro and scallions topped each bowl to finish.
Even though cháo cá is essentially made with kitchen scraps, the flavor coaxed from the humble ingredients is rounded and rich. It’s hard not to feel utterly satisfied after finishing a bowl of this soulful porridge.
- 1 large fish carcass, with any remaining flesh removed and set aside
- 1 bunch cilantro
- Small knob ginger (1.5 inches long), peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts separated
- Fish sauce
- 1 1/2 cups Jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 8 ounces white button mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
- Chili powder (optional)
In a large stock pot, combine 4 quarts of water, fish carcass, cilantro (stems only), ginger, and half of the scallions (white part only, halved lengthwise). Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes on low heat.
Remove broth from heat and discard fish carcass and aromatics. Season with 1 tablespoon salt and 3 tablespoons fish sauce.
Over medium-low heat, return the broth to the stove and add in rice. Simmer until desired thickness has been achieved, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Prepare fish and mushrooms
Heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the remaining scallion whites, mushrooms, and fish, and saute until the mushrooms are fully cooked. Season to taste with fish sauce, salt, and chili powder (if using).
Add the fish mixture to the porridge and serve immediately. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and thinly sliced scallion greens.
Serves 4 to 6.
Homemade Vietnamese food…ain’t nothing like it:
- Bánh Bột Lọc – Clear Shrimp and Pork Dumplings
- Bánh Cuốn – Vietnamese Rice Crepes with Ground Pork and Mushrooms
- Bánh Giò – Minced Pork and Rice Dumplings
- Bánh Mì Tôm Chiên – Shrimp Toasts
- Bắp Xào Tôm Bơ – Vietnamese Sauteed Corn with Dried Shrimp, Scallions, and Butter
- Bò Bía – Vietnamese Jicama, Carrot, Chinese Sausage, Egg, and Dried Shrimp Rolls
- Bò Kho – Vietnamese Beef Stew
- Bún Riêu Cua – Vietnamese Crab and Tomato Soup
- Cà Dê Nướng – Roasted Eggplant with Soy Sauce and Chilies
- Cà Ri Gà – Vietnamese Chicken Curry
- Canh Chua Chay – Vegetarian Sour Soup
- Chả Giò – Vietnamese Egg Rolls
- Cháo Chả – Porridge with Braised Pork Sausage
- Cơm Chiên – Vietnamese Fried Rice
- Gỏi Cuốn – Vietnamese Pork and Shrimp Rolls with Hoisin Dipping Sauce
- Hủ Tiếu Mì – Vietnamese Pork Noodle Soup
- Mì Cà Ri Gà – Chicken Curry with Fresh Egg Noodles
- Mom’s Lollipop Fried Chicken
- Nui Lòng – Grandpa’s Spaghetti with Offal
- Nước Chấm – Vietnamese Fish Sauce Vinaigrette
- Nước Chấm Chay – Vegetarian Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
- Pasta with Eggs and Pork Floss
- Phở Bò – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup
- Phở Chay – Vegetarian Phở
- Sườn Nướng – Vietnamese Grilled Pork Ribs
- Tết 2013: Not Your Grandma’s Bánh Chưng
- Thịt Bò Xào Hành Tây – Vietnamese Stir-Fried Beef with Onions
- Thịt Kho – Caramelized Braised Pork and Eggs
- Thịt Nướng – Vietnamese Grilled Pork
- Vietnamese Chicken Curry Pot Pie
- Đậu Hũ Kho – Braised Tofu with Mushrooms and Tomatoes
- Đậu Hủ Xả Ớt – Fried Tofu with Chilies and Lemongrass