Truth be told, I never understood why all my friends love pho. I get that pho is great at 2am when I’m more hungover than the cast of Duck Dynasty, but I’ve always found the noodles to be utterly bland and the soup listless. The fact that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and the ubiquity of Vietnamese pho restaurants narrowed my view of Vietnamese cuisine, I never realized that there was so much more to Vietnamese food outside of pho.
Back in 2011, I took my first trip out to Vietnam, stopping over in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. I discovered 333 beer in Hanoi and came upon this awesome dish called cá bông lau kho. I mean, any dish with that many accents and symbols in the name has to be good right?
Essentially, cá bông lau kho is catfish simmered in a clay pot with soy sauce, garlic and sugar, which provides the beautiful caramelization. The dish has a wonderful sweet, but grilled taste to it thats even better with the sauce that the fish was simmered with. Because a clay pot is used, the juices and moisture remain trapped throughout the cooking process, therefore allowing the fish to stay moist.
Recently, I had a chance to try out the same dish at a restaurant called Vung Tau, located next to San Jose State University. I’m happy to say that it tasted like how I remembered it in Hanoi. Check out the video below for how to actually prepare it, if you are feeling extra adventurous/ambitious. If not, the restaurant address is located right below the video.(I won’t judge)
Vung Tau Restaurant
535 E Santa Clara St
San Jose, CA 95112