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Salmon with Ginger Caramel

by Van Tran, Anh Vu from The Vietnamese Market Cookbook

An inspired recipe, embracing the flavours of Vietnam. The juicy salmon fillets are flavoured with a ginger caramel sauce and served with rice and pickles.


This has to be our favourite way of cooking salmon. Fish is a staple food in Vietnam, especially in the Mekong Delta, where it’s eaten every day. In my second year at university, I worked in the countryside of the Delta as a volunteer for a few weeks. The fish there are firm, white and fatly, and they are simmered in caramel until tender and then spiced with chopped fresh chillies. Salmon is the ideal British equivalent: flavoursome and plump.

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500g salmon fillets
50g thinly sliced fresh ginger
1 tbsp vegetable oil
200ml coconut milk
2 bird’s-eye chillies, finely chopped
For the marinade:
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp gia vi (or a mix of 2 parts sugar, 1 part sea salt, 1 part ground black pepper, 1 part garlic powder)
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tbsp loose green tea
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
½ tbsp crushed garlic
2 tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp chopped galangal (or 1 extra tbsp ginger)
For the caramel sauce:
4 tbsp sugar
250ml water


Cut the salmon fillets into 4cm chunks. Combine the marinade ingredients into a bowl and rub into the salmon. Cover and leave in the fridge for about 20 minutes.

To make the caramel sauce, place a heavy bottomed pan over a medium heat, add the sugar and leave for 2-3 minutes without stirring. Turn the heat down to low and then stir constantly for about 2-3 minutes, until no grains of sugar are visible. The sugar will begin to melt and turn a brownish colour. Pay special attention to the colour of the caramel under the bubbles as it will darken very quickly. Just before it turns dark, add the water and cook until it boils. Don't worry if the sugar hardens upon contact with the water, as it will melt as it cooks, forming a caramel sauce.

Leave the caramel sauce to cool down for about 10 minutes, then stir in the sliced ginger.

Pour this sauce over the marinated salmon, then cover and leave in the fridge for another 20 minutes.

Now put a pan over a medium heat, add the vegetable oil and add the marinated salmon.

When the salmon starts to bubble, pour in the coconut milk and then taste the sauce again and add more fish sauce or sugar if necessary, before adding the chopped chillies.

Turn the heat down to low and leave the salmon to simmer for about 25 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and reduced by half.

Serve with rice and pickles.

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