Vietnamese Caramel Salmon

Vietnamese Caramel Salmon.JPG

In the world of desserts, caramel has its place set amongst the legends, but its reputation in the savory world is much humbler. However, in Vietnamese cuisine, caramel is a staple in many of our “khos” (stews) and roasts. The secret to every Vietnamese Kho is the complex juxtaposition of the multitude of layers created by the deep sweetness of the caramel and the umami saltiness of the fish sauce. As with any caramel sauce, the task itself of burning sugar can be a daunting one; however, the payoff of the taste is an experience that is worth your while. In fact, next time you're thinking of making a Vietnamese style roast in your slow cooker or fried chicken wings, dress it up with this sauce and wait for the tastebud dance revolution.  

INGREDIENTS for Vietnamese Caramel

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce


  1. To start off, add sugar to a saucepan on medium heat. Watch carefully as the sugar starts to turn a brown amber color. Stir frequently to make sure all the sugar is incorporated.

  2. Once all the sugar has fully dissolved, start to incorporate the boiling water slowly 1/4 cup at a time. Be extremely careful of this step. If the sugar is too hot before the addition of the water, cool the saucepan in a bowl of cold water.

  3. Stir the sugar and boiling water and bring the mixture to a boil.

  4. Add the fish sauce and turn the heat off.

  5. Store the sauce until further use. 


INGREDIENTS for Vietnamese Caramel Salmon

  • 2 salmon fillets 
  • 3/4 cup Vietnamese Caramel
  • 1 thai pepper
  • Salt + pepper to taste


  1. Marinade the salmon in the Vietnamese Caramel for about 15 minutes.

  2. In a skillet on medium-high heat, sear the skin side of the fillets, reserving the caramel that was used as the marinade.

  3. Sear for 4 minutes or until the skin is crispy and can flip easily without sticking. Then, flip to the other side and sear for an additional 3 minutes.

  4. Pour the reserved caramel marinade into the pan. Add thai pepper and let the mixture dissolve and heat through.

  5. Season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice and steamed or roasted vegetables.