© Stephanie Meyer
I love Vietnamese food. I have eaten it my whole life, but I got really passionate about it a couple decades ago, when I had the opportunity to cook with Nicole Routhier. She is a French-Vietnamese woman who wrote some great cookbooks many years back, including a superb primer on Vietnamese food called The Foods of Vietnam. When I met her, in 1989, she was consulting on some recipes for an über-hip restaurant that was way ahead of its time called Indochine. That restaurant was an early New York City Brian McNally stroke of brilliance. It was several years old when Nicole came by for a day, and I, my consulting partner Stephen Kalt and chef Geoffrey Zakarian came in to learn from her, so we could translate that experience for the restaurant's staff.
One day, Nicole and I were alone in the kitchen in the early afternoon, and she made me a fish-sauce caramel called thit kho. She served it with roast pork. I flipped. I have used that recipe ever since. I keep it on hand for drizzling on grilled food or tossing into a wok as a finishing sauce. You can even braise with it by adding it to a broth.
One night several years back, I grilled a whole striped bass, drizzled it with the caramel and served it with sticky rice and a really spicy green papaya salad. The caramel brings out all the salinity in this fish, which is one of my favorites for summertime eating. If you are cooking for a crowd, I would grill or roast a whole fish. It’s easy and quite a jaw-dropper when it comes to the table. For smaller groups, you can go with this recipe. I promise you won’t be disappointed.