Here's What Happens When Caramel Goes Savory

By F&W Editors Posted April 29, 2016

It's not just for dessert.

Gooey, creamy caramel is a dessert staple. But it’s also great on the main course. We’re not talking about your usual, sugary caramel—we’re talking about nuoc mau, the savory, funky caramel sauce, which Vietnamese cooks make with fish sauce. Here, the best savory ways to make and use caramel.

1. Sautéed Shrimp in Fish Sauce Caramel
Angela Dimayuga of NYC's Mission Chinese Food uses her deeply flavorful fish sauce caramel for a variety of seafood. Here, she tosses sweet, garlicky shrimp with the sauce.

Food & Wine: Sauteed Shrimp in Fish Sauce Caramel

© John Kernick

2. Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken with Caramel Sauce
This super-fast chicken stir-fry is a perfect weeknight dish.

3. Clay Pot-Style Catfish in Caramel Sauce
At the Spice Table, Bryant Ng simmers traditional bone-in catfish steaks in a sweet-savory caramel sauce. The simpler version here calls for easier-to-find catfish fillets, which are just as delicious.

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4. Spiced Chicken with Coconut-Caramel Sauce and Citrus Salad
Jean-Georges Vongerichten cleverly rethinks a classic Southeast Asian sauce not by what he adds, but by what he leaves out. Instead of a rich curry paste, he creates a creamy sauce with a caramel base, coconut milk and fish sauce.

5. Grilled Striped Bass with Sweet-and-Savory Caramel
This hot-and-sweet, Asian-inspired dish from chef Andrew Zimmern pairs an easy but flavorful marinade for grilled fish with an intense, savory caramel sauce.

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