Vietnamese savoury caramel sauce – THANG NUÕC DUONG

A sugar syrup is cooked to a dark caramel to give this savoury sauce a unique flavour and dark colouring. It is a vital ingredient in many Vietnamese dishes. Traditionally Palm sugar is used, but refined white sugar is as good.

You need

200ml white sugar: 200ml water

To prepare

Place the sugar in a saucepan

I find it best to use a saucepan that does NOT have a dark grey or black surface, as you cannot see the caramelisation colour of the sugar. I also find it easier to use a saucepan with a heat resistant handle as it is easier to move it on or off the heat quickly.

Place the sugar in the pan over very low heat, allowing the sugar to melt. Once the sugar has totally melted, increase the heat, swirling the pan constantly until the sugar begins to caramelise and turn from golden caramel to darker brown, and as it begins to smoke remove it from the heat.

Now CAREFULLY add HOT water. It will splutter so be very careful! The dark caramel will dissolve in the water, leaving a very dark brown liquid. You can return it to the heat if some of the caramel has set.

Once all the caramel has dissolved add the following ingredients, using about 250ml caramel:

1-2 red chillies, finely sliced

20ml finely grated ginger

20ml fish sauce

20ml lime juice

3ml crushed black peppercorns

50ml sake (Japanese rice wine) or dry sherry

20ml honey,

Bring it to boil and remove from heat.

You can bottle this sauce and use it with grilled pork, fish or noodles.

To use with baked fish

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Place the fish fillets or portions (I like to pre-portion the fish as it is easier and neater to serve) on a greased oven proof dish

Spoon the caramel sauce over each portion. The fish must not lie in more than 5mm sauce

I prepare the dish to this stage up to 30 minutes before cooking

Bake for 20-30minutes (time depends on thickness of fish), sprinkle the surface with crisp onion and garlic (recipe), sliced raw spring onions and a few slices of mild red chilli for colour

Serve immediately

I accompanied this dish with rice noodles. Buy the flat noodles. Ahead of time pour over boiling water and let them stand for at least 5 minutes, or longer until they are required.

Heat 50ml Vietnamese caramel sauce in a hot wok or frying pan. Drain the water from the noodles and add them to the pan and stir to heat and distribute the sauce.

I added sauteed Enoki mushrooms and finished the dish with sliced spring onions

I also served steamed Pak Choy (Choi), a mild Chinese cabbage. But if you cannot find this broccoli or green beans are also good. I simply drizzled some sesame oil over the cooked vegetable.