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Sardines braised with tomatoes and green tea in a pot.
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Braised Sardines with Tomatoes and Tea

Braised sardines with tomatoes and green tea is an excellent dish to eat with rice. The sardines are braised until tender and absorb all the seasonings. This is one of the popular methods to cook fish in Vietnam.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Servings: 4 people
Author: Sophie


  • 2 lbs fresh sardines (cleaned and gutted)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • black pepper
  • 2-3 tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 2-inch piece of ginger or galangal, thinly sliced
  • 2 birds-eye chili, cut in half
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce

For the tea

  • 2 1/2 cups hot water
  • 3 green tea bags

For the caramel sauce

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water, divided


Prepare the caramel sauce

  • In a small saucepan, add sugar and 2 tablespoons of water. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium, continue to simmer. You will see a lot of bubbles on the surface. The mixture will then turn from clear to yellow, and get darker as you simmer it. When it has a honey color, reduce the heat slightly. Keep watching closely, until it has a slightly dark caramel color, turn off the heat and carefully add 2 tablespoons of water. Swirl the saucepan to combine and remove it from the stove. Set aside.
    Making caramel sauce for Vietnamese caramelized fish (ca kho)

Prepare the tea

  • Put the tea bags in the hot water, steep for about 5 minutes and then discard the tea bags.

Cook the sardines

  • In a mixing bowl, add sardines, salt, shallots and plenty of black pepper. Mix well and set aside for 10 minutes.
    Sardines are marinated with shallots, garlic, salt and pepper before cooking.
  • Scatter the tomato slices and ginger/galangal slices at the bottom of a pot or braising pan. Place the sardines on top. It's likely you cannot fit all the sardines in one layer. If so place one layer of tomatoes and ginger/galangal, then one layer of fish, repeat one layer of tomatoes and ginger/galangal and then the remaining fish on top. Add birds-eye chili.
  • Add the tea to the pot. The liquid should be just about enough to cover the fish. If the tea is not sufficient, add a little more hot water. Bring everything to a boil. Skim off any foam. Add caramel sauce and fish sauce, then reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Simmer partially uncovered for about 40-45 minutes until there is a little sauce left at the bottom. If the liquid reduces too rapidly while simmering, add a little more hot water. Taste and adjust to your liking with more fish sauce and black pepper if needed.
  • Place sardines in a serving plate and serve hot with rice.