Fast Vietnamese Caramel Bluefish
Melissa Clark / The New York Times
4 (6-ounce) skin-on bluefish fillets (or substitute mackerel, trout or thin salmon fillets)
1 tablespoon peanut, grapeseed or safflower oil
1 stalk lemongrass, or use lemon or lime zest (see note)
⅓ cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated ginger
½ teaspoon black pepper
Sliced scallions, as needed
Thinly sliced jalapeño, as needed
Fresh cilantro, as needed
Cooked rice, for serving (optional)
Brush fish all over with oil. Remove outer layer of lemongrass stalk and cut stalk into 2-inch lengths. Using the butt of a kitchen knife, pound and bruise stalks all over.
Place lemongrass pieces, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger and black pepper in a large skillet. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and reduce sauce for 1 to 2 minutes, until syrupy.
Place fish, skin side-down, in pan. Simmer, basting fish frequently with pan sauce, for 2 minutes; carefully turn fish and continue cooking until fish is just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes longer.
Transfer fish to a serving plate and garnish with scallion, jalapeño and cilantro. Drizzle with additional sauce. Serve over rice, if desired.
If you can’t get lemongrass, peel a 2-inch strip of lemon or lime zest with a peeler and use that instead. You don’t need to bruise the peel.