Vietnamese-Style Caramel Smelt

Although smelt is not a native fish in Vietnam, it’s quite similar to anchovy (Vietnamese: cá cơm), a type of fish associated with Vietnamese cuisine. Why not try making smelts in Vietnamese style? Caramelized Fish and Meat is one of the most popular cooking styles in Vietnam. With the Vietnamese-Style Caramel Smelt recipe, not only is the fishy smell removed, but the smelts also become tasty.

Vietnamese style caramel smelt

Health Benefit of Smelt

Before cooking a dish, I usually try to learn the characteristics and the nutritional value of each ingredient. Smelt is quite new to me, so I did a little research and realized it could be a great food for our health. While smelt may not be as well-known or widely consumed as some other types of fish, it can offer several health benefits:

  • Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Smelt fish is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These fatty acids can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
  • High in Protein: Smelt is a good source of high-quality protein, which is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body. Protein also helps maintain muscle mass and supports overall health.
  • Low in Mercury: Smelt is generally low in mercury compared to larger fish species. This makes it a safer seafood option, especially for pregnant women and young children, who should limit their consumption of high-mercury fish.
  • Good Source of Essential Nutrients: Smelt provides essential nutrients like vitamins B12 and D, selenium, and iodine. These nutrients play important roles in maintaining various bodily functions, including bone health, immune system function, and thyroid function.
  • Potential Brain Health Benefits: The omega-3 fatty acids found in smelt may have cognitive benefits and support brain health. Some studies suggest that regular consumption of omega-3s may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and improve memory and cognitive function.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Omega-3 fatty acids in smelt may have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial for reducing inflammation in the body and potentially lowering the risk of chronic diseases.
  • Heart Health: Including smelt in a balanced diet may help lower triglyceride levels, reduce blood pressure, and improve overall heart health due to their omega-3 content.

It’s important to note that while smelt can be a nutritious addition to your diet, it’s also crucial to consider the source and preparation method. For example, I always try to avoid heavily battered and deep-fried smelt, as this can add unhealthy fats and calories. Instead, I make pan-fried smelt using just several tablespoons of oil. With Vietnamese-style caramel smelt, I also reduce the amount of oil and sugar as much as possible to make it healthier.

Ingredients for Vietnamese-style Caramel Smelt

With Caramel Smelt, besides sugar to make caramel and smelts, to eliminate the fishy smell, I usually use herbs and spices such as pepper, shallot, and garlic. They are all basic spices that you can find in every supermarket. And I use one more typical Vietnamese ingredient – fish sauce. Don’t worry if you are not familiar with it; you are free to replace it with salt. Below is the detailed amounts of each ingredient for 2 people:

  • 200g (7 oz) smelt
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (optional) or 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp chopped shallot
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
smelt fish

Instruction

Grasping all the ingredients in hand, we can start making this dish for a very Vietnamese-style daily meal.

Step 1. Preparation

  • Defrost the smelts: Smelts sold in supermarkets are usually frozen, so if you are using frozen smelts, remember to let them thaw first before doing any of the next steps. Marinate them with fish sauce and pepper, or salt and pepper.
  • Chop a bit of shallot and garlic. I have a small tip to save time preparing them: chop a large batch of these ingredients and freeze them. Every time I need some, I just take them out from the freezer and use them immediately. Because they are chopped, it takes just a little time to be ready to use.

Step 2. Making caramel

  • For Vietnamese-style Caramel Smelt, you don’t have to make caramel separately. Instead, just directly add oil to the pan over medium heat and then add sugar in. The sugar will turn into caramel quickly in just 3-5 minutes, so be careful not to burn the sugar.
  • Once the caramel is done, add the chopped shallot and garlic to the pan. Stir them well for even frying. Fry them for 2-3 minutes or until you can smell the aroma.
caramel smelt

Step 3. Simmering smelts in caramel mixture

  • Gently add the defrosted smelts into the pan and quickly stir to combine them with the caramel mixture.
  • Then, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan with a lid, let the smelts be simmered. You should cover the pan to prevent too much steam from escaping, as well as to contain the fishy smell from spreading too heavily in the kitchen. Remember to turn on the cooker hood. Let the fish simmer for 25-35 minutes. Avoid stirring them except you see them getting burnt, as smelts are soft and can easily be crushed.

That’s it! In around 30-40 minutes, your Vietnamese-style Caramel Smelt is ready for a cozy meal. Enjoy it with cooked rice and soup.

caramel smelt
caramel smelt

Vietnamese-style Caramel Smelt

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

With Vietnamese-Style Caramel Smelt recipe, not only the fishy smell is removed but also the smelts become so tasty.

Ingredients

Instructions

Step 1. Preparation

  • Defrost smelts: Usually, smelts sold in supermarket is frozen, so if you are using frozen smelts, remember to let them thaw first before doing any of next steps. Marinade them with fish sauce and pepper, or salt and pepper.smelt fish
  • Chop a bit of shallot and garlic. I have a small tip to save time preparing them: chopping a large batch of these ingredients and freeze them. Every time I need some, just take it out from freezer and use immediately. Because they are chopped, it takes just a little time to be ready to use.

Step 2. Making caramel

  • For Vietnamese-style Caramel Smelt, you don’t have to make caramel separately. Instead, just directly add oil in the pan on medium heat and then add sugar in. The sugar turns into caramel quickly in just 3-5 minutes.caramel smelt
  • Once the caramel is done, add chopped shallot and garlic to the pan. Stir them well for even frying. Fry them in 2-3 minutes or until you smell the aroma.caramel smelt

Step 3. Simmering smelts in caramel mixture

  • Gently add defrosted smelts into the pan and quickly stir to combine them with caramel mixture.caramel smelt
  • Then, reduce the heat to low heat and close the lid, let the smelts be simmered. You should close the lid to prevent too much steam from escaping, as well as to restrict the fishy smell spreading out the kitchen too heavily. Remember to turn on the cooker hood. Simmer the fish in 25-35 minutes. Avoid stir them except you see them be burnt, as smelts are soft so easily crushed.caramel smeltVietnamese style caramel smelt

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 100
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 265

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Other Smelt Recipes

With smelt, you can make various interesting dishes! Try these smelt recipes:

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