Ca Nuong Vietnamese Roasted Catfish

ca nuong roasted catfish





















Ca nuong da don with hanh mo (scallion oil) was a grand surprise for our guests at our Foodbuzz 24 x 24 Spring Roll Party. Talk about a show stopper, a whole golden brown crispy catfish will surely grab everyone’s attention. We love the crispy skin and the moist meat inside marinated in a sea of ginger, shallots, garlic, and lemongrass. Top it off with a fragant hanh mo (scallion oil) and roasted peanuts you have an amazing presentation at the table. For a couple of the Thanksgivings, we even had whole roasted catfish instead of turkey.

The hardest part of this dish is cleaning the fish.  Fresh, live catfish is best because it has a fatty layer of skin that can stand up high temperature roasting.  If you don’t have access to live catfish, then previous frozen catfish will also work. Other fatty and meaty fishes such as salmon would also work great but you’ll have to adjust the cooking times.  The catfish has a black outer layer of skin that needs to be cleaned off for best results–if you leave it on, you get a black roasted fish and the beautiful golden color just won’t show. Plus it’s a little more fishy smelling with the black skin on.

ca nuong
We’re fortunate that most of the markets in Little Saigon does this free of charge–just tell them to make the skin white and clean and butterfly the belly.  But if you don’t have the luxury, you can attempt to clean it at home–we’ve never done it ourselves but this is what the fish monger at the market does:  dip the catfish in boiling water for about 1 minute. Using a brillo pad, scrub off the black layer of the catfish.  When doing this, it’s helpful to have some good gloves to grip the fish.  Also, cut the fins and slit the belly and de gut it and butterfly it.  Yes, not terribly fun tasks but end result is worth it–at least, we hope to convince you it is.

ca nuong
The crispy skin is what our guests fight over. So to achieve this, you need to do three things–make vertical incisions about an inch or two apart just barely through the skin along the both sides of the fish–this relieves the tension and allows fat to render and crisps the skin. Second, the skin needs to be dry, hence we use a dry rub and dry the skin at least overnight. Third, use you convection setting in the oven and make sure the fish is as flat and even as possible on the sheet pan. Use balls of foil to prop up any low lying parts for even browning.  Catfish has a thick fatty protective skin—it can stand a lot of heat. We essentially cook the fish until desired color-we’ve found it really hard to over cook and dry out catfish.

The hardest part of making Vietnamese roasted catfish is prepping the fish, but once that’s done, it’s just a matter of marinading and following our simple tricks to make the skin crispy and meat moist. It’s not often we guarantee anything, but we guarantee you’ll impress your friends and family with ca nuong hanh mo and the end result will be quite similar to ours….

In case we don’t post again this week we want to wish all the fathers and father figures a Happy Father’s day–especially to our dads–our role models and heroes.

Ca Nuong Mo Hanh Roasted Catfish with Scallion Oil

Have your fish monger clean and scrub the skin and butterfly the fish. Dry the skin of the fish for at least one night. When roasting, make sure the fish is as evenly laid out as possible, use balls of foil to even out any low lying areas.


3-5 lb catfish, cleaned white and butterflied

Dry rub:
1.5 Tbs kosher salt (edit 12/25/19: we switched the salt to red boat fish salt and it's great)
1 ts ground white pepper
1 ts garlic powder
1 ts onion powder

oil/butter mixture

2 tbs neutral oil
2 tbs melted butter

1 /4 cup of crushed roasted peanuts

Hanh Mo Scallion oil:
4 tablespoons of neutral oil
1/2 cup of chopped green onion
pinch salt

vermicelli noodles
rice paper
fresh herbs: mint, perilla, lettuce, basil, cucumbers, pickled carrots/daikon
nuoc mam cham or mam nem dipping sauce


Combine all the dry rub ingredients in the marinade and mix well. Pat dry your cleaned catfish and make the shallow slits along both sides and apply dry rub all over and allow to marinade in the fridge overnight or up to 2 days

When ready to roast, preheat oven to 475 convection. During this time, get your peanuts ready to roast in small sheet tray until golden brown. Remove and coarsely crush. In small saucepan, heat up the oil under low-medium heat and when hot, add the scallions, ginger, shallots, and pinch of salt and turn off heat. You don't want to cook it or fry it, just wilted and have the flavors infuse in the oil and set aside.

Line a large sheet pan with foil--when you put the fish on the roasting pan, make sure it's spread apart and as even as possible. This helps with even browning. The roast time will vary depending how big your fish is--but for 3 lb fish takes about 30-45 minutes. Baste every 10 min with butter and oil mixture. We cook until desired color/crispyness. During the last few minutes, switch to high broil to finish browning the skin.

Remove from oven and top the fish with the generous amounts of scallion oil and roasted peanuts. The traditional way of enjoying this dish is in a rice paper roll-- serve it family style with vermicelli and fresh veggies and have guests make their own rolls. For guests that don't want to roll, they can have this dish as a noodle bowl instead.

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77 Responses to “Ca Nuong Vietnamese Roasted Catfish”

  1. 1

    blindhysteria — June 16, 2010 @ 8:09 am

    OMG that looks delicious. Definitely something I'd have to wait a few months to eat cuz I won't be able to even attempt this in my small Japanese apartment.

  2. 2

    5 Star Foodie — June 16, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

    The crispy crust with scallion oil and peanuts sounds awesome! Your scallion oil is sure a must try!

  3. 3

    Ravenous Couple — June 16, 2010 @ 1:28 pm

    blindhysteria and 5 star foodie: thanks! lately cat fish has been our favorite thing to roast.

  4. 4

    Lan — June 16, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

    you guys are AWESOME! I LOVE YOU!

  5. 5

    Connie — June 16, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

    Wow, wow, wow. I love catfish and yours looks absolutely gorgeous and mouthwatering. I love the presentation and flavors, I can taste the crispy skin just looking at the picture! Would so love to eat this right now…

  6. 6

    krissy @ — June 16, 2010 @ 6:53 pm

    good stuff, guys! so glad we were able to eat this at your party. my mom's been wanting to make this for the longest time, but she's not an oven-user, so i'm going to have to step in and make this for my familia soon! i like the last shot of the fish and bones!

  7. 7

    sweetmango — June 16, 2010 @ 7:27 pm

    I recently learn how to make Ca Nuong a few months ago. We have it at least once a month. It is healthy eating! 🙂 I follow the same recipe like you posted but added bacon and shreded jicama on top of the fish.

    We like to get a small catfish about 3 lbs. The meat is prefect and tender. If you get one that is bigger the meat is tougher.

  8. 8

    Fresh Local and Best — June 16, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

    I like seeing that picture of the fish cleaned to the bone. I've never clean a cat fish, although have seen my mom do it plenty of times. She never used the method of quick blanching before scrubbing. I'm stunned with the clean white results. I ought to bring home a cat fish just to see if I can accomplish the same.

  9. 9

    TS of eatingclub vancouver — June 16, 2010 @ 9:05 pm

    I've never seen whole catfish here, even frozen. Hmm, maybe we should check out Vietnamese supermarkets. In any case, that removing of the black outer skin sounds like a lot of work! I wonder if the frozen ones come cleaned and white already.

  10. 10

    Ravenous Couple — June 16, 2010 @ 9:29 pm

    Lan: hope your family enjoys it. Send us questions on FB if you run into trouble!

    Krissy: Hope she likes it!

    Sweetmango: Wow, bacon and jicama topping sounds like a great variation!

    Christine: The whitened skin does make a difference. We get so pampered here in OC because the fish monger does it for free!

    TS: Yes, many Vietnamese markets do carry whole live catfish…whether they make it white or not is another issue. Not sure about frozen catfish.

  11. 11

    Jessica Lee Binder — June 16, 2010 @ 10:20 pm

    Nice! What a centerpiece – 3lb whole fish! I'll keep this in mind for a little party.

  12. 12

    Forager — June 17, 2010 @ 12:42 am

    Wow! I've never eaten catfish (not normally used in Chinese dishes) but this looks amazing and so tasty! I've never seen a catfish with the black skin taken off – they look so ghostly white!

  13. 13

    Ravenous Couple — June 17, 2010 @ 4:54 am

    Jessica: We actually had 2 3lb fish for a party of 5 and it was finished clean!

    Forager: yes, the catfish is so white and that helps with the golden brown color–you won't get that if you leave the black part on.

  14. 14

    sijeleng — June 17, 2010 @ 6:05 am

    Thanks for posting this. I'll have to see if they'll skin it at the local market. I've known people to skin catfish by nailing the head to a plank and then stripping the skin with pliers; the technique you describe, especially having the fish mongers do it, sounds much less gruesome. Fantastic looking dish!

  15. 15

    WizzyTheStick — June 18, 2010 @ 1:18 am

    this sounds delicious. Catfish is not popular here so I may not find it. What other fish could I use as a substitute?

  16. 16

    Kung Food Panda — June 18, 2010 @ 10:20 am

    Oh ya, that looks effing delicious!!

  17. 17

    Tricia — June 18, 2010 @ 7:49 pm

    I had this once when I was living in LA. That' catfish cost us $60!!!

    Can't wait to try this at home!I bet my family will love this!

  18. 18

    Ravenous Couple — June 18, 2010 @ 8:52 pm

    sijeling: yes, we've read about that nail on the plank, but the brillo pad seems more humane.. 🙂

    wizzythestick: if catfish isn't avaiable, choose a meaty white fish that can with stand roasting.

    KFP: Thanks!

    Tricia: Ca nuong is much cheaper to make at home..let us know how it goes!

  19. 19

    Tiny Urban Kitchen — June 20, 2010 @ 4:34 am

    Wow, I am soooo impressed. I have never cooked a whole fish before, but man, seeing your fish makes me think it might be worth it to try it at home!

  20. 20

    vincent — June 21, 2010 @ 7:34 pm

    Tried this over the weekend for fathers day. OMG the marinade and scallion oil really made it stand out. Everyone was loving it. Thanks guys

  21. 21

    Ravenous Couple — June 21, 2010 @ 7:51 pm

    Jen: would a Sous vide whole fish work?! 😉

    Vincent: Yah!! So glad your family enjoyed this dish for father's day!

  22. 22

    Jen Cheung — June 22, 2010 @ 12:41 am

    hello there 🙂
    stumble upon your blog! lovely blog you have here. Found you on foodbuzz 🙂 Will be dropping by more often! Feel free to save me on your blogroll 🙂 Happy summer!


  23. 23

    Justin — June 22, 2010 @ 11:02 am

    wow, that's am incredible-looking dish. what's funny to me is that i don't think i've ever seen a whole, raw catfish like that, even though i've bought catfish plenty of times before and cooked with it. but it's usually cut into small pieces in my local fish markets, for using in things like soups or deep-frying it. (i LOVE deep-fried catfish with hot sauce.)

  24. 24

    Bonnibella — June 23, 2010 @ 1:51 am

    Amazing! I was always scared to attempt this. However, your techniques makes it so simple.

  25. 25

    nikkipolani — June 27, 2010 @ 10:58 pm

    My mom made this last night with your instructions and it came out fantastic. Definitely will make again. Thank you!

  26. 26

    TofuCustard — July 18, 2010 @ 6:28 am

    My mum and me just made this tonight! It came out so delicious, my mum thought it would be to sweet from all that honey but she was wrong! 🙂 We're definitely gonna use the marinade with different types of fish for ca nuong.

  27. 27

    Anonymous — January 7, 2011 @ 6:28 am

    Is vinegar used for a crispy skin

  28. 28

    Ravenous Couple — January 7, 2011 @ 10:56 pm

    @anonymous: we found the best way is combination of honey and high broil at the end for crispy skin.

  29. 29

    clare — April 27, 2011 @ 12:15 am

    do you slice the fish in vertical halves before marinating? or after its been grilled?

  30. 30

    The Ravenous Couple — April 27, 2011 @ 8:46 am

    Yes, make the vertical slits before marinating–the slits are important because it allows the fish to expand so that the skin doesn’t tear apart during cooking.

  31. 31

    Jack Smith — May 11, 2011 @ 5:30 am

    Your thorough explanations and clear photos are one of the many reasons I love your recipes. The two of you are easy to talk with and have been very helpful. I have become more creative lately with my recipes because your ingredients and techniques inspire me to take chances.

    I also love the fact that you include your parents, and discuss the history of your dishes. Keep up the great work.

  32. 32

    The Ravenous Couple — May 11, 2011 @ 7:19 am

    thank you so much, do let us know how these recipes go for you and show it off on our fb page

  33. 33

    Ngoc — May 14, 2011 @ 7:19 pm

    Love it! Thanks so much for many yummy recipes!

  34. 34

    jujubefruit — November 10, 2011 @ 1:05 am

    awesome recipe and tips. thank-you.

  35. 35

    Mindy Nguyen — December 3, 2011 @ 12:09 pm

    Hi! I love your website, I just wanted to add that it would be a nice touch if this recipe included a sauce recipe also. Thanks for posting these recipes, they are much easier to follow than my mother’s lol

  36. 36

    enokii — December 9, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

    I was wondering which fishmonger in the OC do you get your catfish for this recipe from? I really want to try this for the coming holiday but I am worried I won’t be able to achieve the white skin effect. If the fishmonger is willing to do it for me so much the better.

  37. 37

    The Ravenous Couple — December 12, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

    you can go to most asian markets in little saigon (saigon city, abc etc) and they’ll do this for you. good luck!

  38. 38

    iilenglengii — December 26, 2011 @ 1:57 pm

    I’m a long time reader of your blog and have tried several fantastic recipes, but this was by far the best. The fish came out perfectly and was delicious. I added fried garlic to the scallion oil and everyone loved it. Thanks for the awesome recipes!

  39. 39

    The Ravenous Couple — December 29, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

    we’re so glad, thank you for letting us know and post photos on our fb page for us to drool over!

  40. 40

    tien — January 2, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

    great recipe , sooo goood just had it last night haha

  41. 41

    juan — January 6, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

    I have tried making this recipe before, after having the fish at FAVORI with fellow students from LB State. I failed miserably. The fish tasted good, but what makes this dish is the crackling like texture of the skin. My fish was soggy and wet, as I did not follow the technique described in your recipe. After taking some family to favori less than a week ago I thought I would try again.

    Do you dry the fish after it has beed marinated? Do you give it a second rub down of honey right before roasting? I want to make sure I can replicate the crunchy texture.

    For those of you who have not had the pleasure eating this dish. The best way to descrbe the texture of the skin is creme brulee crust.

  42. 42

    The Ravenous Couple — January 9, 2012 @ 3:06 pm

    drying the skin would probably help. yes, we do rub it with the marinade even during the roast. let use know how it goes!

  43. 43

    Mai — January 10, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

    I just made this dish and sadly it did not turn out as I expected. I followed the directions faithfully yet I ended up with rubbery skin and tough meat. I’m trying to figure out what I did wrong.

  44. 44

    The Ravenous Couple — January 10, 2012 @ 7:14 pm

    sorry to hear that. sometimes the quality of the catfish matters, did you get yours fresh or frozen?

  45. 45

    Mai — January 10, 2012 @ 7:23 pm

    When you say fresh, do you mean live? I think mine may have previously been frozen. The catfish comes in boxes and are placed on display on a bed of ice. I am definitely going to try this recipe again.

  46. 46

    The Ravenous Couple — January 10, 2012 @ 7:25 pm

    yes, definitely live–we’ve tried it once w/ frozen and it turned out bad so we never used frozen.

  47. 47

    Mai — January 10, 2012 @ 7:27 pm

    Another question, when you say butterfly the catfish, do you mean to slit it down the belly so the entire body lies flat like a sting ray?

  48. 48

    The Ravenous Couple — January 10, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

    yes, just like in the photo. The fish butcher can do it for you, think it also involves snapping some bones.

  49. 49

    The Ravenous Couple — January 10, 2012 @ 7:30 pm

    this is so that it cooks more evenly and not one part of the fish is thicker/closer to the heat than the rest

  50. 50

    Mai — January 10, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

    Ohh gotcha. that’s what I had them do. Thanks for the responses!

  51. 51

    Tolan Tran — January 23, 2012 @ 5:39 am

    My mom this but would stuff it with beanthread noodles, earwood mushrooms,shitake mushrooms,galanga,dried scallions, and some ground pork. I never attempted to ask for this recipe , and didn’t know honey was in it, Is that anoter dish entirely?

  52. 52

    The Ravenous Couple — January 23, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    stuffing it is one variation that some people do and it’s delicious

  53. 53

    Sarah — January 23, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

    So I’ve tried this recipe a couple of times now following directions to a T and optimistic that I’ll end up with crispy skin, but somehow mine ends up similar to previous posters with tough or rubbery skin. The meat inside is moist and delicious though. I am using a live fish and so I can’t figure out what the problem might be. Have any other readers had success and can share tips?

  54. 54

    The Ravenous Couple — January 28, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

    hi sarah, sorry to hear the skin didn’t turn out right. some readers report great success and others not so. we’re not sure but for us the best success is high heat and combination of marinating laquering the skin w/ the honey marinade during cooking…

  55. 55

    T&T — April 16, 2012 @ 8:01 am

    To get the catfish to white skin use warm water and half cup of vinegar in the sink fill it to the top of the catfish for about 5-10 minutes after that use the sponge to clean it.

  56. 56

    The Ravenous Couple — April 16, 2012 @ 4:59 pm

    thanks for the tip!

  57. 57

    Casey — June 13, 2012 @ 10:03 pm

    Thank you for your site! The marinade for this was perfect, will look forward to trying your other recipes! Also, lovely, lovely photos- thank you! 🙂

  58. 58

    Christine Chuong — June 21, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

    Just the past weekend I made Ca Nuong, following your recipe,when my in-laws came from Japan and it turned out awesome! They were really enjoyed the meal and very impressed with our Vietnamese cuisine. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe with all of us:)

  59. 59

    The Ravenous Couple — June 22, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

    so glad to hear that!

  60. 60

    Asian Food Lovers Gift Guide — December 3, 2012 @ 8:01 am

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  61. 61

    Bktarch — December 14, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

    I used freshwater whitebass. 2 small ones about 1.5 lb each. Followed the instructions but the skin didnt crisp 🙁

  62. 62

    Loan — December 28, 2012 @ 11:12 am

    going to make this dish again tonite to bring to our friend’s house. first time I made it, everyone in the family LOVE it. we are Vietnamese and live in San Jose and I’ve tried a lot of ca nuong around here and i must say your recipe is far beyond delicious. Thanks so much for sharing great recipes!!! I’ll check out your website more often for others.

  63. 63

    john — January 20, 2013 @ 9:28 pm

    I have tried and failed to get the skin crispy. The fish taste great, but the skin is rubbery. Have tried all previous recommendations taking off muck, drying the skin, using fresh catfish, glazing with honey, etc. I even found another recipe that calls for using a mixture of egg, hoisin, butter, and honey for the glaze to broil the fish, with no luck. I have come to the conclusion that in order to get the skin crispy the fish must be fried. Broiling the fish creates steam under the skin making it impossible to crisp. Maybe It needs to be finished off in the broiler to stick on the coating. Or maybe they laquer on the honey at the end and drop back in the hot oil. I am going to keep on experimenting, but can you give me any direction? The skin makes the dish, cannot rest until I get it right.

  64. 64

    The Ravenous Couple — January 24, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

    are you using a rack? it’s important to render the fat from the skin and let juices flow away from the fish. granted it may never be as crispy as the restaurants, but shoudlnt’ really be rubbery.

  65. 65

    john — January 27, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

    I tried again. I found out the catfish I was buying was previously frozen, even though they were telling me it was fresh. I went to a store that had live catfish with better results. The skin was crispier, but not like the restaurant. I bought a couple of fish to experiment, and found the skin gets crispier if you completely dry the fish and not use the marinade while you broil. I didn’t use a rack, but will try that next. The fish started having a closer resemblance to the restaurant version. I will continue to experiment. Maybe the restaurants have a special oven.

  66. 66

    The Ravenous Couple — January 29, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

    yes, fresh vs. previously frozen makes a big difference. also, you’re right, the dryer the skin, the better for browning and crisping. a rack will keep the skin dry as the fat and juices will fall away.

  67. 67

    Phuc — March 21, 2014 @ 7:49 pm

    YOU ROCK!!!

    NOTE : I am a single guy who cooks pasta like once a month.

    Followed your recipe and the fish came out pretty spectacular. Made it for my visiting parents and brothers. They devoured it and asked if my girlfriend showed how to cook this dish. Told them I had some help from friends in the OC. 🙂

    A few things I did notice that I would like to pass along. Always get fresh fish! I went and got fresh live catfish and had it cleaned. Man the meat was firm and sweet. I have to attribute it to the freshness of the fish. Secondly, I did get a larger fish (5.5 lbs). Even though the skin was crunchy it was kind of rubbery. I think this might be because the fish was larger and possibly older hence the tough skin. Yes I had the skin whitened. Next time will probably try and get two smaller fish instead of one big fish. I hope this info helps others.

    Thanks again for a great recipe. 🙂

  68. 68

    The Ravenous Couple — March 23, 2014 @ 8:45 pm

    thanks for the feedback! all your tips are spot on. We prefer medium size fishes as its easier to handle too.

  69. 69

    Dan — December 16, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

    Is there maybe any video that show us how to prepare the catfish? Because I’m confuse with how to butterfly the belly and remove the dark outer layer of catfish. Thanks.

  70. 70

    Em — May 27, 2015 @ 10:30 pm

    I was wondering if I should cut the fish down the middle (belly side) to fan it out on the rack? Resembling your picture. Any chance you could add a photo of how you place it on the rack?

  71. 71

    The Ravenous Couple — August 7, 2015 @ 11:29 am

    yes, that’s what we do

  72. 72

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  74. 74

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  75. 75

    Linh — December 24, 2019 @ 8:12 am

    It looks like you’ve changed your recipe. I really liked it with the honey mixture. Do you still have that somewhere? Everybody always loved it when I made it that way, and I’m afraid to try something new for a big dinner I’m planning. Love your website and recipes!

  76. 76

    The Ravenous Couple — January 14, 2020 @ 2:53 pm

    you can still use the honey butter (equal) mixture, but at the end, don’t use too much early on or the honey will burn.

  77. 77

    Krida — January 4, 2020 @ 5:02 pm

    Thanks so much, I’ve made this recipe twice now. The first time I did the dry seasoning right before cooking, the second time around I did it about 7 hours earlier. They were both equally crispy so I would say that step could be skipped if you’re tight on time. I also only used the scallion oil to baste the fish and didn’t pour any extra oil on it before serving. A 4-5 pound fish took about an hour in the oven (including the broil. My oven doesn’t have the best broil)

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