An Exclusive Peppercorn Braised Fish Recipe by Chef Tu David Phu


Photo: CAAM

For many people, finding creative ways to cook with fish sauce is a challenge. But for Oakland-native Tu David Phu, it’s second nature. That’s because his family has been cooking with it and making it since 1895 on Phú Quốc island, the birthplace of Vietnamese fish sauce. Chef Tu showcases the tangy sauce in many dishes that appear in his traveling dining venture, Chef’s Hawker Centre. And although his family fish sauce brand, Hung Thanh, isn’t available in the States—his recipes are. We’re excited to present one created exclusively for CAAMFest.

The story of how Chef Tu went from Phú Quốc to “Top Chef” using ingredients largely unfamiliar to Western palates is captured in “Bloodline“, a food documentary directed by CAAM-alumnus James Q. Chan. It’ll be presented at CAAMFest 2018 as part of the launch event for “First Kitchen“— a new food series created by Santhosh Daniel, executive produced with Phu, and produced by Chan and Miles Ito.

Cá Kho Tộ Peppercorn Braised Fish  

“An iconic dish stemming from the Mien Tay region (Southwest Vietnam/Mekong Delta); surrounded by rivers, Mien Tay prides itself in the cookery of freshwater fish, specifically Cá Kho Tộ.” — Chef Tu

Photo: CAAM


  • 1⁄2 cup palm sugar
  • 1⁄4 cup cracked peppercorns
  • 1⁄2 cup fish sauce
  • 1⁄4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp lemongrass, minced
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • Fish  4, 2-4 oz portions (have your fishmonger prepare for you; see Notes)


  1. Sweat aromatics on medium heat in a pot with oil and brown (2 min)
  2. Add sugar, fish sauce and soy, and reduce into a syrup consistency (3-5 min)
  3. Add water and bring to simmer
  4. Add fish steaks, cook on low heat for about 20 minutes


  • This recipe is best suited for catfish, salmon, swordfish, or scallops.
  • The flavors infuse, deepen, and taste even better the next day.


This Q&A is cross-published from the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM), a nonprofit organization dedicated to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. CAAM does this by funding, producing, distributing and exhibiting works in film, television and digital media.

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