On The Grill: Smoky Vietnamese Grilled Fish (Cá Nướng)

Cá Nướng is a very popular dish in Vietnam that is often the showcase in a larger gathering (I admit, for my family, large gatherings are “normal” gatherings). Often, a whole fish (or whole filet) of fish is roasted in the oven, and served in the middle of the table, where everyone grabs their own chopsticks and digs in, family style.

Traditionally, a whole catfish is used for this recipe. However, with it’s lower caloric count, fats, and cholesterol levels; salmon is a leaner and healthier fish option in comparison to catfish (I also like the taste of salmon better as well). Not to mention with the use of a filet, you don’t have to worry about weaving through catfish bones, which is a bone-afide benefit.

Although this dish is normally roasted in a conventional oven, I decided to fire up my Weber Kettle to introduce some smokey flavor that you couldn’t get otherwise. The cherry wood chunks are key to adding this amazing scent and taste, which personally brings this dish to the next level.

To add even more fun to it, you can grab lettuce, mint leaves, vermicelli noodles, rice paper wrap, and fish sauce to make spring rolls with them. Overall, cá nướng is an amazing crowd-pleaser that will be sure to wow all your guests. Now that I’ve reeled you in, let’s dive into the recipe!

Ingredients
Salmon + Marinade
-Whole salmon filet, Skinless (about 2-2.5 lbs)
-4 Tbsp of fish sauce
-3 Tbsp of oyster sauce
-1 Tbsp honey
-2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
-2 Tbsp of frozen, chopped lemongrass
-1 Tbsp lime juice
-1 Tsp sesame oil

Toppings
-Fried shallots
-Green onion, chopped
-Toasted peanuts, smashed

Useful Tools
-Weber Kettle Grill or other charcoal grill
-Cherry Wood Chunks
-Foil
-Marinade Brush
-Kingsford Charcoal Briquettes
-Food Thermometer

Procedure
1) Pre-heat grill to approx 300-350°F with two-zone, indirect heat configuration with cherry wood chunks
2) Mix fish sauce, oyster sauce, honey, garlic, lemongrass, lemon juice, and sesame oil into a bowl and mix to make the marinade

Marinade ingredients

3) Place salmon filet into foil. Brush both sides of the filet with the marinade and allow to marinate in the fridge while grill is pre-heating.

Filet after brushing on initial layer of marinade

4) When grill is ready, place salmon (with foil) on the indirect heat side.

Salmon on indirect heat

5) Grilling the salmon (cover on)
a) It takes about 12-15 minutes to cook through 1 lb of salmon. Estimated cook time for a 2.5 lb salmon is approx 30 minutes.
b) Halfway through the estimated cook time, brush the top of the salmon with another layer of marinade. Rotate the filet around 180° (don’t flip it over).
c) If the salmon looks flaky, then it should be ready. If you like numerical data, then put a thermometer in the thickest part of filet. Salmon is considered thoroughly cooked at 145°F. I recomment taking it off the grill at 135°-140°F as the salmon will reach temperature from carryover cooking off the grill
6) Top generously with fried shallots, green onions, and roasted, smashed peanuts. Eat with rice, or make your own spring rolls!

Serving suggestion: Spring rolls with vermicelli, fish sauce, lettuce, cucumber, mint leaves, and toasted peanuts.

Tips/Observations
-You can alternatively use a conventional oven for this recipe. Just place in an oven and roast for approx. 30 minutes at 350°F. More accessible, but the smokey flavor won’t be there
-Wrapping this fish in spring rolls are a highly recommended way to eat this dish!
-The thicker portion of the filet will take longer to cook. It may be more advantageous to position the filet in a way so that the thickest portion of the filet is closer to the coals, and the thinner part is further away.

References
Nutrition Comparison: Salmon and Catfish

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