One-Pot Wonders

Vietnamese Fisherman's Stew

May 18, 2011
1 Ratings
  • Serves 4-6
Author Notes

This recipe is from our book, In the Small Kitchen. It's in the "dirt cheap" part of the Dinner Party other words, it's a cheap dish that's still totally presentable to serve to friends. To keep this deeply flavorful stew cheap, we reduced the amount of fish and bulked up the stew with potatoes. You can stretch this even further by serving it with white rice--it should serve 6 (or even 8!) then. We spent about $20 total on the dish, which is crazy, since it has fish in it! But of course that will vary depending on where you live and what fishmonger you buy from. —Cara Eisenpress

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger (from a 2-inch knob)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thin slices on the diagonal
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2/3 cup mirin or white wine
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes (red or Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into 11?2-inch pieces
  • 6 bunches baby bok choy, washed and trimmed (or use 1 batch regular bok choy, cut into bite-sized pieces)
  • 1 1/2 pounds hake, catfish, cod, or tilapia or other mild white fish, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 limes: 1 juiced, 1 quartered
  1. Heat the oil in a lidded pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger; cook until soft but not browned, 8 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for another minute.
  2. Sprinkle in the curry powder and cayenne, and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add the salt and mirin, and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 3 minutes, until slightly reduced. Pour in the coconut milk and 2 cups water, and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the potatoes, return the liquid to a boil, and then turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. (You can make the stew ahead to this point.)
  4. Add the bok choy and toss to distribute. Then add the fish pieces and arrange them so they are fully covered by the liquid. Cover the pot and simmer for 4 minutes, until the fish is cooked through but not falling apart. Add the lime juice to the stew.
  5. Ladle the fish, vegetables, and broth into bowls, and garnish with the lime quarters.
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  • Starmade
  • drbabs
  • Sagegreen
  • wssmom
  • Cara Eisenpress
    Cara Eisenpress
I'm the founder, editor, and head chef at the blog Big Girls, Small Kitchen (, a site dedicated to easy-to-execute recipes and stories from a quarter-life kitchen. I'm also the author of In the Small Kitchen published in 2011.

19 Reviews

Kate January 31, 2022
I followed the recipe exactly and it turned out so well! Delicious!
Starmade September 30, 2014
I used fish sauce at the salt step, and white wine since I had no mirin. Since I had some purple potatoes I added these with white potatoes for color (thought about adding the sweet potato, ended up leaving out but I think it would have been delicious as well as pretty). I used only half the can of coconut milk, which seemed like enough. The fish was a chunk of leftover tuna my daughter had pan fried the day before, a bit rare, and a few raw frozen shrimp left in my freezer. I had no bok choy so I added long beans at the end with the fish, garnished with handfuls of basil, mint and green onions. A very delicious fish stew, and works with anything on hand. I will use it again.
Iano September 2, 2013
Hi. Great recipe. What kind of Mirin do you use? I hadn't used Mirin before and used Obento Mirin seasoning but I'm not sure if that is the same thing. I suspect the result was a bit sweeter than it should be as a result.
fosterOR January 26, 2013
Huge hit! I reduced the potatoes by half and might even up the fish by 1/4 or 1/2 lb next time but this was great. Whether or not purely Vietnamese, super tasty and also really healthy. Thank you!
PaulaE September 10, 2012
This one is a keeper. My husband absolutely raved over it tonight. I left out the cayenne pepper on his account, and used only a tiny bit of salt. I used cod, but this would be delicious with just about any kind of fish, or shrimp, even scallops. I used a bit more garlic and ginger than called for, and for my own portion, I did squeeze in more lime juice.

Thank you!
astreeter October 27, 2011
I love this. I made it with half whiting in small pieces to give the broth a little more heft, and half tilapia just so I'd end up with some nice pieces.
Bubblesaz May 24, 2011
I would like to make this for my sister and her husband while I visit them in San Francisco next month. Is the curry powder the Indian masala kind or the thai curry paste? What are some other things besides rice that you would serve this with?
drbabs May 23, 2011
I just got back from Portugal, and we had lunch in a wonderful little fishing village where the grandmother and daughter were the cooks, the father was the server, and the daughter helped out. The dish of the day was a fish stew that was chunks of whatever they caught that day plus lots of vegetables, mostly potatoes and kale. It was savory and filling; inexpensive and absolutely wonderful. I love the different flavors you added to yours.
Sagegreen May 21, 2011
I love Vietnamese and Thai food. Thanks for another great recipe.
matchaflan May 21, 2011
this must be your own recipe, right? because I'm native Vietnamese and I've never heard of/seen this before. We actually don't use a lot of coconut milk for savory cooking like our neighbor Thailand, and the word for curry is a direct borrowed word from English (cà ri), which is also not a frequent dish in a normal household. Anyway, this recipe looks good, although if I make it, I'll probably use fish sauce instead of salt, and galangal instead of ginger :D
ellenl May 20, 2011
I "fixed" it-- really good. And now I'll make it again with my new curry. Thanks again!
ellenl May 19, 2011
Thank you! Yes indeed, it's likely too old even though it smells fragrant by itself, it IS missing a depth or something. I admire you for your knowledge!!!
ellenl May 18, 2011
It's good, but is missing depth--or something----any suggestions? Thanks.
Cara E. May 19, 2011
Is your curry powder old? That's usually the culprit.
wssmom May 18, 2011
I can't wait for the cookbook! Already ordered my advance edition!
Cara E. May 19, 2011
oh hooray! can't wait to hear what you think!
ellenl May 18, 2011
Hi--how much coconut milk? It's not mentioned in the ingredient list, but then it is added in step 2. I assume the carrots go in either with the onions or later with the potatoes?
Cara E. May 18, 2011
Thanks for noticing about the coconut milk--it's one 14-ounce can (added to the ingredients now). As for the carrots, if you look closely you'll see they go in at the end of step 1.
ellenl May 18, 2011
I love Vietnamese food/recipes. Will try this this evening with the fish waiting to be cooked. Thanks!