Chao Ca Vietnamese Fish Porridge

chao ca fish porridge

Goodbye honeymoon bliss, hello stark reality. Following 12 days of carefree honeymooning Spain where everyday was an culinary adventure, the first thing we craved after a grueling trans-Atlantic and cross country flight back to Los Angeles was something homey,  simple, and soupy.  We expected a warmer welcome, but was greeted with cold, heavy rain, and even hail upon our return.   To top it off, we were both feeling a bit under the weather so a therapeutic and comforting bowl of cháo (rice porridge or congee) was the first thing we made as soon as the jetlag wore off.

chao ca fish porridge

There are many different versions of cháo, but the most common are cháo gà (chicken), cháo lòng (pig offal/innards), and cháo cá (fish). Just as there are many varieties, there are just as many ways to make cháo. Some make a plan plain thick bland porridge and then add different types of broth and toppings. We present a very traditional southern way of making cháo cá, made famous in the Mekong delta region, known for its abudance of fish and sea life and floating markets.

chao ca fish porridge

You can use any type of firm white flesh fish, however the traditional fish used in the Mekong is cá lóc, the snakehead fish.  We prefer using a whole fish (we used stripe bass. Also if you have frozen shrimp shells saved, use those too) to make stock, however fish filets are acceptable as well.   The easy way would be to cut the fish into bite size pieces and add that to the porridge to cook, however the traditional way of making fish stock and sauteeing the flesh in garlic makes for a deeper and more soulful flavor and totally worth the extra effort.

This is our entry to Delicious Vietnam a blogging event to celebrate Vietnamese cuisine. This month’s event is hosted by the lovely couple, Ginger and Scotch at the eponymous blog Ginger and Scotch. Visit their blog for the complete round up!


Chao Ca Vietnamese Fish Porridge

Yield: 6 servings


1 cup jasmine long grain rice, rinsed and drained
1.5 liters or 6 cups of water
1.5 lb whole firm white fish such as snapper, stripe bass, cod, gutted and cleaned
1.5 ts kosher salt
2 large knob of peeled ginger divided: 1 sliced in chunks and crushed, the remainder thinly julienned
3 shallots (2 whole and 1 sliced thin)
3 cloves of minced garlic
1 medium onion peeled and quartered
2 tbs olive oil
quality fish sauce (such as Red Boat)

1/2 cup chopped green onion and cilatro
fried shallots
fresh cracked pepper
bean sprouts (optional)


Wash rice, drain in strainer or small holed collander, and set aside to dry.

In stock pot, bring to boil the whole fish, crushed ginger, whole shallots, onions along with 1.5 ts of salt. Boil about 5-8 minutes, or until the flesh is cooked. Carefully remove the fish and allow to cool. Reduce heat to medium low.

Meanwhile, in nonstick pan with heat on low, heat the olive oil and thinly sliced shallots along with the rice until its color becomes opaque and just slightly browned. Add the browned rice and shallots to the broth and continue to cook under medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Peel away the flesh of the fish and return the head, bones, and tail to the stock. Break up the flesh in chunks and season with a few dashes of fish sauce and pepper. Heat up another 1 tablespoon olive oil in same nonstick pan used to brown the rice and add minced garlic. When fragrant, quickly saute the fish chunks for a few minutes and season to taste.

By now, the rice should bloom and look like porridge. We enjoy a thick but not too thick porridge. You can add more water to thin it out if you like. Remove the remainder of the fish as well as ginger, onions, and shallots. Return the sauteed fish to the porridge and season to taste with salt or fish sauce.

Serve in soup bowls and garnish with green onions/cilantro, fried shallots, julienned ginger, and fresh cracked pepper. Top with fresh bean sprouts and enjoy!


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22 Responses to “Chao Ca Vietnamese Fish Porridge”

  1. 1

    ATN654 — November 11, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    I also love a small spoon of chili garlic sauce mixed in. Ahhhh, comfort food.

  2. 2

    JulieD — November 12, 2011 @ 5:40 am

    Your chao looks amazing!! So glad you had a great time on your honeymoon but I’m sorry you guys got sick! I would love to host a Delicious Vietnam event one month next year. Let me know!

  3. 3

    Sarah — November 12, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

    Wow looks good, I’m currently in college right now and it’s gloomy outside. I plan on making this 🙂 hopefully it tastes like the one my grandma makes ^^

  4. 4

    bob green — November 12, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

    I love fish porridge or I prefer to called it “jook.” Usually your pictures makes my mouth watery but in that picture, the rice looks a bit under cooked. It needs to bloom more.

  5. 5

    Michelle — November 13, 2011 @ 1:40 am

    Ah, nothing like a bowl of chao to make soothe away whatever ills you. Post-travel sickies is the pits. Chicken chao’s our favorite at home when we’re sick but you’ve got me interested in fish chao. I’ve always had problems with getting the right texture for it.

  6. 6

    Alaiyo Kiasi — November 13, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

    I love the look of the fish porridge. It looks so delicious and comforting, and the list of ingredients is not intimidating. I’m glad I found your blog! The photographs are excellent, and I’m inspired by what I see!



  7. 7

    mycookinghut — November 14, 2011 @ 4:46 am

    Fish porridge is always my favourite comfort food!

  8. 8

    Cath — November 17, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    OMG Found this recipe at 5pm last nigh.. Had it on the stove at 5.30pm, or a variation because I just didn’t have all the ingredients. Scarfed it all down for dinner. Am thinking we may have it again for tonight’s dinner but maybe vary the ingredients. I only had a whole squid and a coral trout fillet in the fridge, so that is what I used. Both frozen when I started. Worked a treat!

    Thank you for satisfying my cravings for a good jook recipe.

  9. 9

    Lan — November 21, 2011 @ 12:01 pm

    i’ve never had chao ca like this before. i’ve had it two ways but my fave would be plain chao and topped with day old claypot caramel fish.

  10. 10

    Thanh @ eat, little bird — November 22, 2011 @ 1:19 am

    I had to smile when I read that you made cháo as soon as you got home. I did the same thing upon arriving home this past weekend, feeling a bit under the weather. Sometimes, only a bowl of cháo will do 🙂 It’s been a while since I’ve popped into your blog and I absolutely love the new look!

  11. 11

    Jesica @ Pencil Kitchen — November 22, 2011 @ 1:54 am

    Definitely my go-to food!

  12. 12

    Lara S. — November 23, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

    That is such comfort food, yum!

  13. 13

    Christine — November 25, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

    Hey Hong and Kim, your Vietnamese Porridge is a Recipe Guessing Game on Knapkins. Think your friends can win?

  14. 14

    Chu Brown — November 30, 2011 @ 7:37 am

    Thank you so much for this! I have been craving this super bad. Growing up my mom made this very thickly either plain or with chicken. I remember she used to soak the rice before she cooked it; I think that helped release starch and get it very soft(?). I am going to make this tonight!

  15. 15

    Anonymous — February 9, 2012 @ 10:27 pm

    […] I found at my favorite site for Vietnamese food, The Ravenous Couple. They provide a recipe for Chao Ca (fish) but the technique is more or less […]

  16. 16

    sandra in asia — February 13, 2012 @ 11:22 am

    I really like Vietnamese usage of shallots. It gives a very different flavor than Chinese style porridge.

  17. 17

    fish congee « gingered pear — March 5, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

    […] introduced me to Ravennous Couple. Simple healthy asian meals for everday dinner. This little Vietnamese fish congee  is a treat. Watch out for fish bones (if you’re using whole fish). Share […]

  18. 18

    Diana — April 7, 2012 @ 5:12 am

    This is definitely my comfort food (while Chao Ga is one of my hangover cures. He he). Mmmmm….do you guys fry your own shallots or buy it?

  19. 19

    Delicious Vietnam #19 – November 2011 Round-Up — ginger and scotch — April 12, 2012 @ 11:46 pm

    […] 7)  Vietnamese Fish Porridge (Cháo Cá) […]

  20. 20

    Dandelioness — September 29, 2013 @ 10:18 am

    You should try this recipe with seabass! It is delicious!

  21. 21

    Richard Blaine — August 19, 2014 @ 11:52 am

    Coming from the East Coast originally fish soups of all kinds are a cultural culinary event. From the fish soups of New England to the Manhattan style clam chowder of New York City. I am an Asian food junkie but I must say this porridge looks delicious! A total must try for me. Thanks for sharing!

  22. 22

    Monica — November 23, 2016 @ 6:40 pm

    I stumbled across this recipe about a year ago, & it quickly became a favourite of mine when I’m under the weather (usually with chicken though) Thank you so much!

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