Friday Recipe: Catfish in Dashi Sauce

This dish is one of my own creations. It’s inspired by reading
Ming Tsai’s cookbooks, and seeing how he combines things. But as far as I
know, he doesn’t do anything like this.

You really need catfish for this. I’ve tried it with other fish, but
it just doesn’t work as well. Catfish has a unique flavor and texture which
is particularly well-suited to this.

There are three parts to this: the soy glaze, the dashi sauce, and the fish.


  • Soy Glaze
    • 1 cup soy sauce
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • Dashi sauce
    • 1 large leaf of dried konbu seaweed
    • 1 large handful of dried shredded japanese bonito
    • 2 cups water
    • Whites of 2 or 3 scallions
    • A couple of disks of fresh sliced ginger root.
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Catfish
    • 2 large catfish fillets
    • Cornstarch
    • Greens of two scallions, finely minced.


  1. Soy Glaze: the soy glaze is simple. Mix together the soy sauce and
    brown sugar, and then simmer on low heat until they get a syrupy texture.
  2. Dashi Sauce
    1. Put the water and the konbo leaf into a pot, and heat it to
      a boil. Reduce the heat, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
    2. Remove the konbu, and take the broth off the heat.
    3. Add in the bonito, but don’t stir – just drop it in and let it
      settle into the water by itself. Let it sit for 5 minutes or so, and
      then strain.
    4. Bring it back to stove, add the scallion whites and ginger, and
      simmer it until it reduced by about half, then remove it from the heat.
    5. Strain the scallions and ginger out, add salt to taste, and whip in the butter. The butter should thicken
      the sauce slightly, but it should still be a very light brothy sauce.
  3. The Catfish
    1. Lightly salt and pepper the catfish filets, and then lightly
      coat them with cornstarch.
    2. Put some lightly flavored oil in a hot skillet (i.e., canola or soybean oil, not olive oil), and cook the fish until it’s just barely cooked through
      and browned on both sides.
    3. catfish, lightly salt and pepper it, and then lightly coat it in cornstarch.

  4. Putting it all together: put the catfish on the plate. Spoon
    a couple of tablespoons of the dashi sauce. Then drizzle one
    teaspoon of the soy syrup over it, and sprinkle it with the
    shredded scallion tops.

0 thoughts on “Friday Recipe: Catfish in Dashi Sauce

  1. Janne

    “catfish” is a whole family of distantly related species. What is the features of your catfish that makes it good – firm when cooked, “sea-saltiness”, denseness?
    You know it already, I’m sure, but you might want to point it out that neither the konbu nor katsuobushi (dried fish flakes) should go over 75° or so, or you kill the savory proteins you want in the soup.

  2. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    Here in NY, we pretty much only get one kind of farm-raised catfish; alas, I know very little about what species it is. It’s medium sized – roughly the same size as a red snapper. It’s a freshwater variety.
    What makes it work in the dish is: it’s got a rich, sort-of oily, very tender texture. The flavor is not overwhelmingly strong, but it’s kind-of sweet, and it’s got a distinct mineraly taste.

  3. Jeb, FCD

    Most farm-raised catfish in the US are channel cats. They are all fed on grain, so they lose the taste of a wild-caught cat. If you think the farm-raised taste good, have a great texture, etc. you really should try a wild-caught one.

  4. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    I know it’s sacriligeous, but I actually prefer the farm-raised catfish. I’ve tasted the wild, and I find the mineraly flavor of it to be *too* strong.


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