The Ariidae or ariid catfish are a family of catfish that mainly live in marine waters, and they are also called sea catfish. In Quảng Ninh, a coastal province in northern Vietnam, sea catfish are known locally as cá ba gai, because they have three large spike-like fins.
In cooking, yellow flesh species are preferred, possibly Arius venosus or Nemapteryx nenga. In northern Vietnamese cuisine, “fishy” meat are often paired with tofu (bean curds) and green bananas in braise dishes.
Step 1: Scrape off the slime of the sea catfish, be careful because the fish spikes may pierce your skin.
Step 2: Chop off all the spikes (back and dorsal fins). You may need to wear gloves to ensure safety.
Step 2: Use a knife to remove the gill parts of the fish.
Step 3: Use a knife to cut the fish into bite-sized pieces
It should be noted, after gutting the fish, do not rinse with fresh water because sea water is a very good antiseptic that can remove most of the necessary dirt, and retain the taste of fish flesh.
Marinate the cleaned sea catfish spines with fermented rice, shrimp paste, minced dried onions, soup powder for about 20-30 minutes
Peel the green bananas thinly, slice them into pieces of 3 cm length and cut it into 4 wedges, soak in dilute salt water to reduce the dark spots.
Cut tofu into small cubes, fry all sides until golden
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add green bananas and cook for 3 minutes until it boils again, pour into a basket to drain, stir with half a teaspoon of turmeric powder.
Pan-sear thinly sliced pork belly in a thick-bottomed pot. Then add green bananas and stir well, pour water into the pot so as the bananas are fully submerged.
Bring the pot to a boil, then add the marinated sea catfish into the pot. Strain the fermented rice and pour the fermented rice juice into the pot then bring it to a boil again.
Season to taste again. Add tofu cubes when the banana is semi-soft and continue to cook until the banana is fully soft.
Add chopped spring onions, purple perilla, chopped Vietnamese coriander leaves to the pot, turn off the heat and stir well. Serve with hot rice.