Lesson Learned

Sunday was muggy, sticky and sweltering — the perfect afternoon to stay inside and play in my kitchen. I decided to make  a full batch of Vietnamese Caramel Sauce (this is for savory dishes like caramel shrimp, not for dessert) to prep for Monday night’s dinner and store some in the pantry for quick Vietnamese dishes all summer long.

A wise woman would have followed the directions, particularly since this un-wise woman had never made the sauce before.

A wise woman would NOT have tried to save calories by substituting some of the sugar with Splenda. Apparently, Splenda does not melt.  This is a handy little fact to know if you are stirring nearly 2 pounds of it over a hot stove waiting for it to liquefy. Basically, I had been stirring what amounted to a pot of sand for over 45 minutes before googling, “does Splenda melt?” That’s a big fat no.

So, out goes the whole mess and in goes the real deal. I now have two gorgeous jars of beautiful Vietnamese caramel sauce, which I look forward to testing out tonight in my Vietnamese caramelized shrimp dish.

Stirring the caramel sauce

Stirring the caramel sauce

Finished Product

Finished Product



Vietnamese Caramel Sauce

Makes about 4 cups

Adapted from “Vietnamese Home Cooking,” by Charles Phan.

  • 2 pounds light brown palm sugar, chopped into pieces
  • 2 1/2 cups fish sauce

Instructions: In a heavy-bottom 4-quart pot, gently melt the sugar over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. This will take 10 to 12 minutes. Do not be tempted to rush the process or you may scorch the sugar.

When the sugar is lump free, completely melted and just beginning to boil, remove the pan from the heat and very slowly pour in the fish sauce while stirring constantly. Be careful, as it will bubble furiously.

Use the sauce right away or let cool completely, transfer to an airtight container, and store in a cool cupboard for up to 3 months.


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