Fish sauce

I have recently added a bottle of fish sauce to my cabinet o’ ingredients. I bought it because I keep coming across it in Asian recipes that I want to try. I understand it’s not one of those ingredients that can be left out or substituted for easily, as it’s got a strong taste. I plan to try this soup recipe, and this dish.

Does anyone have any other suggestions for dishes I can make that use fish sauce? I don’t have access to a lot of other Asian-specific ingredients - the fish sauce came back with me from a trip to the nearest large city, which is a trip I don’t make often.

I use a splash in ramen noodles, along with a smaller splash of rice vinegar, to freshen it up. Tastes less, well, packaged. I also make a faux-Pho, frequently. I go through a bottle fish sauce every couple of months. Good stuff.

I love fish sauce! But only if they make it in the restaurant. I’ve had many ‘house’ fish sauces, and every one of them was good.

On the other hand, every time I’ve used the bottled fish sauce at the table I nearly gagged. I see fish sauce at the supermarket, but I’ve never bought any because of the nasty experiences I’ve had with bottled sauce at restaurants.

Yeah, way strong. I don’t use it as a condiment, but as an ingredient.

Pad Thai uses fish sauce.

Hmmm… I was under the impression that fish sauce was one of those things that took months to make and required a lot of special equipment. Do places really make it themselves?

That’s almost scary, considering fish sauce is essentially liquid poured off stinky fermented fish…

It’s always been brought out in bowls. I assumed they made it themselves. If they don’t then they either do something to take the mustiness out of the bottled kind, or else they have some other source.

In any case, there’s an enormous diffference between the fish sauce they serve in bowls with the food and the stuff in the bottles.

Many places make a “fish sauce” that’s intended to be used as a condiment; it’s usually watered-down fish sauce (from a bottle) that has sugar and spices added.

I’ve made this dish many times, and everybody always loves it. IMO it’s best with dark meat.

If you make (what in our house we call tuna glop) tuna, cream of mushroom soup and mushrooms nuked for 60 seconds and poured over noodles, a goodly dash of fish sauce adds a lot (in a positive way) to the flavor.

I think it is best used sparingly. Just a couple of drops will do you. I sometimes even cut the amount that a recipe would call for in half.

Hmmm… I was under the impression that fish sauce was one of those things that took months to make and required a lot of special equipment. Do places really make it themselves?


If you want to make garum, which is the Roman version of fish sauce, it’s not hard to make. Just put your spices down, then put down raw fish, then salt on top of it, and keep putting down alternate layers of fish and salt. Then stick it in the sun for a week. Then just mix it once a day for 20 days, and you’re done.

As lissener says, use it as an ingredient. To start with, roughly, treat it like salt. Put enough in to make something as salty as you normally would (it won’t take a lot) and the accompanying flavors will give the food a pleasant depth. For example, instead of mixing a pinch of salt in with your hamburger meat before slappin’ it on the grill, mix in a splash, just a splash, of fish sauce. As you get used to it, your taste buds will lead you to other applications. But think of it as salt to get started.

Well, my most recent fish sauce consumption was a nice malay style peanut sauce, shoveled into my mouth using salad rolls. One big yum.

I do know that a little anchovy paste added to some recipes (like soups and stews) adds a certain je ne sais quois without bringing a fishy taste to the mix at all. I wonder if you could do the same with a fish sauce? I’m betting it would liven up things like a spaghetti with clam sauce or a chicken and sausage gumbo. I think I’ll try it next time.

No, I think anchovies would be the better choice there. Get them in early and cook them down to mush.

What kind of sausage?

Virtually every Thai dish uses fish sauce. Mmmmm, basil chicken.

Fish sauce is detectable even in small amounts. It’s not like anchovies, which essentially melt into salty yummy goodness.

I’m not saying it would be bad, but you will definitely know there’s fish sauce in the dish!

I sometimes make a halibut dish that goes something like this:

Make a marinade with:
fish sauce
lemon grass, chopped
sambal oelek (asian chili paste)
olive oil

Marinate the filet overnight. Flash fry in pieces. Serve over rice. But I agree with the comments about store-bought fish sauce. Try to find an asian restaurant that makes their own.

Nuoc cham is the basic Vietnamese condiment sauce that goes on the table at almost every meal.

It also makes a great dressing for a salad of grilled beef (or shrimp) with raw sliced red bell peppers, mushrooms, bean sprouts, scallions, and napa cabbage.

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
2 tsp rice or cider vinegar
1 tblsp sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeno or other hot chile, minced
a little shredded carrot

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to dissolve sugar completely.

I was just going to ask how to make that!

Thanks for your prescience.