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Top 10 Ways to Use Fish Sauce in Your Cooking

Top 10 Ways to Use Fish Sauce in Your Cooking

I have a cupboard in my kitchen that is full of bottles of all shapes and sizes. It is where flavour goes to hide. There are oils, vinegars, sauces, salts, spices and more. I love them all but sometimes I forgot what is in there so occasionally I like to look through them to make sure I’m not forgetting anything.

The awesome thing is that many of them are quite versatile. No more bottles languishing in your cupboard because you bought it for this one recipe. Today I want to focus on Fish Sauce.

First off…what is fish sauce?

Fish sauce is an amber-coloured liquid extracted from the fermentation of fish with sea salt. ~ Wikipedia

Okay…got that? Where do you use it?

Once used primarily for Southeast Asian cuisine, more and more chefs have this savoury sauce in their pantries, using it for Classic French to American cuisine. Used judiciously, Fish Sauce unifies and rounds out flavours without calling attention to itself, bringing out the umami aspect of any dish.

Alrighty then. So what does that mean? Well, basically it means that you can use it anywhere you would normally use soy sauce or salt. It gives food that umami flavor that adds a salty richness. Start with just a little because you can always add more but too much can be…well…too much. Most recipes only call for a tablespoon or two so use that as an idea of how much to use.

1_ThaiCocktailMeatballs_ElizabethLampman_wTK_LandscapeImage posted with permission from FrugalMomEh

Here are some great ways to use fish sauce in cooking.

  1. Add a splash to your Caesar Salad Dressing recipe. There’s a reason Caesar dressing traditionally uses anchovies. It makes for a much more complex taste. Don’t have anchovies in the house? Add a splash of fish sauce to get the same effect.
  2. As a Gluten Free substitute for soy sauce. This may be brand dependent, so always check. Also do not substitute one to one. Add a bit, taste and then add more if needed.
  3. Make this deliciously spicy and salty dipping sauce perfect for fried foods or rice dishes.
  4. Add a bit of fish sauce to your favourite salad dressing or dip. The pungency of the fish sauce will not hang around but the depth of flavour will.
  5. Play around with a tried and true recipe to find something with a bit more flair. A great example of this is my friend Elizabeth’s (of FrugalMomEh) recipe for Thai Cocktail Meatballs. Meatballs are pretty standard fair but add a bit of green curry paste, a bit of fish sauce and you have something unexpected. She has entered her recipe in Thai Kitchen Canada’s #TKeveryday Recipe Challenge. See her amazing meatballs in the photo above.
  6. Add a bit to your favourite stir fry recipe.
  7. Add a dash to your favourite jarred tomato pasta sauce. It will give it a bit of a salty, briny taste that you will love.
  8. Add it to bitter veggies like rapini, broccoli and Brussels sprouts to balance their bitterness.
  9. Jazz up your favourite fried rice recipe in addition to your normal soy sauce mixture.
  10. Use fish sauce instead of Worcestershire in your Bloody Mary or Caesar cocktail.

What are your favourite ways to use fish sauce? What are some other less used condiments that you would like use ideas for?

 This post has been sponsored by Thai Kitchen Canada. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Mega Sardines

Tuesday 10th of February 2015

Fish sauce is really useful in some recipes, I always have that in herbs and spices rack. Thank you for sharing this one.

Merry Kuchle

Friday 23rd of January 2015

I totally agree! Someone responded on my FB that they'd never used fish sauce except for fish and I thought...hmmm....that doesn't sound right to me. I think people may assume that it is a sauce FOR fish when actually it is a sauce MADE OF fish.


Friday 23rd of January 2015

Well, I used to live in Vietnam and I definitely acquired a taste for it there. I like it on just about any meat or poultry. Ironically though, I don't think it works that well as a seasoning for fish.

Rob Campbell

Friday 23rd of January 2015

Great blog Merry. I have often wondered how they make fish sauce..? And what it would be like to work in a fish sauce factory.

Merry Kuchle

Friday 23rd of January 2015

Thanks Rob! I think they make it by basically letting anchovies turn to liquid with salt. Sounds pretty gross but tastes good so I try not to think about it. LOL. I am pretty sure the factory would not be a place I would want to visit.