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Fish Sauce???????

I keep reading recipes that call for a little splash of fish sauce...recipes that I cannot imagine would be enhanced by the taste of fish. What exactly is fish sauce? Actual reduction of fish stock? And how does it enhance dishes without making them taste fishy??

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  1. It's made, mainly in southeast Asia from, yes, fermented fish (I understand anchovies are often used for this). It's sold in Asian food markets and does have a rather repugnant odour.

    But added in judicious quantities to some Asian dishes, and cooked, the fishy smell is no longer noticeable, and the flavour enhanced. Try it, you may like it!

    6 Replies
    1. re: ekammin

      It REEKS if you smell it right out of the jar! but it will give you great depth of flavor, and the dead fish aspect is not present in the finished dish.

      1. re: coney with everything

        I don't find the odor repulsive at all. I like it and use it a lot.

          1. re: coney with everything

            I've had a bottle opened for a couple of years now, using a couple of tablespoons every so often, and I haven't noticed any changes in it. It was pretty funky to start with, though, so a little bit more wouldn't be readily apparent.

            1. re: Bat Guano

              I just started to use it last spring. Initially it smells like urine to me, but once in the dish it adds flavor that I have been unable to reproduce. The smell goes away after it has cooked for a short time.

      2. re: ekammin

        I liken the smell of it uncooked to rancid macaroni and cheese. Cooked, though, it is utterly delicious and provides a very important dimension of flavour to many SE Asian dishes.

        Note that there are a number of different kinds and they are not all interchangeable. For example, Thai fish sauce is much more pungent and salty than Vietnamese fish sauce, which I find almost mild and sweet and much less smelly. Both are fantastic when used for the appropriate purposes.

        Oh yes... it doesn't really taste like fish at all. I, as a general rule, don't like anything that comes out of water (how I wish that wasn't the case), but I love fish sauce.

      3. It's a mystery ingredient, hard to put into words. Go to a Vietnamese restaurant to try it in lots of different things -- you won't actually be tasting fish, just something special, faintly funky, addictive. Many of them are made from anchovies, I think dried in the sun. Past that, you might not really want to know -- like the old saying about sausage 'everybody loves it, nobody wants to see how it's made'
        It's not like stock at all.
        It's also very salty.
        A brilliant ingredient!

        1 Reply
        1. re: pitu

          Is it possible that it smells and taste like rancid or badly freezer burned meat?

        2. IMHO, every serious cook should have a bottle of this around. You can use it alot like soy sauce in meat, poultry and seafood dishes. You need to be a little conservative in its use as the concentrated taste (smell) and the high amounts of sodium will overwhelm a dish otherwise. In the cuisines that utilize fish sauce, they'll use it in soups, salads, and noodle dishes as well. It's normally used in conjunction with something citrusy and/or acidy, and oftentimes it is combined with soy sauce as well.

          It really hits the umami taste factor. Once the fish sauce has been sauteed, roasted, or grilled in a dish, the fishiness for the most part becomes far less noticeable and a particular savory funkiness results.

          Most folks use the Thai-style fish sauces but versions from the Philippines and Viet Nam (and I'm sure elsewhere) are available at many Asian markets as well.

          1. Fish sauce just mysteriously makes a dish tast Thai. One of my favorite ways to use lots basil without also eating lots of olive oil is to stir fry chicken with green chiles, basil, parsley, fish sauce, and a lime squeezed over it. That's all. I use enough fish sauce to make it as salty as I want, then I stop.

            14 Replies
            1. re: wearybashful

              I beg to differ. It will make a Thai dish taste "Thai," but I use fish sauce (and soy sauce) in all kinds of things and it enhances their flavor but does NOT make them taste "Thai" at all.

              1. re: C. Hamster

                can someone recommend a good brand to buy? I love the stuff but always get confused in the Oriental Market on which one to buy.
                It's funny because when I have taken folks for Vietnamese and don't tell them what the sauce is, they love it. If they know what it is they tend to not like it so much. It's definitely a mental block for some people.

                1. re: rhnault

                  Ming Tsai uses the brand with the 3 crabs on it, and it is definitely good. Ba Con Cua is the actual brand name, I believe, but really, just look for the tall bottle with the pink & white label with 3 crabs on it.

                  That being said, my mother considers this her "table" fish sauce, which means that when a [fish] dipping sauce is called for, this is what she uses. For the purposes of just a splash here or there when cooking, she uses an bottle with an octopus (or squid) on it. I believe the name is Nuoc Mam Con Muc, but really, look for the bottle with the green & white label with a green cap.

                    1. re: Ali

                      I knew a guy so enamored with Squid brand fish sauce he had the label tattooed on his arm.

                      1. re: mordacity

                        I've since moved from Squid to Golden Boy. Not only is it a better fish sauce it would make for a better tattoo.

                      2. re: Ali

                        I went to the local Asian market and asked what was the best Fish sauce they also recommended 3 crabs. I also saw a documentary about how it is made and how to grade it and they were saying that the highest grades are made by 3 crabs,,,, so there ya go. I Love it!

                      3. re: rhnault

                        I have tasted many and even done head to head taste tests. There isn't a huge difference, IMO, between the main brands. I usually use 3 Crabs and Squid.

                        1. re: rhnault

                          My personal preference is for Tiparos. I've tried a few others but none have been as balanced as Tiparos in my opinion.

                          1. re: rhnault

                            a friend of mine who is vietnamese recommens the brand with three crabs on the label. its very light in colour.
                            i hear if the sauce gets darker its going bad, is this true?

                            1. re: redroses

                              It's possible. The salt starts to fall out of solution once the bottle has been opened and has sat for a while. Less salt in the solution might lead to something going a bit off.

                              1. re: bulavinaka

                                In my experience fish sauce doesn't ever go off. If you have it sitting around too long the salt may crystallizes because some of the liquid evaporates but I can't imagine how fish sauce could ever become less salty.

                            2. re: rhnault

                              There is a yearly competition (IIRC) in Thailand where a prize is awarded for the best fish sauce. These certificates are usually prominently displayed on the bottles of fish sauce of the victors. I've found that you can't go wrong buying a brand displaying one or more of these prizes. They do tend to be stronger in flavour and smell, though, IME, than the non-award winning brands.

                        2. Think of it as a very rough equivalent of a SE Asian version of Worcestershire sauce.

                          Worcestershire sauce is generally made with anchovies, but does not taste "fishy".

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            That's a very good comparison. I use worcestershire sauce every now and then when I want a little tang, but don't want a citrusy taste in my food. Similarly fish sauce gives me a salty and savory taste that's hard to identify, and hard to copy. FYI, a large part of the sauce in pad thai is made of fish sauce, yet that doesn't taste like fish.

                            1. re: JungMann

                              A large component of Worcestershire sauce is Tamarind according to "Bobby Flay"

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              Great analogy. Fish sauce is also used in Yucatecan Coastal cuisine. I first encountered it in the town of Valladolid where it marinated the Coconut shrimp. As I did more research and learned that it was an ancient, regional sauce... I was also surprised to learn that it gets widely used throughout the Riviera Maya region in a wide variety of dishes including the Butterflied grilled chickens that everyone who eats at down home places in Tulum etc., comes back raving about.

                              Like Worcestire sauce its a magic concoction that lifts basic flavors when used properly.

                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                EN - what do they call the fish sauce there?

                                1. re: kare_raisu

                                  I wish I knew.... I saw it at the mercado in Valladolid... and it had a Mayan name... started with a K ____ chay. I should have purchased it =(

                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                Good point, but the comparison should be the other way around.

                                Worcestershire sauce was a riff off of the asian fish sauce tradition (as was the original iteration of catsup, by the way)

                              3. think of the added flavour anchovies add to a pasta sauce... same thing here. depending on how much you use, the fish sauce boosts flavour with the salt content but has the added benefit of a deeper savoury taste.

                                1. Fish sauce also makes a wonderful substitute for anchovy filets in any caesar salad dressing. Great depth of flavor without the "fishy" taste. It's a staple in my kitchen as much as olive oil, soy sauce, or worschestershire.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: VirgoBlue

                                    I have to try this as a substitute for anchovies or anchovy paste. Perhaps why I like Larb so much!
                                    I have a big bottle of Nuoc Mam, Ca Com, made by Tang Heab Seng Fish sauce factory co., Ltd.
                                    Should I have something better (seems fishy to me!)?

                                  2. I also prefer Squid Brand. Tiparos is Filipino and I think their fish sauce tends to be too strong, must be diluted, but the Thai and VN brands like Ba Con Cua and Squid you can just drop a tsp in to your dish w/out diluting.

                                    My childhood best friend's family is from Vietnam, they were also restaurant owners for many years...anyway, her mom puts fish sauce in EVERYTHING savory, including all of the Western dishes she cooks...like Pasta sauce, scrambled eggs, soups, casseroles, etc. And she is one of the best cooks I've ever met. I think the fish sauce just adds depth to any savory saucy dish. It doesn't taste remotely fishy. Now as a grown up I follow her and put fish sauce in a lot of western dishes like bolognaise, soup stocks, and basically anything that benefits from complex flavors. I also add fish sauce to Chinese and Korean dishes that I cook. I love the stuff.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                      I thought Tiparos is Thai, but I am Filipino so I wouldn't be surprised if that brand particularly caters to us.

                                      1. re: JungMann

                                        aah yes you are right, I googled it, Tiparos is actually a grade A quality Thai brand. I confused it with a similarly named patis. my mistake.

                                    2. I love fish sauce, too. Agree with the brands endorsed above. Some practical things...
                                      --It doesn't go bad, though I do think that if kept at room temp long enough it will start to change taste for the worse. (This takes more than a year in my experience.) Refrigeration works to prevent this.
                                      --Salt crystals at the bottom of a bottle are totally normal.
                                      --If cooking with it, I'd recommend using it without any additional salt (or at the very least, add the salt after the fish sauce so you have more control over the saltiness).
                                      --If you keep it in a little soy-sauce dispenser for use as a table condiment, a toothpick works well for preventing salt clogs between uses.
                                      --Also, Filipinos usually have it at the table, but don't add it directly to their food -- too salty. They use a little saucer on the side.
                                      --Be careful with transporting it in your car. I've spilled before, and you can't get the smell out without removing whatever it spilled on.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: clee0601105

                                        hehe... Clee, that reminds me of my own "spilling fish sauce in the car" story -- the only way to completely get rid of the smell is to get rid of the car (ok, I'm exaggerating... slightly).

                                        Sell the sauce in plastic bottles, please (actually, maybe this would affect storage life, so nevermind).

                                      2. i recently bought a bottle of fish sauce, knowing that i probably won't use it very often, and was worried about storing such a large bottle for so long. thankfully, i have a friend who is also interested in learning to use it, so i decanted half of it into a smaller glass bottle for her. if you have friends that want to explore southeast asian foods, it might not be a bad idea to do the same thing. if in the future you decide to make it an everyday part of your pantry, you can. it's fairly cheap, so...

                                        1. It's loaded with "umami" (that indescribable flavor enhancement) and, when I make Chinese dishes with it instead of soy sauce (dishes like kung pao or garlic sauce chicken) my "meat and potatoes" family gives high praise.

                                          But you have to watch between brands for a vastly varying degree of saltiness.

                                          1. The #1 Filipino brand of fish sauce is (or at least used to be ) "Rufina", found in many asian markets. and yes it is stronger and more pungent than the Viet style. fyi the Pinoy name for fish sauce is "Patis"... pa-TISSE.
                                            A common application is for a Pinoy who's under the weather to load up his 'Lugaw' (rice porridge, sorta like congee) with lots o' patis...our version of restorative chicken noodle soup!

                                            1. In the island of Phu Quoc in Vietnam, they are famous for making high quality top notch fish sauce. They put tons of salt on the fish and age them in wooden barrels for years. Initially the odor is deathly but later it starts to mellow. The first draw looks like a sherry wine, bright reddish brown. The later draws are salty and less flavorful.

                                              Fish sauce is basically "umami" in a bottle. As with most fermented protein products, the proteins denature and release amino acids to make the product delicious.

                                              Fish sauce doesn't spoil, but it does tend to get darker and smellier as time passes, and sometimes salt crystals form. If you need a cheap fish sauce for everyday use, I recommend three crabs. I also recommend Golden Boy. Tiparos is good if you want a particularly aggressive flavor.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: takadi

                                                cheers, Takadi. you sure know your fish sauce! no need for me to add anything else to what you've already said here. i've been to Phu Quoc and ever since i've never touched any fish sauce that's not from there and not of superior quality. apparently it is less salty and more 'refined' than Thai stuff.

                                                i've also been told never buy fish sauce in a plastic bottle. forgot the reason why as to...

                                                1. re: Pata_Negra

                                                  Alot of people tend not to buy plastic bottles for not just fish sauce but most everything for fear of the plastic leaching out estrogen mimicking chemicals among other things.

                                              2. The Romans and other Mediterraneans used a fermented fish sauce, garum, for centuries; and Worstershire sauce is essentially a fermented anchovy-based sauce. If you use Worstershire sauce, you've been eating fish sauce. A lovely little side dish with many kinds of foods is a little bowl of fish sauce with a dribble of soy sauce, a splash of rice vinegar, and lots of thinly sliced fresh jalapeno and/or serrano peppers. I even like this on Mexican food.

                                                4 Replies
                                                1. re: fromagina

                                                  have you read Salt by Mark Kurlansky? he details the history of all these substances and many other uses for sodium.

                                                  1. re: hill food

                                                    I've not read it yet.. comes highly recommended. Thanks for reminding me to check Amazon.

                                                  2. re: fromagina

                                                    Ketchup originated from fish sauce as well. In fact, Ketchup came from the word "kecap" from the indonesian word and "koe chiap" from the Chinese translation.

                                                    1. re: takadi

                                                      I have Kecap Manis, a thick, sweet version of soy sauce.

                                                  3. I use fish sauce in so many things, I can't list them here. But if it smells bad, you bought a very bad brand. The better brands have more of a smell of the ocean than a fishy smell (at least to me they do).

                                                    But I always use it in thai food (obviously). It is used a lot in western cooking nowadays since it has been made more available in the U.S. and Europe over the last 2 decades. It's one of those ingredients many chefs add to give a dish that certain something when they find it lacking in flavor. I've read that it's often the secret ingredient to a really successful French bouillabaisse as well. If you taste fish sauce straight, it is very salty and has a strong flavor - but splash a teaspoon of it in a vinaigrette salad or a tablespoon in in a stew or soup and it does enhance the flavor quite a bit.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Cremon

                                                      I think of fish sauce as natural MSG. In a way it basically is

                                                    2. I have found numerous non-SE Asian uses for fish sauce. It is somewhat analogous to soy sauce(in Chinese cuisine) in that is added in lieu of salt to savory dishes quite often. Unlike soy sauce, fish sauce disappears in the dish for the most part. I have found that you can use fish sauce in place of anchovies in Italian dishes. It adds depth of flavor to marina sauce. You can make a decent Caesar salad dressing with it amazingly.
                                                      I make a remoulade sauce with lemon juice, mayo, garlic, capers and fish sauce.

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: LRunkle

                                                        Definitely, I find fish sauce is alot more effective at adding depth to dishes than anchovies are. I only use anchovies on pizza nowadays

                                                        1. re: LRunkle

                                                          I make my Caesar dressing with it too and rarely tell people what I have added anymore because of the negative connotation . . .

                                                          It's basically a very flavorful way to add saltiness to a recipe.

                                                          1. re: vday

                                                            Same here. Great for Caesar salad.

                                                            It is said the original Caesar salad actually didn't have anchovies but got the anchovy flavor from the Worcestershire sauce. I find fish sauce works better. I doubt Caesar Cardini had fish sauce on the shelf when he invented the salad (if he really did invent it, but that's another discussion), but I like to think he would have used some if it had been available.

                                                            Like others, these days I use fish sauce in everything under the sun, but agree it's probably better not to be too explicit when asked about where that flavor comes from (secret family recipe---been in the family now, oh, maybe 15 minutes...).

                                                          2. re: LRunkle

                                                            Wow!! I never thought to add fish sauce to remoulade - I have been adding capers (double rinsed) to mine for years. Awesome idea, LRunkle! I will start adding fish sauce to mine from now on.
                                                            Thank you!!

                                                          3. whenever i have any kind of soup that needs some "oomph" or depth of flavor, i add a couple of dashes of fish sauce. don't tell people, though, unless they're open-minded about food ("EEEUUUW!..... FISH sauce?!?!).

                                                            28 Replies
                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                              A lot has been posted about fish sauce enhancing dishes if you cook with it but that it has a powerful fishy smell. What about using it as a condiment like adding to stir fry at the table will it still enhance the flavor or will it just be the overwhelming fish taste that people describe before it cooks? Thanks

                                                              1. re: forzagto

                                                                Personally I don't think the smell is all that fishy, but then I like anchovies........ Asians certainly use it at the table as a dipping/adding sauce. For a stir fry I would (I do) add it during the fry, not afterwards off the heat.

                                                                It's cheap, so get a bottle and try it out. Unless you have a really strong aversion to salty fish, for example if you hate canned anchovies, I think you'll agree it's fishy yes but not so fishy as to cross the line. Then add a little to soup the next time you have some, or any sort of meat sauce or stew, and see how it adds depth to the flavor. Umami city.

                                                                1. re: johnb

                                                                  I know people who HATE anchovies (not me) but they LOVE fish sauce.

                                                                  best cooked into the food or diluted if raw IMHO.

                                                                  forzagto: be brave, it's relatively cheap, a little goes a long way and it's shelf stable (ok maybe it will crystallize a bit with time, but it's still good).

                                                                2. re: forzagto

                                                                  i'm not crazy about adding it to my pad kee mao at the table, although it is offered (with chopped chilies) as a condiment at the thai places i patronize. i think fish sauce benefits from even a little heat to temper the flavor a bit.

                                                                  1. re: forzagto

                                                                    You can also make a great salad dressing with it (uncooked). . . the Thai dish "beef salad" uses only fish sauce, fresh lime juice, sugar, and sometimes chiles as the dressing. Google recipes for this - one of my favorite "trial" dishes at Thai restaurants

                                                                    1. re: vday

                                                                      i love that salad! i'm not sure if i've dressed the beef while it was still warm....i think it'd absorb flavors better that way. and...anyone...is the beef ever done with a quick marinade of some fish sauce, garlic and lime?

                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                        I took my own advice and googled Thai beef salad again yesterday. There are lots of variations on a theme with the recipes. Some of them marinate the rare cooked beef and dressing along with scallions or shallots, lemon grass, cilantro chiles, etc. Some recipes even do a very quick saute of the above ingredients (just enough to wilt things) before putting it over the lettuce and other uncooked ingredients. Some recipes marinate the beef before cooking . . . Reading through things made me reflect on all the versions I've eaten over the years and I came up with some new ideas to try at home. I LOVE that fish sauce dressing - so tasty! (and the bonus is there is no oil in it . . . I make it up when I want something really tasty but light)

                                                                        1. re: vday

                                                                          i have some "london broil" that unfortunately i overcooked to medium-well.
                                                                          ;-((. instead of making hash, i'm gonna make the thai salad dressing, and toss in the meat, then serve with cukes, chiles, mint, cilantro, maybe some cellophane noodles. that'll be a good rescue!

                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                            Mmmm - sounds great. Maybe slice super thin so it can soak up all the goodness:-)

                                                                            1. re: vday

                                                                              it has to be sliced as thin as i can, because it is tu-uff! ;-)).

                                                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                                                Is fish sauce good in chicken dishes or would it basically be like making a chicken dish taste like fish and therefore might as well just eat fish?

                                                                                1. re: forzagto

                                                                                  it is good in chicken dishes. think of it somewhat like soy sauce; you get a depth of flavor, but don't really taste "soy." plus, you're only using a couple of teaspoons, or even just a squirt. experiment.

                                                                          2. re: vday

                                                                            1/4 cup water
                                                                            1/2 cup sugar
                                                                            1 garlic clove
                                                                            1/2 cup fish sauce
                                                                            5 teaspoons fresh lime juice

                                                                            These are approx. measurements. Use more or less to taste.

                                                                            In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Set aside and allow to cool.

                                                                            Make the garlic into a paste with some salt and the side of your knife. Stir into sugar water, then add fish sauce, lime juice. Stir to combine.

                                                                            1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                              Out of curiosity, why would you add more salt to your dressing?

                                                                              To each his or her own, but I personally avoid adding any salt to dishes that include fish sauce in their recipe (fish sauce is loaded with salt to begin with).

                                                                              1. re: Cremon

                                                                                Because that's how you make garlic into a paste. You only use a small pinch, but you can leave it out if you want.

                                                                                Some recipes for this dressing (Tuk Trey) call for up to 2 additional t's of salt, which I find unnecessary.

                                                                      2. re: forzagto

                                                                        Fish sauce typically isn't used straight as a condiment - at least I haven't experienced it that way. Nuoc mam cham - the dipping sauce that is a standard in Vietnamese cuisine - has fish sauce as one of its main flavoring agents, but is usually thinned out with water or something else that is water-soluble. Sprinkling straight standard fish sauce as a condiment is pretty heady stuff.

                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                          Thai people often use fish sauce straight or with lime juice and fresh chilis. It's only diluted with water in Vietnamese cooking but I use it both ways depending on what kind of food I am eating.

                                                                          1. re: Cremon

                                                                            It's not diluted with water in Viet cooking. It's diluted when used as a dipping sauce.

                                                                            1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                              And even then, you aren't always going to get dilution. I've been served it every which way from a bowl of fish sauce + chile slices to a complicated recipe involving grated garlic, homemade samal, and pickled carrots and daikon. Even more than egg rolls or the like, this is the one thing where everyone has a separate recipe - the current favourite in the family involves my mother heating the fish sauce (in mass quantities) with sugar and water in advance and then my father mixing the final product as according to what we're eating (for example, duck congee/jook requires a different mixture than just a standard dipping sauce). It's really just ridiculous but typical of so many Vietnamese families that I bet most have never thought about it.

                                                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                This is true but the diluted dipping fish sauce is served with almost every meal. You hear vietnamese chefs say all the time never to use fish sauce straight. Thais do it all the time so it is a basic difference in the whole idea of how to use fish sauce in both countries.

                                                                                1. re: Cremon

                                                                                  "but the diluted dipping fish sauce is served with almost every meal"

                                                                                  Not true in my experience. This is a huge generalization. It's like saying Americans use ketchup at every meal.

                                                                                  1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                    Ketchup would be a stretch. A better comparison would be like saying all Americans use salt at every meal. And while not true ALL of the time, it is more than 90% of the time. You can't compare ketchup use in America to fish sauce use in southeast asia. There are so few dishes that DON'T use fish sauce. It is the most widely used ingredient. I have been to a lot of Vietnamese restaurants and have yet to visit one that didn't put Nuoc Cham on the table. How many American restaurants do you go to that do not have salt and pepper on the table without it being an oversight by the staff?

                                                                                    How many dishes in the US are made with no salt whatsoever in cooking nor at the table except for desserts? You start to get the idea - fish sauce use in Vietnam and Thailand is THAT prevalent.

                                                                                    1. re: Cremon

                                                                                      If you order bun or something like that you will get nuoc cham but there are scores of other dishes where nuoc cham is not presented. Maybe at where you eat but not traditionaly.

                                                                                      1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                        Actually, it's served with a lot more than just bun. I asked my local Vietnamese restaurant owner about the traditional use of Nuoc Cham in Vietnam and she told me that back home, it is served with any food eaten with the fingers and many that are not. It is also spooned over rice (Nuoc Cham or just diluted fish sauce) and rice is served with almost every meal. She went on to say that here in the US, some restaurants might not put Nuoc Cham on the table for an American unless they specifically ask for it because it tends to get wasted. I am one of the few Americans that eats at her restaurant so I get the same treatment her ethnic Vietnamese clients get.

                                                                                        Nước chấm is typically served with:
                                                                                        Cơm tấm, or "Broken rice".
                                                                                        Chả giò, also known as Imperial rolls, sometimes mistaken as either egg rolls or spring roll(s).
                                                                                        Gỏi cuốn, which are sometimes called shrimp salad rolls or referred to erroneously as "Rice paper Rolls," a.k.a. springroll(s). (Alternately, gỏi cuốn are served with peanut sauce or hoisin sauce.)
                                                                                        Bánh xèo, a crepe made out of rice flour and coconut milk, pan-fried like American omelette but stuffed with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts.
                                                                                        Bánh hỏi, very thin vermicelli that has been layered into sheets, and separated by thin layers of mỡ hành (scallions in oil)
                                                                                        Fried Rice dishes
                                                                                        Bún, a basis food made from rice and used with vegetable and everything suit.

                                                                                        1. re: Cremon

                                                                                          Cremon, you've names 7 dishes in which is a far cry from your previous statement that nuoc cham or as you called it diluted fish sauce, "is served with almost every meal." I was born in Vietnam and I can tell you your statement from up thread is a serious generalization.

                                                                                          Vietnamese cooking is very diverse. Nuoc cham is served with some dishes but not with many others. Some of the most famous Viet dishes are not served with nuoc cham on the side, ca kho to, bo luc lac, etc. etc.

                                                                                          1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                            Well to be fair, they aren't dishes so much as classes of meals. I won't deny that it doesn't get used with every meal but when I go to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant, they put down the Nuoc Cham with the napkins and chopsticks after we sit down. I'll also agree that not every restaurant does that but Nuoc Cham gets used in more Vietnamese meals than Ketchup does in American Cuisine.

                                                                                            Also, Nuoc Cham doesn't get used as much as Nam Pla does in Thai food (The thais almost always use it straight or with limes and chilis). But one thing I noted is that you rarely ever see Vietnamese people use fish sauce straight like the Thais do.

                                                                              2. re: Cremon

                                                                                I think you kinda verified my contention. I've seen Thai folks use fish sauce from the little shaker bottle, but it's usually in conjunction with chile, lime and other things - fish sauce straight-up kills any nuances that the dishes have.

                                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                                  And yet you will see Thai people who can't tolerate spicy food (Yeah, there are some Thais that don't like spicy food) shake a few squirts on their meals the way some people would use soy sauce. Any comdiment can over power a dish if you use too much of it. The trick is to find the right balance. I personally have used fish sauce straight up in the past with great results. But I use it sparingly when I do it.

                                                                                  One example where it is used straight is in Thai fried rice dishes. Thai cooks will shake fish sauce liberally into a hot wok when cooking a fried rice - then pop in some fresh tomatoes and serve with a crisp edged fried egg with a runny yolk on top - YUMMM!!!!

                                                                        2. It adds uanmi to dishes. I add just 3 or 4 drops to anything that tastes good but a little flat - spaghetti sauce, sauteed veg, soup etc. Like others have said it doesn't add a fishiness, just depth. Judicious use is essential.

                                                                          1. 2 questions:

                                                                            If fish sauce is so similar to Worcester, can I just use W. sauce, or is there enough difference between the two to make it worthwhile to get the right one?

                                                                            One of my son's favorite dishes is pad see ewe--wide noodles, brown sauce, broccoli and tofu. I've tried several recipes but he's never found anything I've made acceptable. We can't find it where we're living now, but there is an Asian market that would probably have fish sauce. Is it likely to be the 'missing ingredient' for the brown sauce?


                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: saacnmama

                                                                              Fish sauce and Worcester sauce really aren't that similar. Worcester sauce has way more ingredients then fish sauce. Fish sauce has anchovies, salt, & sugar. I wouldn't use one as a substitute for the other.

                                                                              Here is a good pad see ew recipe http://www.chezpim.com/blogs/2008/01/...

                                                                              1. re: saacnmama

                                                                                KT is correct. In fact, I would go further; Worcester and fish sauce are not at all alike. True, W has some anchovies, but many other ingredients including sweeteners and essential oils I believe, and to my taste is much much stronger. In my mind they are in no way interchangeable.

                                                                                1. re: saacnmama

                                                                                  Thanks KT & John! I will make sure to get the 'real' thing.
                                                                                  I have high hopes for the recipe-thanks for the link!

                                                                                  1. re: saacnmama

                                                                                    If you are lucky enough to have an asian supermarket with a wide selection, keep in mind that you will get what you pay for when it comes to fish sauce. I used the $2 a bottle stuff for years, then splurged on a $6 bottle and noticed a real difference. The stuff keeps forever, so even if you only buy one bottle a year a few extra bucks is well worth it.

                                                                                    If you absolutely cannot find fish sauce, rather than use worchestershire open a couple of tins of anchovies, rinse under warm water to remove most of the oil, and puree thoroughly in a blender with a pint of water . Strain through a medium sieve then through a coffee filter, then add a tablespoon or two of sugar. Mind you, I've never done this, but I would if I had to.

                                                                                2. It's one of my favourite condiments. Adds a whole different dimension if you are making Thai food. Lots of people chuck in plentiful amounts of soy sauce, but don't realise that fish sauce is often the depth you are looking for.
                                                                                  And strangely, there is chicken boullion powder that is used extensively in Thai cooking. Don't just grab powdered chicken stock from the supermarket, but actively seek out the Asian version in their grocers. Very cheap and very very good to get closer to authentic.