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Jun 7, 2008 08:01 PM

Fish Sauce for sneaky umami effects

I splashed a tablespoon or so of Squid brand fish sauce into a pan of butternut squash I was mashing with butter and brown sugar and cinnamon. Wow, was it good! It rounded the flavor out unbelievably. Is anybody else using fish sauce as a secret weapon outside the Asian flavor palette?

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  1. i use it to doctor up all manner of soups.

    1. Me! I did, I did! Use it instead of salt, and many dishes will get compliments they never drew before.

      1. It's a great substitute for anchovies (but not bagna cauda) where it's a minor player: salad dressings, grilled veggies, BBQ.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Claudette

          I use it in dressings as well Claudette.

          1. re: scubadoo97

            I was inspired and made a rice vinegar-nut dressing yesterday with fish sauce that came out great! Good tip!

        2. I do that, too. Try it in Italian pasta sauces. Add a splash to your scrambled eggs. Good stuff, fish sauce.

          6 Replies
          1. re: luckyfatima

            There was a recipe in a recent issue of Saveur that used fish sauce in a bolognese recipe.


            And I also remember reading a couple of years ago about an Italian fermented fish sauce. Forgot the name.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Do you mean garam? The ancient Romans made different varieties of fish sauce from fermenting fish and shellfish much like how fish sauce is currently produced in Thailand and Vietname. Now you can see it as a condiment in high-end restaurants in Spain as well.

              When a Italian recipe calls for anchovies and I don't have any handy, Squid brand fish sauce comes to the rescue. I tell my dogmatic Italian friends afterwards and they always look at me in disbelief.

              1. re: mielimato

                I'm not sure. It was actually a brand name of a fish sauce as opposed to garam. It was in Saveur's Top 100 best things of the year, and was published about 2 - 3 years ago. If anybody knows or remembers, I'd appreciate it.

                1. re: mielimato

                  I don't think anyone knows for sure just what garam tasted like, but from all indications it indeed was much like nam pla or nuoc mam, the fish sauce used in Thailand, Vietnam and all the southeast asian region.

                  1. re: Brian S

                    It's just such beautifully basic stuff, now as then, which relates to its flexibility as a foundational accent.

                    A few old writings on ancient garum production:





            2. It is perhaps one of the most surreptitious and delightful components of the secret arsenal.

              I learned long ago never to advertise its presence in a dish, nor even to disclose it as an ingredient until a series of screening questions assured me that the inquirer could "handle the truth". It's funny how lots of folks have a fundamental problem with the idea of fermented fish.

              It's manufacture and production is a basic and very old technique, as in this video:


              1 Reply
              1. re: FoodFuser

                People can be so squeamish: my hubby never wants to know what's in anything (he's "very uptight WASP that way" - his words). He was shocked to learn that creme brulee was made with eggs & cream! I asked him what he thought it was made with, and he said he was clueless (I could have told him that!).