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Jun 7, 2010 03:04 PM

Favorite way to use fish sauce?

I want to use this more often, how do you use it?

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  1. Proceed with caution! After reading about adding it to tomato-based meat pasta sauce to boost umami, I added just a bit to a pot, and did not like the result. The next day the sauce tasted better, but it was not an improvement over my standard basic pasta sauce. Supposedly, fish sauce needs no refrigeration but since I use it rarely, I do keep it there. It lasts indefinitely, so I don't feel a need to use it up, unlike many other opened condiment jars and bottles living in my fridge!

    I suppose I'd suggest using it in combination with soy sauce - subbing it for not more than a quarter of the soy or teriyaki sauce you'd be using in a given stir fry recipe or marinade..

    5 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      Actually, I'm starting to doubt that it lasts forever. My bottle of Three Crabs brand was transluscent amber when I bought it a couple years ago, but I've noticed lately that it is not only opaque and coffee colored now (like cheaper Squid and Tiparos brands) but also distinctly less powerful in fragrance. I need a new bottle, because I no longer trust it to work in the ways that I value.

      By the way, I am among those who swear by adding it to tomato sauces, both from fresh and canned. When you say you added just a bit, how much? I would say that for a single dinner for four with red sauce pasta, I wouldn't use more than about a half teaspoon. For me, the effect should not be recognizable as fish sauce. Also, I find that it needs to cook out for at least 5 minutes or so in this application.

      1. re: Bada Bing

        Yeah you should definitely refrigerate it because it will increase the shelf life, there's actually a video about it on Chowhound. I thought the same thing until I saw the video yesterday.

        1. re: NO SLICE

          I think saw that video, too, which got me thinking more clearly about this. But did they say anything about refrigeration?

          1. re: Bada Bing

            "Refrigerate for up to 9 months." Crystallization and discoloration are the signs of age that she mentions.

    2. I can tell you how I *would* use it, if I could ever find it in my area: spicy noodles. I have a love of them, especially in the summer, that makes me want to make them in my own kitchen, but every recipe that sounds remotely close to what I am looking for has fish sauce in it. The minute I lay my hands on a jar, I'm going to tackle Singapore noodles.

      1 Reply
      1. re: onceadaylily

        And, apparently, I can't permalink worth a good damn, so look up 'Fish sauce for sneaky umami effect', if you haven't seen that thread already.

      2. I am not an expert of Vietnamese cuisine, but I find the fish sauce quite versatile. Anything you use for soy sauce, you can substitute with fish sauce.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          It isn't a sub for soy sauce to my palate, or at least not 1:1. It's vastly more powerful stuff than standard soy sauce, and I don't think it would substitute most of the time. It would be vile as a primary ingredient in something like fried rice, I think.

          I like to think of it as liquid anchovies (which it is, essentially). It can punch up the depth of all sorts of stews, braises and soups -- but as graygarious says, it's surprisingly easy to overdo it and allow it to announce its presence, even to people who aren't expecting it. I snuck some into a chili one time, and one friend asked, "Is this fish chili?" He was right -- there was too much.

          Acid balances it -- hence its most famous use in nuoc cham. One of my best friends is Vietnamese, and even he wrinkles his nose at people who douse their pho with big glugs of it. I think it's the very definition of an acquired taste on its own.

          1. re: dmd_kc

            You are right. Fish sauce certainly has a stronger and more unique favor than soy sauce. Substituting one for another will not produce the same effect. I know people marinate steak with soy sauce, but fish sauce subsitution will have a very different effect here.

            Although they don't taste alike, I think fish sauce is often used in places (by Vietnamese) of where soy sauce would (by Chinese). Whereas Chinese often use soy sauce as a major ingredient in their dipping sauces, Vietnamese use fish sauce like the Nuoc cham.

            It is actually quiet common for Vietnamese to use fish sauce in their fried rice. Actually, I don't think most Chinese use soy sauce in their fried rice. Instead, they simply use salt. Japanese fried rice actually uses soy sauce more.



        2. I make a steak sauce that "needs" the fish sauce for depth of flavor.

          4 Replies
          1. re: shanagain

            Many people claim the secret to good vinagrette is a dash of fish sauce.

            1. re: Jane917

              I'll have to try that. There's something subversive about me.. I like to sneak "odd" ingredients into things.

              1. re: Jane917

                Ooh, I like that idea!

                Personally, I like to add a dash to braised greens and also to hearty beef stews.

                1. re: Lady_Tenar

                  lol@ shanagain

                  Maybe in Caesar as a quick anchovy sub!

            2. Dissolve about 3 TBL sugar into 1/2C warm water.
              Add about 3 TBL fish sauce, stir.
              Chop 2 cloves garlic and 1-3 bird eye peppers. Kinda mash the pepper and garlic, add to mix, stir well.
              Can be used as a dipping sauce, marinade, or salad dressing.

              2 Replies
              1. re: porker

                That's basically nuoc cham. You can vary the proportions some to suit your taste. I love using it as a salad dressing. Add a tablespoon or so of oil for a vinaigrette effect.

                1. re: rockycat

                  second the salad dressing!! :) also use nuoc cham as a dipping sauce for spicy chicken wings, potstickers, and crusty french bread. so so good.