HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Thai Fish Sauce

I never made it before but I have had the Thai Lettuce Wraps in restaurants. ...SO, I looked up a high reviewed Lettuce wrap recipe. It said to use Thai fish sauce. I bought some at my local grocery and proceeded to follow the recipe. I added the ginger, lime juice, and etc. I was told to warm it up on low heat...I did. "THEN"..The worse freekin' smell filled my house and I gagged a few times and threw the whole mess away....Is it me???

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Fish sauce smells bad while cooking but tastes great. Ignore the smell...

    1. Thai fish sauce is super strong. Of course, it smells even more when it is warm. Vietnamese fish sauce is not as strong, IME.

      1. I am distrustful of a recipe that suggests you warm up a lime juice/fish sauce dressing. The heat would, I think, change the flavor of the lime, and throw off the balance of your dish (for instance, in making tom yum soup, you put the lime in only after you take it off heat).

        I would try it again without heating the dressing; and I'd taste before throwing out. Fish sauce smells far, far more pungent than it tastes. To my mind, the smell and taste almost having nothing to do with each other.

        1 Reply
        1. re: mary shaposhnik

          It's not uncommon to condiments based on fish sauce, I've seen prepartions where the sauce is actually served hot.

        2. Sounds like this is your first time using fish sauce.

          What brand of sauce?

          1. Not relevant to the notorious well-known smell issue, but I note that you don't mention any kind of sugar among your ingredients--white sugar, palm, whatever. I'm pretty sure that the sauce would taste funky and unbalanced without.

            But I'll second what people say about the smell: it fades after mixing into a proper dressing and really disappears with cooking in sauces and the like.

            1. When introducing someone to Thai cuisine, it is wise NOT to mention that its signature seasoning is made from fermented fish. If you stick your nose over your plate of Pad Thai, it smells pretty nasty, what with the heated vinegar and fish sauce. The diner needs to trust that these dishes do not taste the way they smell - which is interesting, since molecular gastronomy relies in part on seasoning the air rather than the food, because the diner tastes the spices s/he is smelling. Obviously this doesn't apply universally.

              1. It could possibly just be the brand you have. I once bought a bottle that I had never heard of before. When opened it would smell up the entire apt. It tasted fine but the smell was just horrible. I now just stick Squid brand or Tiparos.

                1 Reply
                1. re: King of Northern Blvd

                  I agree...those are the only brands I use. Right now I kind of prefer Squid brand. The stuff improves as it ages. Its best when you start to see salt crystallizing on the bottom of the bottle. I use it in all my Asian dishes (I hate soy sauce), but I also put it in my salsa and my guacamole.

                2. mary, I looked at the recipe again and I quote...Combine the hot sauce, fish sauce, and juice of one lime in a small saucepan over low heat. Trying to eat healthy I obtained the recipe from the well known book," Cook This, Not That" The recipe is titled ...Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps. I threw the bottle of fish sauce out so I can't tell you the product name. But I did save the recipe, I started over and used soy sauce instead. It was quite good.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: HotMelly

                    Fish sauce can seem daunting but it's really a miracle condiment in the kitchen. I would suggest giving it one more try...maybe try the sauce without heating.

                    There's actually not too much difference between the brands, any of the major national brands should serve you fine.

                    1. re: joonjoon

                      I agree. Fish sauce is wonderful.

                      But to HotMelly, don't bother looking for a fish sauce brand that smells "nice" when raw and straight up or nearly so. It needs to mellow into dressings, broths, sauces, braises, etc.

                  2. I made the Cambodian Salad from the Elephant Walk cookbook for gourmet club a few years ago. The smell of the fish sauce in the dressing was pretty strong. I was sure that I ruined the salad when I put the dressing on it. Nope. It turned out fabulous. Next time, just open the windows, air out your kitchen. Let your dish sit a little, and dig in.

                    1. Love fish sauce. Yes it smells but it's a miracle sauce in my book.