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Dec 1, 2011 03:50 PM

Does your Fish Sauce have sugar?

A blogger wrote about her "Thai style brussels sprouts" she had at a restaurant and then made at home. She said that she omitted the restaurant's suggested palm sugar in the recipe, because fish sauce itself featured sugar.

"""The [restaurant's] sprouts were roasted in a bath of fish sauce, peanuts and palm sugar. So simple. There were seared to a crisp, both salty and sweet, and utterly satisfying. Someone declared the ultimate compliment, "I'm never making Brussels sprouts any other way." I totally agreed and went home to recreate them.
With sugar already featured in fish sauce, I omitted the restaurant's suggestion of palm sugar and in favor of achieving perfectly al dente sprouts, I skipped roasting them in the oven and simply sautéed them stove-top in a hot cast iron skillet.""""

So, I emailed her and asked her how fish sauce "featured" sugar.

She politely replied that "most fish sauce has sugar."

What say you? I've never tasted sugar in the fish sauce I've used, but I'm no expert. Maybe it is in minute quantities?

I certainly add palm sugar to my "Thai-style dish" if the recipe calls for it.

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  1. Hey, 'pal! My Squid brand fish sauce lists: water, anchovy paste, salt, sugar.

    So I guess there's a little bit of it in the Squid brand! Will be interesting to see other responses!

    2 Replies
    1. There are a lot of brands that contain sugar (usually very small amounts) and they say so on the ingredients list.

      I would not rely on the sugar in fish sauce to be a substitute for sugar in a recipe. If I had to guess the sugar is no more than a couple of percent of the fish sauce volume, so if the recipe calls for a teaspoonful of sugar you'd need 40-50 teaspoons of fish sauce to make up for it.

      1. alkapal,

        I don't know about most, but many fish sauces do have sugar in them. My current "three crabs" fish sauce has fructose in it -- which is one kind of sugar. Yes, I like to live danger and consume fructose. Ferret is correct that the sugar amount is small in fish sauce, so you will still have to add sugar. Nonetheless, the blogger is technically correct about sugar being in the ingredients.

        1. It's like saying the Super Bowl "features" concession stands.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Bada Bing

            oh thanks for the laugh, bada bing, bada boom!

            1. re: Bada Bing

              Indeed. A sauce featuring sugar would have sugar as the predominant, major ingredient or taste.

            2. The sugar component is very minimal. Mixed fish sauce based dips and dressings always have additional sugar put into them. Fish sauce adds a salty and umami element, not sweetness or tartness, which are the other two flavors needed when making fish sauce based marinades, dressings, and dipping sauce. The flavors would be well balanced without it. I think the roasted brussel sprouts with palm sugar for good caramelization sounds great but the burnt pan roasted ones in the picture don't look so appealing.