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Jun 14, 2013 08:20 PM

Fish Sauce

I don't like it. Sue me. Any ideas for substitutes?

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      1. re: sandylc

        Hmmm.... fish sauce is essential to some dishes. Or I should say that fish sauce has a certain unique favor which help to distinguishes the Vietnamese and Thai dishes from others.

        Without knowing your specific dishes, I would say the closest substitutions are soy sauce, Maggi and/or shrimp paste.

    1. I would just leave it out then.

      I like fish sauce just fine in Asian style dishes but can't stand anchovies in anything ;)

      Umami subs for fish sauce in Thai dishes might be MSG, mushroom or shrimp powder.

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. You don't like Thai food that uses it (which is nearly all of it)? Or you don't like the smell when first poured into a dish?

          8 Replies
          1. re: paulj

            You might have something here. I am sure I eat it in Thai take-out food; but if I try to use it at home the nasty old fishy thing overwhelms me.

            1. re: sandylc

              What brand(s) have you tried? They vary in how strong the funky smell is.

              The first I tried is an inexpensive Lucky brand, which turned out to be pretty mild. I've tried some others (e.g. 3 crab) but have come back to Lucky. I did recently find a much more expensive brand, Red Boat, that others have raved about, but I haven't tasted it yet.


              1. re: sandylc

                < I am sure I eat it in Thai take-out food; but if I try to use it at home the nasty old fishy thing overwhelms me.>

                Then sounds to me that you have a separate problem. Maybe something is wrong with your fish sauce. Is it fresh?

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Fish sauce stinks, but it is one of those ingredients that tastes a lot different than it smells. OP probably just needs to get past that. Don't inhale when you pour, and even with the final cooked dish, don't sniff it, eat it! Fish sauce keeps for a long time unrefrigerated, even longer chilled. Eventually it crystallizes. I use Tiparos because that's what the Frugal Gourmet recommended back in the days when Thai restaurants were a rarity in most of America. More recently I learned that it's got less sodium than other brands, which is also a plus in my book.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    That is a good explanation. Maybe the OP just does not like the smell DURING the cooking phase.

                2. re: sandylc

                  The smell is strong when freshly poured but moderates a lot with cooking.

                  If you are noticing an off smell after a dish is cooked, then you're almost certainly using too much--a little goes a long way with fish sauce. Are you following a recipe?

                  The primary context in which one encounters uncooked fish sauce is in combination with other ingredients such as lime juice, sugar, water and assorted aromatics and herbs in a dipping sauce. That also should smell and taste balanced rather than fishy-funky.

                  1. re: sandylc

                    You definitely eat it in your Thai take-out food.

                3. Thai food without fish sauce isn't good Thai food. Proper ventilation, high heat, and pouring the fish sauce at arm's length over aromatics should help.