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Using fish sauce in non-Asian cuisines


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19 replies to this topic

#1 LindaK

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 08:36 AM

A local restaurant recently offered a wonderful raw kale salad. The star ingredient for me was the dressing, a umami-bomb of elusive flavors. I asked the waitstaff if the chef would share the recipe, and was told was that the secret ingredient was fish sauce. That took me completely by surprise, both because the distinctive flavor of fish sauce wasn't obvious and because nothing about the restaurant or its menu speaks of southeast Asia.

But it's certainly made me wonder about how I might use fish sauce outside of Vietnamese or other Asian cuisines, my only experience with it. A search here found a discussion about cocktails with fish sauce but otherwise, nothing.

Is anyone else finding interesting and unexpected uses for fish sauce?


 


#2 radtek

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 09:29 AM

I use it all the time. It's a flavor enhancer and is basically MSG in natural form. Used in small quantities it'll pick beans and other dishes up without a noticeable fishy flavor. One certainly could use it in place of the anchovy in Ceaser salad and in dressings I've added it to meat marinades and splashed it on racks of ribs before applying a rub. Quite versatile. The Romans had their version which was called "garum" and its use was pretty much ubiquitous.

Get experimental with it. I recommend finding sauce whose ingredients are only anchovy, salt and water.

#3 larryroohr

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 11:50 AM

I've started throwing some fish sauce in a lot of things, but I think I'm understandably gun shy on the amount to add.

Does anyone have any rules of thumb they use per weight or liquid volume? Might save some of us from a fishy dish (that isn't supposed to be fishy).

Thanks.

#4 nickrey

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 03:18 PM

In Asian cuisine, it's a matter of balance of sweet, sour, salty, and hot. David Thompson of Thai food fame always teaches tasting the product (eg salad dressing) to ensure that these elements are in balance.

Fish sauce provides the salty element (and umami); the sour can be provided by citrus (lemon, lime juice), vinegar, tamarind, etc.; sweet is provided from various forms of sugar; and hot from pepper or chilli.

Fish sauce can be used as a flavouring element in many dishes, anywhere you would use anchovies and salt. Do not add extra salt.

So use it in stews, pasta sauces, salad dressings, sauces, etc. The thing to remember is to balance it out with the other components. Sweet, sour, salty, hot works just as well in non - Asian cooking to ensure balance of flavours. You can use fish sauce anywhere you would use Worcestershire sauce in cooking: burgers, chili con carne, cocktails.

How much do you need? Add a bit, taste and adjust. If the dish is a bit salty, add a sour and/or sweet component.

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#5 Mjx

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 05:18 PM

I use it pretty much any time that I might use an anchovy (e.g. beef stews, a lot of braises, to ad a bit of kick to stock). I don't make that many Asian dishes (maybe one a week), but I seem to have got through half a bottle of fish sauce pretty quickly.

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#6 Hassouni

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 06:00 PM

I use it in all kinds of western dishes, as many others mentioned - soups, stews, and the like. The trick is add just enough that the umami is detectable, but not the fishy taste (unless that's what you want). It's especially good with a few other flavor boosters in water-based vegetable soups

#7 prasantrin

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 07:08 PM

Using fish sauce in non-Asian dishes is hardly groundbreaking. At the very least, it can be used in pretty much anything where anchovies are used (some recipes for caesar salad, for example).

Along the same lines, and I've suggested this before, nuoc cham is an excellent condiment for rib roast or grilled steak.

#8 liuzhou

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 07:33 PM

Use it anywhere you might otherwise use Worcestershire Sauce.

#9 radtek

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 07:44 PM

I can see how Worcestershire Sauce was was created as an attempt to mimic soy or fish sauce. But the tamarind and the other complexities leaves me with another flavor entirely.

#10 piracer

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 10:33 PM

I'm a big fan of using it in my meat sauces for pasta be it some form of bolognaise or ragu. But like people have said, kinda use it as my salt component. I find often that once its cooked into your dish especially if its stew-like or anything braised, you don't notice any of the fishiness at all.

#11 liuzhou

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 11:55 PM

I can see how Worcestershire Sauce was was created as an attempt to mimic soy or fish sauce. But the tamarind and the other complexities leaves me with another flavor entirely.


Yes. I didn't mean to imply one was a direct substitute for the other. They have different flavours. But both can be used in similar situations.

I'm a big fan of using it in my meat sauces for pasta be it some form of bolognaise or ragu.


Me too.

Edited by liuzhou, 18 November 2012 - 11:56 PM.


#12 naguere

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 07:01 AM

Well, who'd a thunk it. Inspired I have just gone in to my kitchen and pulled the fish sauce from it's dark corner. Look out roast cauliflower tonight... Thanks folks.
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#13 Stephen Bosse

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 10:17 AM

I use it to "finish" my Indian daal dishes. Everything else is standard in terms of components, but I like the added level of flavor that the fish sauce brings.

#14 LindaK

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 07:18 PM

Great suggestions here.

Tonight I added a splash of fish sauce to some brussel sprouts sizzling in a saute pan with a little butter. A cowardly experiment but with wonderful results. Better than a shake of salt, not at all fishy.


 


#15 Norm Matthews

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 08:26 PM

I have a cookbook/history of BBQ and one of the oldest known sauces isn't possible to duplicate exactly now because the original English "catsup" used was a concoction that used oysters- no tomates. The book says the closest sub is Vietnamese fish sauce. They specifically state to only use the Vietnamese variety.

#16 Baselerd

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 10:42 AM

I like to glaze meats with a fish sauce caramel reduction (usually caramelize sugar, then deglaze with fish sauce, add garlic/onions/ginger and reduce), then throw them on the broiler for a few minutes. I don't know if that qualifies as Asian - to me using fish sauce in anything would be bringing some Asian tradition (or ancient Greek) to the mixture. (Got my inspiration for this from the Uchi Cookbook, in which they use a version of fish caramel to glaze some deep fried/sous vide pork belly).

#17 radtek

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 11:16 AM

From wikipedia:

In the 1690s the Chinese mixed a concoction of pickled fish and spices and called it (in the Amoy dialect) kôe-chiap or kê-chiap (鮭汁, Mandarin guī zhī) meaning the brine of pickled fish (鮭, carp; 汁, juice) or shellfish.[2]
By the early 18th century, the table sauce had made it to the Malay states (present day Malaysia and Singapore), where it was discovered by British explorers. The Indonesian-Malay word for the sauce was kĕchap. That word evolved into the English word "ketchup".[3]



#18 heidih

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 08:18 PM

As others have noted - I use it as the salty component in numerous dishes of various styles. A light hand adds an "oomph" that is often just exactly enough. The other day it was used in my caponata. I had home-pickled nasturtium seed pods instead of capers and they complimented well.

#19 liuzhou

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 10:50 PM

From wikipedia:


Ah! The ever reliable Wikipedia .

But as the 'ketchup" article does point out, but you don't mention, is that there are competing theories.

The OED just says "apparently from" China, but also gives the Malay theory, without mentioning that it come to the Malay peninsula from China. It could have evolved separately in two different places.

There is also the Arabic theory.

The article is largely speculation. No one really knows.

One thing for sure, tomato ketchup as we know it today was invented in the USA.

Edited by liuzhou, 20 November 2012 - 10:51 PM.


#20 radtek

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 11:15 PM

Often I rely on the principle of Occam's razor, and to me it is much more likely that the ketchup designation originated as an attempt to simulate or at least substitute fish-sauce. It is very likely the American tomato version evolved from similar piquant condiments based on fermented vegetables or other foods but retained the popular cognomen.

I agree it is speculation