If you’re a fan of Thai cuisine, then you must love fish sauce!
I, for one, can’t help adding it to many Asian dishes that I make.
Whether it’s sprinkled on top of noodles, roasted veggies, or cooked meat, it brings out a delectably salty, umami, and savory flavor to the dish. It truly transforms the flavor profile of the dish you use it in.
This flavor-boosting condiment is thousands of years old and is readily used in Vietnamese, Indonesian, and Thai cuisines. It’s a popular ingredient in Pad Thai and is also used as a marinade and dressing sauce.
However, if you haven’t ever heard of fish sauce and are curious to know just what it is, then I am here to help you out!
Read on to find out the answer to “what is fish sauce?”
What Is Fish Sauce?
Fish sauce is a fermented condiment that’s made from anchovies. Vietnamese fish sauce Nuoc Mam and Thai fish sauce Nam Pla are the most widely used fish sauces in the US.
However, there are other varieties of the sauce available, including Burmese, Malaysian, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Cambodian, and more.
What Does Fish Sauce Taste Like
Fish sauce has an exceptionally salty and fishy flavor. The fish sauce flavor is also a bit funky and too strong, which is why you should use it sparingly and gradually in your dishes.
Fish sauce is often used with lime juice and other ingredients, which balance out its strong flavor and aroma. It has a savory umami flavor, which aids in enhancing the flavor of different dishes.
What Is Fish Sauce Made of?
Fish sauce is made from salt, oily fish such as anchovies, and water. It is intensely flavorful. The anchovies are arranged in wooden barrels with salt so that they can ferment for up to 2 years. The anchovies are pressed slowly, which allows them to yield the salty, flavorful liquid known as fish sauce.
Some fish sauce varieties are also made with shrimp, mackerel, or krill. Moreover, at times, sugars such as molasses or caramel and roasted rice are added to the fish, water, and salt to make the sauce.
How to Use Fish Sauce
Thanks to the strong fish sauce flavor, you need to use it sparingly in your dishes; just sprinkle a few drops in various dishes for an extra bit of savory and salty flavor. In Thailand, fish sauce is used as a table sauce and added to numerous Asian dishes.
You can add it to stir-fries, vinaigrettes, braised meats, soups, marinades, pasta sauces, yogurt dips, and other dipping sauces.
It is the star ingredient in the staple Vietnamese dipping sauce nuoccham. In this sauce, it’s combined with sugar, lime juice, chilies, garlic, and finely chopped cilantro. This potent Vietnamese sauce pairs wonderfully with salads, meats, and roasted veggies.
Is Fish Oil the Same as Fish Sauce?
No, fish sauce and fish oil are two different things, even though both come from oily fish. As mentioned above, fish sauce is made by fermenting anchovies.
However, fish oil is extracted from the tissue of fish. It comes from oily fish such as anchovies, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines.
Moreover, while fish sauce has a pretty strong smell, fish oil does not have a fishy smell at all. Also, fish sauce is readily used in Thai and other Asian cuisines, but fish oil is never used in cooking due to its high concentration of polyunsaturated fats.
Is Fish Oil the Same as Fish Sauce?
Fish sauce easily stays good for several years. However, it might darken and become a bit concentrated in flavor over the years. This is why if you live in a hot area and your kitchen gets humid and hot, then store the fish sauce in the fridge. Otherwise, you can keep it at room temperature for 3 to 4 years.
The Bottom Line
I hope I have answered your question, “what is fish sauce?”. Make sure to use fish sauce when you experiment with Asian cuisine. Just remember to use it gradually and don’t chuck it into the dish all at once.
This is because it has a strong flavor, which might overwhelm the dish if not used sparingly. Use fish sauce to build the flavor profile of your dishes. You can use it to make Pad Thai, sprinkle it on top of roasted veggies, use it as a marinade for meat, and more. You can also easily store it at room temperature for 3 to 4 years!