Have you ever slurped up Pad Thai, cooled down with a crisp, spicy green papaya salad or dunked a Vietnamese dumpling into a dipping sauce and wondered, "What is that flavor?" The flavor in question is one of the most savory things you've ever tasted, not just salty, but filled with umami, complexity, and a tang you couldn't quite place. Friends, you've experienced the glory of fish sauce.
Now, don't run away just because we said the words "fish" and "sauce" together. In truth, if you are weirded out by where food comes from, or think that seafood is "icky," you do not want to know how fish sauce is made. So just skip to the next paragraph. Everyone else: fish sauce, a condiment used all over the world, but especially in Asian cuisines, is made by fermenting fish and sea salt. Smelly process? Yes. But the result is something much, much more than the sum of its parts. When smelled and tasted alone, fish sauce can taste really funky, but when used in marinades, dressings, dipping sauces, etc., this magical condiment somehow manages to make everything it touches taste better.
Here are some things we think you should use fish sauce for:
- To marinate skirt steak for tacos.
- In place of anchovies in Caesar dressing.
- With lime juice, sugar, garlic and peanuts as a dressing for kale salad, a la Battersby in Brooklyn.
- In Bloody Marys (sparingly, because a little goes a long way).
- And in all the recipes in the slideshow below.