The last recipe I posted included 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. Those of you who don’t cook Asian food very often are probably wondering just what the hell fish sauce is, exactly.
Fish sauce is a condiment that is derived from fish that have been allowed to ferment. It is an essential ingredient in many curries and sauces. Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in Filipino, Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, and Cambodian cuisine and is used in other Southeast Asian countries. In addition to being added to dishes during the cooking process, fish sauce can also be used in mixed form as a dipping condiment, and it is done in many different ways by each country mentioned for fish, shrimp, pork, and chicken. In parts of southern China, it is used as an ingredient for soups and casseroles.
Some fish sauces (extracts) are made from raw fish, others from dried fish; some from only a single species, others from whatever is dredged up in the net, including some shellfish; some from whole fish, others from only the blood or viscera. Some fish sauces contain only fish and salt, others add a variety of herbs and spices. Fish sauce that has been only briefly fermented has a pronounced fishy taste, while extended fermentation reduces this and gives the product a nuttier, cheesier flavor.
Right now some of you are probably saying, “Fermented fish? What? That sounds disgusting and I would never eat that!” Or perhaps you’re a vegetarian and you’re saying, “But I don’t eat fish!” Sorry guys, but the Thai put it in a lot of their dishes, so chances are you’ve had fish sauce if you’ve gone out for Thai food before.
Fish sauce is basically the Thai cooking equivalent of soy sauce. Soy sauce doesn’t get used much, if at all, in Thai cooking. If you go out for Thai food and notice your meal has a tart, salty flavor, that’s the fish sauce. Your pineapple fried rice is salty, but it’s not brown like “regular” fried rice usually is, right? Again, fish sauce.
Just thought I’d share that with everyone.