If you have a bottle of fish sauce that’s been sitting in your fridge for a while, and if you love good food, this post is for you.
Treat fish sauce as a flavored liquid salt
Fish sauce is anchovy and salt. The ingredients label on the bottle says so. That means the fish sauce is umami and salt in a liquid form. What is umami? I’m going to quote from Wikipedia here.
Umami (/uːˈmɑːmi/ from Japanese: 旨味 Japanese pronunciation: [ɯmami]), or savoriness, is one of the five basic tastes. It has been described as savory and is characteristic of broths and cooked meats.
Foods that have a strong umami flavor include meats, shellfish, fish (including fish sauce and preserved fish such as maldive fish, sardines, and anchovies), tomatoes, mushrooms, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, meat extract, yeast extract, cheeses, and soy sauce.
So I got up and took a sniff at my fish sauce. It did remind me of certain smelly cheeses, maybe. The magic of fermentation.
In my experience, once cooked, the fishiness mellows down or disappears altogether, depending on what I’m making and how much fish sauce I’m using. All that’s left is the umami and the saltiness and the warm, complex fragrance that makes a perfect backdrop for citrus and herbs.
Don’t use fish sauce to add moistness
The culprit is the term “sauce.” Oxford Languages Dictionary defines sauce as:
a liquid or semi-liquid substance served with food to add moistness and flavour.
The sauce provides first moistness, then flavor. In this sense, fish sauce is not a sauce. I am now food-musing over fresh cherry tomato sauce, béchamel sauce, Hollandaise sauce, green sauce, gravy…
Fish sauce is a liquid salt filled with umami, and it should probably not be served with food to add moistness.
How much to use?
The other day I made two small servings of pan-fried somen noodles. After seasoning the vegetables and noodles lightly with salt and pepper, I added 2.5g (or a little less than 1/2tsp) of fish sauce and the same amount of soy sauce. A little goes a long way. The noodle dish had this delicious aroma, and it was deeply satisfying.
To give you something more tactile. Imagine holding in your hand a cube of chicken bouillon or a glass bottle of vanilla extract. How much would you use? That is how much.
- tomato sauce (fish sauce = anchovy + salt)
- marinade for meats/fish/shrimp
- fried rice
- stir-fried anything
- pan-fried noodles
- noodles in soup
1日1新：”May the focus be with you.” スターウォーズファンのひとってどこにでもいるなぁ、と思ったかけ声。初めて聞きました。
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