The Ultimate Guide to Fish Sauce I’m a Food Blog

Is there anything more like an umami bomb than fish sauce? A few drops of this magic trick on a plate can take it from great to spectacular. It’s an amazing secret ingredient to have in your arsenal.

But it can also be mysterious. If you’ve ever been confused about fish sauce, this is for you. In this article, you’ll learn what it is, which brands to buy, how to use it, and most importantly, how to make ready-made fish sauce for dipping or dressing at the table.

The roots of my family’s fish sauce run deep. We come from a country town by the ocean. Several times a year, boats would arrive at the docks with the various shellfish in season for the villagers to make fish sauce. Each household would have its own barrels of fish sauce. The wealthy family in town made money by selling industrial quantities of this substance, made in large open concrete pools. My mother was famous in town for her prepared fish sauce that she sold with bowls of noodles and fresh grilled corn on the cob.

What is fish sauce?

Fish sauce, sometimes called Fish sauce, is a sauce made from salt-fermented seafood associated with Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam and Thailand. It is generally made with anchovies, but it is also made with tiny prawns, tuna belly, etc. You can make fish sauce from any shellfish and you can even make fish sauce at home by packing 3 parts fresh anchovies to 1 part salt in a large jar and leaving for about a year.

megachef fish sauce |

What brand of fish sauce to buy?

Of course, no one is going to make their own at home. There are many brands of fish sauce, and more all the time, so it can be hard to know which one to choose.

The best way to choose is the same as for olive oil. There is something similar to the first fish sauce press that has superior flavor compared to the cheaper stuff. To find it, look for the words mom nhi In the label. This includes the popular and well-known Red Boat brand, but also includes other great options such as Việt Huong, Phú Quoc and our current bottle of the moment, Mégachef.

What is mam nhi?

This is a mini geek section of food that you can ignore.

Most Vietnamese know that mam nhi is to fish sauce what extra virgin is to olive oil, but not everyone knows why. The etymology of the expression was difficult to find. There is not even agreement on the correct spelling. esoterically, it is mom nhi either mom huh?. They’re nice little differences, even in Vietnamese, but you still don’t agree.

On the Vietnamese Wikipedia it simply says that mam nhi means “good sauce”, but the explanation is laborious and improbable. My theory, which comes from my father, is that atrium It’s old school slang for drip or drip. A long time ago, before mass production, every family owned wooden barrels like a wine barrel with a spout on which they made the sauce. When they needed it, they would open their beaks and let the sauce out, and that was called mam nhi.

My dad’s theory was that if they planned to sell it, they’d put some of those early drops back in the barrel and squeeze it out later to stretch the yield, which made the lower “regular” fish sauce. Mam nhi was the right thing to do, just family.

Fish sauces to avoid

Over the years, I’ve learned that many people don’t know which brands and styles to avoid. The type we use in most kitchens is plain. Avoid those who are opaque unless you know what you’re getting yourself into, including and especially anything you say no mom either mom rock In the label. These will be spicier than the whites. Used correctly as in BBH, they are delicious, but beware, they can be dangerous for the uninitiated nose.

shrimp paste hue |

You should also avoid all supermarket brands, such as Thai Kitchen, Asian Family, Dynasty, etc., as they are too hot, too salty, and lack flavor. When in doubt or in a food desert, buy Red Boat. It is the safest and most available option, and it is what we buy when we are far from Asian supermarkets.

The motherland is a homeland.

Sometimes on restaurant menus you will see a reference to dipping sauce. Nuoc cham in Vietnamese simply means dipping sauce, but what it really means is ready-to-eat/table/prepared, also known as fish sauce made into a ready-to-eat (i.e., dipping) sauce with garlic, lime, and chilies . Very few people would use the raw, unaltered sauce from the bottle for anything other than cooking.

In my family and in our part of Vietnam, we don’t say nuoc cham. We just say nuoc mam and you’re supposed to know what type it is based on the context. At best it would be called Fish sauce, which means dipping fish sauce. If you cook, you use it straight from the bottle, but at the table, it’s always ready.

Prepared fish sauce is a dream and almost always a closely guarded family secret. Every Vietnamese family claims that their recipe is the best or that their family makes it better. Vietnamese children who grew up in America and can’t cook as well as their mothers joke that they always have 2 jars in the fridge. When one is empty, it’s time to call Mom for another jar.

The best prepared fish sauce recipe

When the Vietnamese say that their mother’s fish sauce is the best, they think of ready meals. Heck, when the Vietnamese say they dream of fish sauce, they are also referring to the prepared stuff. Few Vietnamese would share this recipe (or could, since most do not measure or write recipes).

It’s a version I learned a long time ago from my mom and tweaked over the years to my and Steph’s preferences.

How to make prepared fish sauce

  1. Smash sugar, garlic, and Thai chilies in a mortar and pestle.
  2. Transfer in a jar, then add the lime, fish sauce, and water.
  3. let it smooth out in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Can you do it without a mortar and pestle?

When my mom needs to make enough for large parties (we’re talking gallons), she uses a food processor or blender. She considered it lacking, but no one seemed to complain. I’ve done it both ways, there’s a very clear difference, but not a big one.

Bún Bò Xã Ớt - Vietnamese Beef Recipe with Lemongrass |

Can you use lemons?

You can use any acid you like, even vinegar, but limes are best. Everything else doesn’t taste very good.


This simple and basic fish sauce isn’t the only game in town. We modify it according to the dish. You can add ginger for poultry. You can make one more sweetened to flavor the noodles. My mom even makes a meaty version that is basically whatever sauce Steph likes for dipping spring rolls, like peanut-free peanut sauce.

Basically feel free to play around with it to suit both your taste and your plate.

Do better than take home a Peanut Free Chicken and Shrimp Pad Thai.  Sweet, salty, salty – pad thai is universally loved and for good reason.  Forget about delivery and customize your Pad Thai however you like - this one was peanut free because life is lived without peanuts here.  Instead, there are butter-roasted cashews for that nutty crunch.  #padthai #recipes #dinner #noodles #padthairecipe #thairerecipes

Vietnamese vs Thai Fish Sauce

In my family there is no real difference between the Vietnamese and Thai versions, they are interchangeable for us and we use what we have on hand.

Fish sauce substitutes

It can be tempting to substitute it if you come across a recipe that calls for fish sauce, but you shouldn’t. Likewise, you probably wouldn’t substitute mustard in a recipe, unless you’re vegan, you probably don’t need to substitute. It’s inexpensive, and there are plenty of recipes you can use it with, as well as use it to enhance the umami profile of literally anything from steak to ragout Bolognese.

Recipes that use fish sauce

If you find yourself with a lot of fish sauce and aren’t sure what to do with it, here are some of my favorite recipes that use it:

Bún Bò Xã Ớt - Vietnamese Beef Recipe with Lemongrass |

Recipes Using Prepared Fish Sauce

fish sauce |

fish sauce recipe

A secret family recipe.

Serve 4

Preparation time 5 minutes

softening time 25 minutes

total temporary 30 minutes

  • 2 soup sucre
  • 2-4 Thai bird’s eye chili sliced, more or less depending on your tolerance for spices
  • 2 cloves afflict crushed
  • 2 soup poison sauce favorite nhi mam, like the red boat
  • 1.5-2 soup lime juice according to taste
  • 23 taxes water See notes

The amount of water depends on its intended use. To soak salad rolls, use 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup of water. For noodle bowls, opt for 2-3 cups per 1 cup of water.

nutritional intakes

fish sauce recipe

Amount per proportion

calories 33

% Daily value*

Fat 0.01g0%

Saturated fatty acids 0.01g0%

Cholesterol 0.01 milligrams0%

Sodium 696 milligrams30%

Potassium 57 milligrams2%

The carbohydrates 8.7g3%

Fiber 0.1g0%

sugar 6.7g7%

Protein 0.7g1%

*Percent Daily Values ​​are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

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