They say you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.
That's how it was with fish sauce and me.
Fish sauce isn't something you want to taste in a spoon, like soy sauce or olive oil or balsamic vinegar. Fish sauce is indescribably weird, though if I had to describe it in one word, I'd call it pungent. Trust me, you do not want to slurp spoonfuls of fish sauce, no matter how industrial-strength your palate cleanser.
So you cook and you cook, and you buy bottle after bottle, searching for the fish sauce that makes your food taste like it tastes in your favorite restaurant, or in your grandmother's kitchen.
For each person that taste will be different, but to me, with my American-born taste buds, Three Crabs brand wins hands-down. It's easy to find in Asian markets and online, and because a little goes a long way, a bottle will last for months.
And, weird though it is, fish sauce is absolutely essential if you want to achieve authentic flavor in your Asian cooking. Two of my favorite things, pad Thai and nuoc cham, the dipping sauce for satay, depend on fish sauce.
What is fish sauce?
A thin sauce made from a mixture of fermented fish, most often anchovies or squid, plus water and salt. My favorite brand, Three Crabs, also contains a bit of fructose.
How/where to store it:
In the cupboard for up to two years. Does not need to be refrigerated.
Previous post and ingredient photos on The Perfect Pantry:
Fish sauce (Recipe: nuoc cham)
Spicy edamame salad
Edamame (pronounced ed-ah-MAH-mee) are soybeans, and these days it's easy to find shelled, cooked, ready-to-eat edamame in the freezer section of most supermarkets, and in the refrigerated produce section of stores like Trader Joe's. Edamame are packed with fiber, protein and antioxidants, and the secret is that these boiled soybeans are packed with flavor, too. With ready-to-eat edamame and a pantry full of Asian condiments, you can pull this simple salad together in five minutes. It's delicious with ginger-steamed salmon. Serves 4 as a side dish.
1 lb edamame (shelled, pre-boiled, ready-to-eat)
2 Tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tsp soy sauce (I use reduced-sodium)
1 tsp sriracha
1 tsp agave nectar
2 tsp fish sauce
Juice of 1/2 lime
Defrost the edamame, if necessary, and place in a mixing bowl. In a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine remaining ingredients. Shake the jar well, then taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with more lime, or more agave, as needed. Pour over the edamame, toss well, and allow to sit at room temperature for up to two hours before serving. Toss occasionally to distribute the sauce, which will naturally settle to the bottom of the bowl.
Other recipes that use fish sauce:
Pad Thai for beginners, from Chez Pim
Sweet and savory pork ribs, from Chubby Hubby
Thai grilled chicken with cilantro dipping sauce, from Andrea Meyers
Fried catfish with ginger-lime sauce, from Viet World Kitchen
Spicy lemongrass chicken, from Sunday Nite Dinner
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