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Fish sauce (Recipe: spicy edamame salad)

Spicy edamame salad

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)

Edamame salad

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.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Thai beef salad
Rice stick noodle salad with caramelized shrimp
Nuoc cham (Vietnamese dipping sauce)

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

Need more ideas for how to create salads with pizzazz? Get Dress Up Your Salad, my e-book packed with easy mix-and-match recipes, full-color photos and a few fun videos. Exciting salad recipes from everyday ingredients can be just one click away, on any computer, tablet or smart phone, with the FREE Kindle Reading app. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I'd have to find a sub fish sauce since I don't do seafood, but the combination sounds perfect. I'm also interested in trying cooking the edamame in my pressure cooker... stay tuned, Lydia. Glad you're well and looking to change things a bit--I think I might be also--spring is 'round the corner! :)

I like this layout/format and amount of information. I wouldn't make this tho, at least I don't think so. I'm allergic to agave.

As a note, my bottle of Three Crabs actually says in the bottom corner of the label "refrigerate after opening". My previous bottle of Golden Boy (I think) said specifically "do no refrigerate". Also, in light of current recalls and rising awareness, Three Crabs contains hydrolyzed vegetable protein.

I think you do a great job - the idea of highlighting an ingredient is great and I like it how you give a bit of personal background, some facts, a recipe and then links to other recipes with the ingredient. Keep on keeping on!

Fish sauce is a recent discovery for me and I wish I had discovered it sooner. Your edamame salad looks really tempting and I love the touch of sriracha too :)

That salad looks delicious - I will definitely try it. Your entry also lit a lightbulb over my head: WHY have I been buying only the uncooked, unshelled edamame? They can be fun to eat (once cooked) - but I don't do it very often, because it's a pain, and easy to over- or undercook.

I like this format - the information is easy to see, and very accessible. The first one, on Meyer lemon curd, felt a little crowded to me - the links seemed to interrupt the flow. In this post, the links are together, after the recipe, so I still hear your voice coming through loud and clear - and that's such an important part of your blog.

Respectfully submitted since you asked, 6 (albeit short) lead-in paragraphs was a bit much.

I like this format, and I love the sound of this recipe too! What an interesting combination of ingredients for a dressing for edamame.

Did I tell you my stepsister brought me a bottle of Three Crabs Fish Sauce for Christmas, and I just used it last night in lettuce wraps!

This salad sounds yummy! It also reminds me that I'm OUT of fish sauce....aaaaahh! I can't do Three Crabs brand. Gluten. Boo. Who puts gluten in fish sauce? LOL

Still would love to make this though!

I LOVE the length, information, good recipe, etc. Do not change anything for me. Good Spring makeover!

Just this weekend I made fried rice and added a splash of fish sauce at the end. It definitely added a bit of extra something to the dish.

I thought the post was perfectly appropriate and lovely and full of information as always.

edamame is not something I have tried before so I will give this a whirl, sans the fish sauce and nectars :) Will report back when made!

Thanks for expanding my ingredient horizons

It is weird, eh. But so necessary.
I had no idea it didn't need to go in the fridge. Thanks!

Bren, you can leave out the fish sauce and add more soy sauce. And yes, Spring is the perfect time for freshening up!

Amy, thanks for the feedback. Instead of agave, you can use sugar or sugar substitute, or honey.

Keeley, my bottle says that too, but in all the years I've been using this fish sauce, I've never kept it in the fridge. As for the HVP, yes, it's the last ingredient listed on the label. According to what I've read, this product is not subject to recall (http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/HVPCP/) but it's good to be cautious -- and informed. Thanks so much.

Sasa, thank you. I'm planning to keep blogging for a long time!

Noobcook, my cooking has improved a lot since I started using Asian condiments instead of trying to find substitutes.

Judy, the cost of buying pre-cooked edamame is definitely more than buying them uncooked, but for me, the convenience is well worth the few pennies more. Especially in dishes like that, that come together in no time. And thanks, too, for your feedback about the new post format. I quite like it -- and all of the same information is still accessible, more easily than before.

Joan, all feedback is helpful. Thank you.

Kalyn, I'll be looking for your lettuce wraps recipe. And thanks for your feedback about this form of post. It's hard to change after almost four years, and I'm hoping the new format is easier and more helpful for readers.

Alta, what gluten-free brand do you use? I'd love to share that info in future posts.

Candy, thank you. I love Spring cleaning!

Teresa, that sounds delicious. It's one of those ingredients that, used in moderation, adds a flavor that's hard to define, but you know when it's missing.

Noble Pig, your feedback means a lot to me. Thank you.

Milton, the edamame are pretty delicious on their own, but try drizzling with hoisin or soy sauce to bring out the flavor.

Natashya, even though the bottle says to refrigerate, I never do. Some brands say to refrigerate, some don't. It's very confusing. I don't refrigerate any fish sauce.

I started added a little fish sauce to summmer stir fries. Thanks to your reporting, I now keep many more of these Asian sauces and seasonings on hand.

It's the perfect length, right amount of info and backstory. Love it!

What other fish sauces have you tried? It is very hard to find more than one brand here and I don't like it at all! I am asking because if we have similar taste then I might try and find this other kind.

I love the Three Crabs brand too! I am saving this recipe for when my CSA gives me some edamame this year!

I'm not going to comment on this recipe because I left out a couple of the ingredients (fish sauce and nectar), but having never eaten edamame before I will say this: Absolutely delicious. Not sure if I have it right, but nice and 'nutty' ?? Anyway, thanks again for broadening my bean horizons!

6 paragraphs is not too long. :-0

I use 3 crabs brand too! For filipino dishes though, I use rufina patis.

Hi Lydia,
I have been eating edamame like crazy and just posted a roasted edamame recipe. Maybe you can use edamame for a great food challenge going on: Eating your words! a fun challenge, a great prize and not yet announced, a celebrity judge!

My husband came home with 6 HUGE containers of pre-cooked edamame. There are 2 of us in our home..what WAS he thinking? Now..does anyone know if these can be frozen? He bought them on sale at a warehouse club in the refrigerated section...thanks for any suggestions!

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