What is Fish Sauce?

Jun 3, 2011 9:16 am

Hint: It's not for fish

Fish sauce bottle
Photo: scaredy_kat on Flickr
This popular condiment is a world traveler

Are you sure you want to know? Cause we'll tell you. Fish sauce in its purest form is the liquid extracted from fish, likely anchovies, while they're being fermented or salted. Its use is rampant all over Asia, most notably in Thailand and Vietnam. Ancient Romans revered the stuff — everyone, rich and poor, doused their food with varying qualities and strengths of fish sauce, the rarest of which were as sought after as caviar.

Like kimchi? There's fish sauce in that. And your beloved pad thai? That tangy, inexplicable flavor that keeps you coming back for more? Yup, you guessed it. Still don't know what umami is? It's that thing your mouth does when you taste fish sauce. 

Used during cooking or as a dipping sauce, this pungent, dark brew is a versatile seasoning that's definitely worth keeping in your pantry for those ambitious "break out the wok" nights or to add extra flavor to your takeout. Best of all, it's super healthy, packed with essential amino acids, B vitamins (including B12), calcium, phosphrorous, iron, iodine, riboflavin, and niacin.   

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