Use It Up Challenge: Recipes with Fish Sauce
What is Fish Sauce?
In many parts of mainland Southeast Asia, fish sauce (made from the liquid of, yes, salted fermented fish) is a staple, used for seasoning instead of salt. It gives wonderful depth of flavor—what the Japanese call umami. But unless you're cooking Southeast Asian food every week, a big bottle (it's cheapest in big bottles) can sit in your cupboard unloved and unused for months—which is why we've rounded up our favorite ways to use it. Don't let the first whiff of fish sauce put you off; it's actually a lighter and more subtle seasoning than soy sauce.
Grilled Chicken Skewers With Asian Pear Slaw
Marjorie Meek-Bradley of Ripple relies on fish sauce to bring a new dimension to marinades and vinaigrettes. She finds that this salty pantry staple is especially appealing in crisp salads. "Fish sauce creates this exotic Thai flavor without being overpowering," she says.
Blistered Snap Peas with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette, Roasted Cashews, and Basil
"The flavors in our Blistered Snap Peas remind us of ceviche, with the smoky crispness of grill-blistered snap peas replacing seafood. The citrus is refreshingly acidic, while the umami flavor from the fish sauce balances it out, elevating the dish's depth and savoriness in an addictive way," says Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton of Ox Restaurant.
Spaghetti Aglio E Olio
"When I cook at home, I use fish sauce in a lot of Italian food," says Quealy Watson of Hot Joy. "I took Latin for four years and read most of Apicius [a collection of ancient Roman recipes]. After seeing the prevalence of garum, a fermented fish sauce, in ancient Roman cooking, using fish sauce in Italian food just made sense. It's essentially anchovy juice." Look for crispy fried garlic at your local Asian market.
Mixed Mushrooms with Fish Sauce
"Mushrooms have their own unique, earthy flavor that's enhanced by the brothy, meaty taste of umami found in the fish, Worcestershire, and soy sauces. The combination stimulates the senses with saltiness, bitterness, sourness, and a surprise touch of sweetness," says Chris Clime of PassionFish.
Glass Noodles with Green Papaya, Peanuts, and Chili Vinaigrette
Since the food at Beaker & Gray combines playful new flavor profiles with ingredients from around the world, Brian Nasajon has the opportunity to pair all kinds of combinations with fish sauce to create fresh, unexpected results. His glass noodles are a Grade-A example. "This dish is very floral and bright, with lots of herbs, vinegars, and chiles; fish sauce brings the undertones and body." In a pinch, substitute Granny Smith apple for papaya, and zucchini for chayote.
Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Green Onions and Cilantro
"Brussels sprouts are best when caramelized," says Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable. "Tossing the roasted vegetables with rich, salty fish sauce enhances the sweet notes created by the cooking process.
Salmon Soup With Tomato, Dill, and Garlic
Author Andrea Nguyen and husband Rory O'Brien use fish sauce nearly every day, in traditional Vietnamese and Thai dishes, and as a stealth ingredient in BBQ sauce. "When a Western dish such as chili or boeuf bourguignon needs extra gravitas," Nguyen says, nuoc mam is part of the remedy. Carp is the fish typically used in this traditional Vietnamese soups (known as rieu), but since it is not commonly available at regular markets, Nguyen switched to salmon.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Orange-Sesame Asparagus and Rice
Our grilled pork tenderloin yields enough for three Asian-inspired meals.
The addition of fish sauce makes for a flavor-packed patty in this irresistible sirloin burger.
Glazed Chicken Thighs
Fish sauce, brown sugar, fresh ginger and minced garlic create the sticky-sweet glaze for these tasty chicken thighs.
Sweet and Savory Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts
There's nothing we love more than a side of crispy Brussels sprouts, and fish sauce adds a complexity that make these truly crave-worthy.
Simple Caesar Dressing
Fish sauce and lemon juice combine beautifully in this dressing, which will significantly spruce up a traditional Caesar salad.
Guacamole with Fish Sauce
This super simple recipe is for when you have perfectly ripe avocados—there's no need for tomato or other complications. You just want the avocados' richness to shine against the zip of lime and cilantro, their flavor deepened with fish sauce.
Stir-Fried Tilapia, Dill, and Scallion Lettuce Wraps
Inspired by the classic Vietnamese dish Cha Ca La Vong, these wraps are a fun way to serve up stir-fry. Swap black cod for tilapia if you prefer a heartier fish.
Minced Beef with Bok Choy and Fried Egg
In just 20 minutes, this meaty dish pops with flavor.
Asian: Almond Butter Chicken Satay
Restaurant chicken satay just can't compete with our lighter and more flavorful version. Light coconut milk, lime juice, brown sugar, fish sauce, fresh ginger, and curry powder combine for a potent and highly flavorful marinade for the chicken pieces. The real magic is with the almond butter dipping sauce though. It's luxuriously creamy with a kick of garlicky heat from the Sriracha. Munch on cucumber slices to cool of your palate between dips in the sauce. To speed up prep time, add the chicken to the marinade and make the dipping sauce before you leave for work in the morning. You'll only need to skewer the chicken and grill when you get home.
Bok Choy Salad with Fried Shallots
No one can seem to agree on precisely what to call bok choy—you'll also find it labeled as pak choy and bok choi—but most agree it's the garden star of a stir-fry. It's tasty in its many growth stages: from tiny, tender micro-greens to slightly larger, crunchier baby bok choy and beyond.
Ready in just 15 minutes, this quick salad is full of fresh ingredients and bold flavors.
Vietnamese Caramel Chicken
Serve with steamed, quartered baby bok choy and precooked jasmine rice.
Vietnamese Caramel Pork
Instead of making caramel from scratch, we use brown sugar, which is much quicker.
Shrimp-Mango Stir-Fry and Rice Noodles
Fresh, ripe mango adds a refreshing, slightly sweet contrast to the spicy stir-fry. You can also substitute fresh pineapple chunks, if you like.
Chicken-Bok Choy Noodle Bowls
Crispy grilled chicken and lots of fresh veggies make this soul-warming noodle bowl a weeknight favorite.
Vietnamese Tilapia with Turmeric and Dill
A killer savory marinade of shallots, fish sauce, toasted sesame oil, garlic, and turmeric permeates the fish and gives it a beautiful golden color. When you sear the fish in a hot-hot pan (go for stainless steel or cast iron here), it gets fantastically browned.
Give your vinaigrette an Asian infusion with a little south-of-the-border kick.
Thai Shrimp Curry
Add this Thai Shrimp Curry to your weekly rotation for a quick and tasty Asian dish the whole family will love. For a vegetarian version, swap in cubes of drained, pressed tofu for shrimp, and soy sauce in place of fish sauce.
Thai Butternut Soup
If you can't find frozen pureed squash, you can cook this soup with 4 cups cubed butternut squash. Just add 5 extra minutes to the cooking time in step 2.
Tilapia Cakes with Mango-Coconut Curry Sauce
Boasting big, bold global flavors, these crunchy cakes are a fun alternative to salmon croquettes or crab cakes.
Classic Pad Thai
The national dish of Thailand, simple to make and delicious to eat. You'll find many inauthentic versions in the U.S., some that even use ketchup or are otherwise too sweet. There should be some sweetness to the dish, but it should be balanced by tangy, savory flavors.
Substitute Sriracha sauce or another chili paste if you can't find sambal oelek.
Grilled Chicken Thighs with Thai Basil Salad
A mix of Thai basil and sweet basil makes for a satisfying aromatic salad with no lettuce "filler." Cucumber and shallots offer a bit of crunch. If you can't find Thai basil, use whichever variety you can find. Look for explosively hot Thai chiles at Asian markets, or use serranos.
Brown Rice Noodle Bowls with Tofu, Pork, and Kimchi
Little bits of crisped pork belly offer chewy bites in the bowl, but easier-to-find ground pork is delicious, too. If you happen to have some leftover cooked pork shoulder, you can toss that in the soup as well.
Sticky Chile Drumettes
Grilled Asian Flank Steak with Mango Salad
Lean and flavorful, this Asian-inspired beef salad is great for any night of the week and comes together in just 40 minutes.
Black Pepper Caramel Shrimp
To make this recipe a sustainable choice, buy Pacific white shrimp farmed in fully recirculating systems or inland ponds. For a milder dish, use only 1 teaspoon black pepper.
Spicy Shrimp Noodle Soup
Filled with bold flavors, this Vietnamese-inspired soup is comforting and easy to make at home.