Ingredient: Fish Sauce
Origin: East/Southeast Asia
With my time spent at a Southeast Asian restaurant, one of the first ingredients I learned about was fish sauce. In many Asian cultures (Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, etc.), fish sauce is used as a seasoning agent and condiment. But for most western cultures, fish sauce is nearly non-existent. My hope for this post is that you learn how beautiful of flavor it adds to any dish, and how amazing of an ingredients fish sauce really is.
Fish sauce is made from fermented fish, specifically anchovies but can be others. It normally consists of just fish and salt but can contain various herbs and spices. Fish sauce has a very pronounced smell (not necessarily enjoyable), but the taste is salty and savory. The flavor will also add an umami flavor to the dish. The taste is also very intense, so use carefully and add a little at a time. There are many different brands of fish sauce, so try a few and pick whichever flavor you enjoy best!
So how should you use fish sauce in your own kitchen? Fish sauce adds a salty, brininess to a dish, making it perfect for vinaigrettes and marinades. It is also a great addition to sauces and soups, acting as one of the main seasoning ingredients. Did you accidentally add to much fish sauce? Try balancing it out with a bright punch of acid such as lime juice or lemon juice (salt and acid balance each other out; ever wonder why bartenders put salt on the rim of a margarita? Now it all makes sense!). To add a unique depth of flavor to your next dish, consider using fish sauce!