Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in Thai, Laotian, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Filipino cuisine. It is added to dishes, much like Americans add salt to their recipes. Its many varieties are used in pork, chicken, shrimp and fish dishes. It is also used for soups and casseroles in Southern China.
Fish sauces (extracts) can be made from dried fish, raw fish, a single species or multiple species. Fish sauce can be as simple as fish and salt or as complex as fish and a variety of spices. Fish is fermented to make fish sauce, and the longer it ferments, the nuttier and cheesier the flavor.
Fish sauce is mostly used in cooking, but some Asian cultures use it as a dipping sauce. Thai fish sauce is used in cooking and is kept on the table to be used as a condiment. The condiment usually contains chopped hot chili peppers.
Making a Basic Fish Sauce
Making fish sauce by hand can be a time consuming process. The fresher the fish, the better the fish sauce. The fish are rinsed and drained, then mixed with sea salt in large earthenware jars. The fish are weighted down with rocks on top of a bamboo mat. In the 9 to 12 months the fish ferment in these jars, the jars are uncovered numerous times to allow the fish to be exposed to direct sunshine. This helps turn the fish into a fluid and gives the sauce a reddish brown color and a fragrant aroma.
Once the prerequisite time has passed, the liquid is drained out of the jars and any solid pieces are strained out with a clean cloth. The sauce is then put into clean earthenware jars and sits in the sun for a couple of weeks to get rid of the fish odor. The fish sauce is then bottled, ready to use.
Spicy Fish Sauce Recipe
Ingredients You Will Need:
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 hot chili pepper, chopped
¼ cup fish sauce (made as described above or bottled)
¼ cup vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup water
Smash the garlic and chili pepper finely in a mortar and pestle. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, vinegar, water and sugar. Stir well, making sure the ingredients are well blended.
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