Woe to the cook whose sauce has no sting.
On the ever-widening American palate, it is fish sauce’s time. We’ve moved on from ketchup, salsa, and sriracha to briny, stinky fish sauce, here to lend umami to everything from meatballs to coconut sundaes.
Really, the point of this book is that fish sauce is not just for Asian, more specifically, Vietnamese and Thai dishes. It is a building block of flavor, hiding in the background, but providing noticeable zip.
Like most people, you probably have a bottle hiding in your cabinet. These 50 recipes, gathered from 50 chefs will inspire you to use it. Try just a few of them to gain a new understanding of fish sauce’s versatility, and soon you’ll be improvising your own inspirations.
Though an Asian product, fish sauce has ancient ancestors. Romans made garum from salted, fermented fish, which was then flavored with herbs, honey, wine, or vinegar. Today you can buy precious colatura di alici, a garum-like concentrate that adds a rounded full flavor to almost any dish.
The book starts with instructions on how to make your own fish sauce, including a vegan version with vegetable broth, palm sugar, chili, and lime. But for DIYers, try Kresha Faber’s recipe. Tucked in the back of the fridge for a bit more than a month, it’s a great way to surprise your mother and amaze your friends.
Leah Cohen’s Vietnamese Meatballs are a fish sauce classic–perfect to top a rice bowl, on toothpicks for a cocktail snack, or stuffed alongside daikon pickle in a banh mi. By contrast, Annie Pettry pushes the flavor envelope, dashing some fish sauce into a buttery caramel for Sweet and Spicy Caramel Corn. You can of course, use it in ramen, and there’s a recipe for that here, but you can also hark back to garum in Gerard Craft’s Ode to Sardella, inspired by the Calabrian sauce of chile and anchovies.
A vinegary mignonette is a fish sauce no-brainer, but expand the flavor range to Apple Relish, Pulled Pork, Lobster, or a Fish Sauce Bloody Mary. And yes, there are two dessert recipes–that coconut sundae or Apple Fritters with Fish Sauce Apple Marmalade.
So pull out that bottle, pry open the top, and start cooking.