Danny Bowien's Hanoi-Style Breakfast Pho ». Joseph De Leo
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It wasn’t too long ago that most Americans would turn up their noses at fish sauce, the funky Southeast Asian import made by salting and fermenting fish. Nowadays, chefs are getting creative with fish sauce, gourmet brands are popping up, and the stuff is going full mainstream.

Still, it can be a little intimidating to use. The best way? Swap it in anytime you’d use salt, but go light at first since the funk and the umami have the ability to dominate a dish. And, if you’ve never cooked Southeast Asian food, you might be surprised to find that some of your favorite dishes already use fish sauce. Vietnamese pho and pad Thai are great examples, but loads of curry and kimchi recipes also call for salt.

From Vietnamese recipes to Korean recipes, here are our favorite ways to use fish sauce.

Danny Bowien’s Hanoi-Style Breakfast Pho

Danny Bowien’s Hanoi-Style Breakfast Pho »

This lighter pho is made with chicken stock, not beef. Add the fish sauce right at the end to keep the flavor bright. Get the recipe for Danny Bowien’s Hanoi-Style Breakfast Pho »

"Cauliflower,

Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Carrot Achaar (Malaysian-Style Pickle)

This Malaysian-style mixed vegetable pickle is made with a rempah, or spice paste, stirred into the brine for an extra boost of flavor and texture. Get the recipe for Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Carrot Achaar (Malaysian-Style Pickle) »

This Malaysian-style mixed vegetable pickle is made with a rempah, or spice paste, and fish sauce stirred into the brine for an extra boost of flavor and texture. Get the recipe for Cauliflower, Cabbage, and Carrot Achaar (Malaysian-Style Pickle) »

"Summer

Summer Rambutan Curry

After stumbling upon fresh rambutans, test kitchen assistant Jake Cohen used this Malaysian tropical fruit to make this spicy and sweet summer curry. Get the recipe for Summer Rambutan Curry »

A spicy and sweet summer curry full of tropical fruit. Get the recipe for Summer Rambutan Curry »

"Lao

Lao Poached Bass With Shallots and Eggplants

A light yet hearty seafood dish, this recipe comes from Soulayphet Schwader, chef-owner of New York City’s Lao-inspired Khe-Yo restaurant. Though Schwader makes this dish with what he calls “the funk,” the strong Lao fermented fish paste padek, storebought fish sauce is used here.

Though this recipe originally calls for the strong, traditional Lao fermented fish paste padek, storebought fish sauce is used here for its milder flavor and thinner texture. Just have a big bowl of sticky rice on the side, and do as the Lao do—eat with your hands. Get the recipe for Lao Poached Bass With Shallots, Eggplants and Chiles »

"Razor

Razor Clams Fantasia

Colatura, an Italian fish sauce, brings an umami note to this simple appetizer of meaty razor clams. Get the recipe for Razor Clams Fantasia »

Colatura, an Italian fish sauce based on an old Roman recipe, brings an umami note to this simple appetizer of meaty razor clams. Italian anchovies are used in the making of this fish sauce which are a richer version of the more fermented Asian relative. Get the recipe for Razor Clams Fantasia »

"Piquant

Piquant Pickled Pineapple

Garlic and Sriracha balance the sweetness of pineapple in this Southeast Asian-inspired pickle; a splash of fish sauce adds a robust savory edge. Get the recipe for Piquant Pickled Pineapple »

Garlic and sriracha balance the sweetness of pineapple in this Southeast Asian-inspired pickle; a splash of fish sauce adds a robust savory edge. Get the recipe for Piquant Pickled Pineapple »

Thai Boat Noodle Soup (Kuaytiaw Reua)

This spicy, delicious Thai noodle soup is enhanced with a touch of crimson pig’s blood. Get the recipe for Thai Boat Noodle Soup (Kuaytiaw Reua) »

This spicy, delicious Thai noodle soup is enhanced with a touch of crimson pig’s blood. Get the recipe for Thai Boat Noodle Soup (Kuaytiaw Reua) »

"Okra

Okra and Seafood Stew (Soupoukandia)

Okra and Seafood Stew (Soupoukandia)

Fish sauce and nutty palm oil flavor this luscious stew, undoubtedly a predecessor of Louisiana-style gumbo. Get the recipe for Okra and Seafood Stew (Soupoukandia) »

"Houston,

Soba Salad with Marinated Cucumber and Ponzu

Soba Salad with Marinated Cucumber and Ponzu

Add fish sauce to bolster this customizable, refreshing cold soba salad that makes for great summer fare. Get the recipe for Soba Salad with Marinated Cucumber and Ponzu »

"Crispy

Crispy Sprouts

At the Brooklyn, New York restaurant Emily, Brussels sprouts are fried whole until crispy and then tossed in an umami-rich dressing of fish sauce and lemon juice spiked with chile oil. A shower of salty Pecorino cheese, sweet-tart Granny Smith apple, nutty sesame seeds and fresh minced chives tops off the addictive appetizer.

Brussels sprouts are fried whole until crispy and then tossed in an umami-rich dressing of fish sauce and lemon juice spiked with chile oil. A shower of salty Pecorino cheese, sweet-tart Granny Smith apple, nutty sesame seeds, and fresh minced chives tops off the addictive appetizer. Get the recipe for Crispy Sprouts »

"Thai

Thai Fish Burger

“Combining a mild fish like cod with store-bought curry paste, cilantro, and kaffir lime makes for an incredibly flavorful patty, and serving it with a simple topping of thinly sliced cucumbers, red onion, and cilantro tossed with nuoc cham (a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce made from garlic, chile, sugar, fish sauce, and lime) is my ideal summer meal.” —Farideh Sadeghin, Test Kitchen Director Get the recipe for the Thai Fish Burger »

Combining a mild fish like cod with store-bought curry paste, cilantro, and kaffir lime makes for an incredibly flavorful patty, and serving it with a simple topping of thinly sliced cucumbers, red onion, and cilantro tossed with nuoc cham (a classic Vietnamese dipping sauce made from garlic, chile, sugar, fish sauce, and lime) is an ideal summer meal. Get the recipe for Thai Fish Burger »

"Springy

Springy Pad Thai with Green Garlic, Asparagus, and Peas

Green garlic, asparagus, and peas brighten this classic Thai street dish with springtime flavors. Out of season, you can substitute scallions for the green garlic. Get the recipe for Springy Pad Thai with Green Garlic, Asparagus, and Peas »

Green garlic, asparagus, and peas brighten this classic Thai street dish with springtime flavors. Out of season, you can substitute scallions for the green garlic. Get the recipe for Pad Thai »

"Green

Green Curry and Taro Stem Soup with Bacon

This Cambodian soup is full of complex flavor from smoky bacon, crisp, cleansing taro stems and prahok (Cambodian fish paste). Get the recipe for Green Curry and Taro Stem Soup with Bacon »

This Cambodian soup is full of complex flavor from smoky bacon, crisp, cleansing taro stems and prahok (Cambodian fish paste). Get the recipe for Green Curry and Taro Stem Soup with Bacon »

"Grilled

Grilled Shrimp Summer Rolls

Grilled Shrimp Summer Rolls

Juicy mango, buttery avocado, and lightly charred sweet shrimp get packed into rice paper along with crispy cabbage and cucumber for a summer appetizer that hits all the right textural notes. Prep the spicy, tart dipping sauce with fish sauce ahead of time to let the flavors meld. Get the recipe for Grilled Shrimp Summer Rolls »

"Sour

Sour Curry Soup with Shrimp

Light, tangy, and cooked with a modest amount of heat and any available seafood and fresh vegetables, kaeng som is an elemental and satisfying dish, and this curry from Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker is an easy recipe to master. Learn to make the shrimp-enriched broth, which leads with tart, pungent flavors but also delivers measured amounts of sweetness, salt, and spice, and you’ll begin to understand the balance in Thai cooking. Get the recipe for Sour Curry Soup with Shrimp »

Light, tangy, and cooked with a modest amount of heat and any available seafood and fresh vegetables, kaeng som is an elemental and satisfying dish, and this curry from Pok Pok’s Andy Ricker is an easy recipe to master and will teach you about balancing flavors in Thai cooking. Get the recipe for Sour Curry Soup with Shrimp »

"Thai

Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum)

Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum)

At Seattle’s Little Uncle, chefs Poncharee Kounpungchart and Wiley Frank dehydrate Oregon bay shrimp and crush them into a green papaya salad, where the crustaceans amp up the umami flavor. Get the recipe for Thai Green Papaya Salad (Som Tum) »

Thai Pomelo Salad (Dtam Som Oo)

Sweet pomelo pairs beautifully with chiles, peanuts, and mint in this recipe for a classic Thai salad from Talde in Brooklyn, New York. Get the recipe for Thai Pomelo Salad (Dtam Som Oo) »

Sweet pomelo pairs beautifully with chiles, peanuts, and mint in this recipe for a classic Thai salad. Get the recipe for Thai Pomelo Salad (Dtam Som Oo) »

"Philippine

Philippine Noodle Stir-Fry (Pancit Bihon)

“Eating this dish makes me feel like I’m at home. It’s my mom’s specialty, and I remember helping her prep this as a child. It is served at every party [my family throws] and is eaten on its own for merianda, the Filipino equivalent of British Tea.” – Leah Cohen of Pig & Khao Get the recipe for Philippine Noodle Stir-Fry (Pancit Bihon) »

These noodles get additional umami flavor from fish sauce. Get the recipe for Philippine Noodle Stir-Fry (Pancit Bihon) »

"Quick

Quick Basic Kimchi

Getting tired of your plain winter root vegetables? Throw some homemade kimchi on there to spice up a standard dish. Get the recipe for Quick Basic Kimchi »

Getting tired of your plain winter root vegetables? Throw some homemade kimchi on there to spice up a standard dish. Fish sauce adds the funk on the fermentation. Get the recipe for Quick Basic Kimchi »

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