Fish sauce

This article was originally published in January 2016

Our region loves cuisines that rely on fish sauce — Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Laotian — but most of us haven’t yet made the leap of treating it as a pantry staple. Happily, there’s nothing intimidating about it.

At its best, fish sauce is one of the simplest condiments, with only three ingredients: anchovies, water and salt. Its Vietnamese name, nuoc mam, even translates to the blunt “salted fish water” in English. At its worst, it can be adulterated with too much water, MSG or preservatives. Good quality fish sauce is naturally gluten free, and its richly savory taste makes it a good substitute for soy sauce.

Remember, though, that its saltiness can go from pleasant to intense quickly. It’s a good bass note, but shouldn’t go solo very often. Standard ingredients to complement its flavor are sugar, lime juice or vinegar, garlic and chiles. Find more delicious recipes with fish sauce.


Red Boat Fish Sauce

Winner of countless awards (including an America’s Test Kitchen taste test), Red Boat is made from wild-caught black anchovies slowly fermented in tropical wood barrels. Its smooth richness is in a class by itself.


Recipes with fish sauce

Check out three delicious recipes with fish sauce, including chicken wings that are perfect for game day and a quick dipping sauce to serve alongside grilled meat or noodles. Get recipes »

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