The Fish Sauce Zone

Fish sauce. It's what you get when you take a whole lot of fish, a whole lot of salt, and then let it sit around long enough for the fish to turn into mummies- and then save everything but the fish mummies. You may know it carnally, you may have vague knowledge of its existence; or maybe, you've never heard of it at all. This page is aimed at the fish sauce free bastions of innocence who have never known the joy of how it contributes to the flavor of food, the horrors of its origin, or wondered the important questions, like:

"Hang on, is this even edible?"
"Are we sure this isn't just plant fertilizer?"
"Why does it smell like my dog would want to roll in this when I open the bottle?"

I can confidently say: Yes. It is edible. It may, in fact, be one of the most significant culinary wonders of the world, both modern and ancient (a sauce made of fermented fish known as garum was quite popular in Rome). No, you shouldn't fertilize your plants with it (because it contains a level of salt that would make an effective weed killer), and finally: Probably because they would. Dogs, man. They're just like that. It doesn't taste like that when you use it in something, I promise. (Unless you use too much, then all bets are off.)

Despite being known as a sauce, fish sauce is not a substance that I would suggest consuming directly. (I once did while under the influence of very cheap alcohol and did not regret it, however.) Instead, you should really use it to boost the flavor of other things! Sauces, marinades, dips-- and almost any savory dish you can think of. Chili? Fish sauce. Spaghetti? Fish sauce. Curry? You better believe you can shove some fish sauce in there. It won't make you regret it. You can put it in pasta sauce, it makes homemade kimchi taste better, and you can probably shove it in about a couple hundred other things I don't know off the top of my head.

As long as what you're making has some significant flavor of its own, it won't impart fishiness to the resulting dish- it just makes it taste better, and all you need is a little bit. Maybe a tablespoon, maybe two, if you've got some kind of substandard fish sauce. If you need more, you can always add it (boiling it tends to affect the taste, so it's better to add at the end, as a matter of fact). A light hand and a bottle of Three Crabs (or whatever quality fish sauce you can find nearby) will see you far.

As an added bonus, placing an open bottle near someone's nose can be used to daze and confuse them while you try to get them to leave your kitchen so you can cook in peace-- and if all this hasn't worn you over, I leave you with a testimonial from a dear friend, directly quoted:

"I'm pretty sure i've had it and i dont remember hating it!"

With glowing reviews like that, why wait? Go. Go to your local asian grocery (or wherever you might find it, but c'mon, you can do better than Amazon) and get some fish sauce. You probably won't regret it (unless it breaks in your car), and if you do, you'll at least have a story to tell your friends and family.