If you visit any Vietnamese restaurant, you will know that fish sauce is a staple ingredient used in their cuisine. This flavourful sauce is one of the most versatile condiments in South East Asia, so it should come as no surprise you will find it in most, if not all, Vietnamese restaurants.
How Fish Sauce is Made
The creation of fish sauce can be dated back to Roman times, but the modern process follows similar patterns as before. A type of fish, typically anchovies, is mixed with salt and left to be fermented in barrels under the sun for up to a year. Weights such as bricks are used to keep the fish down in the barrels, squeezing the flavourful juices out. This process takes a lot of patience and many barrels of fish sauce are made in one go.
Once the fermentation process is over, the liquid is drained out of the barrels. This first batch, or ‘first press’, of fish sauce is deemed to be the highest of quality and is the most expensive in cost. The sauce is strong and very concentrated. However, this first press can be further aged and be made into a less concentrated sauce that is lighter and sweeter.
Uses in Cooking
Due to its versatility, fish sauce is a common household condiment in Vietnam. It functions like salt in Western meals, but of course fish sauce has a richer flavour, bringing a deeper, savoury, umami complexity to your cooking.
In traditional Vietnamese cuisine, fish sauce is mostly used to create a dipping sauce known as Nuoc Cham. Chilli peppers, lime, and sugar are added into the fish sauce to enhance the flavour, creating a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, and spicy. Nuoc Cham can be consumed alongside any dish, whether it is to dip spring rolls (cha gio) and crepes (banh xeo) in or added into noodles (such as bun cha) in the main course. In addition to that, Vietnamese cooks also use fish sauce as a salad dressing that brings out the flavour profile of the greens.
As fish sauce continues to gain popularity, it has been incorporated into other Asian dishes as well such as fried chicken wings, fried rice, chili sauce, fried noodles, steamed seafood, oyster omelette and even assam laksa.
Fish sauce has also made its way into Western cuisine. Since it is a liquid, fish sauce is able to penetrate meats better than salt or dry rubs, serving as a good option for marinades and as a starter for sauces. As more chefs and home cooks cotton on to the endless uses of fish sauce, it’s being added to steaks, burger patties, pasta sauces, sandwich fillings, and even used as a dipping sauce for oysters!
Ong Ky Fish Sauce
Here at Ăn Viet, we believe that using the best ingredients makes a world of a difference in our cooking and after testing countless brands from different regions in Vietnam, we chose Ong Ky fish sauce.
Ong Ky fish sauce is sourced from Phu Quoc, an island renowned for producing the best quality fish sauce in all of Vietnam. As a mark of authenticity, in 2012, fish sauce produced in Phu Quoc was granted a European Union Protected Designation of Origin status.
Here, the sauce is naturally brewed for over a year using only anchovies and salt – no added preservative or artificial flavouring! It is labelled as 35 Degree N to indicate a high level of nitrogen and protein in the sauce, which also translates to the amount of fish used during the fermentation process. As we also believe that nothing should go to waste, the mixture extracted from the bottled first drawn sauce will be used by other manufacturers for a different grade of fish sauce thus, eliminating wastage.
Now that you know the many uses of fish sauce, try it out for your next meal!