Fish Sauce Guides


In Vietnam, fish sauce is called “Nuoc Mam,” and it is used to make dipping sauces, salad dressing, fish stew, marinate meat, enhance the flavor of soups.  Nuoc Cham dipping sauce for Banh Xeo, Nem Nuong, Banh Khot, Com Tam Bi Suon  Cha. Fish sauce is also used to cook noodle soup like Bun Bo Hue, Pho, Canh Chua, Ca Kho To (fish stew)

Fish sauce is an amber-coloured liquid extracted from the fermentation of fish with sea salt.  It   is used as a condiment and cooking  in Cambodian, Philippine, Thai, Laotian and Vietnamese cuisines.

Raw fish sauce has very strong pungent flavor.  However, when we cook fish sauce the right way, it would enhance the food flavor.

This guides are for beginners in Vietnamese food.

  1. Vietnamese and South East Asia people love fish sauce, so often use too much in their food. People believe food taste best with large amount of fish sauce in it.  If you use the recipes from other food blogs, you may want to reduce the fish sauce amount to 1/2.
  2. Keys of using fish sauce.  Use fish sauce to enhance the food flavor, not to overpower other ingredients.  The successful way of using fish sauce is to combine with spices, use the right amount.  As the result,  food tastes good, and smell good.
  3. Choices of fish sauce brands depend on personal taste. I prefer Viet Huong’s Three Crab since it’s not dark and not too fishy.
  4. Use fish sauce that’s not too fishy to make salad dressing and dipping sauce, like Viet Huong’s Three Crab. Watch out for  fake 3-crab fish sauce.
  5. Cheap fish sauce like Squid brand should not use too much, because it’s fishy and salty. For any recipe, use 1/2 of required amount of cheap fish sauce.
  6. Vietnamese food used large amount of  fish sauce to get the right flavor such as  Nuoc Cham dipping sauce, Ca Kho (fish stew), Salad dressing, Bun Bo Hue noodle soup, Canh Chua (hot and sour soup)
  7. Fish sauce goes well with many dishes like seafood, tomato sauces
  8. When eat raw fish sauce, mix it  with lime, sugar, garlic, red pepper  to suppress the fishy smell.
  9. Learn how to make Nuoc Cham dipping sauce.
  10. For stew , braised, stir fried dishes,  cook fish sauce  at least 5 minutes before serving it, else fishy
  11. Cook fish sauce with spices: onion, garlic, black pepper, red pepper,  ginger, lemongrass, curry.
  12. For stewing, grilling, marinate recipes, it’s best to combine both soy-sauce and fish sauce. Start with 1 tsp and no more than 1 tbsp. of fish sauce

Things you should know

  1. Fish sauce made from fish, so it’s very fishy. Do not smell it, if you never try it before.
  2. Do not cook fish sauce in apartment without good ventilation.   If you cannot open the windows,  the fish smell sticks into your clothes.

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