Fish Sauce, essential staple to Thai Cuisine

Thai fish sauce
Fish sauce is used as salt in Thai cuisine. It's the backbone of Thai cooking, it adds savor to Thai salads, curries, soups, stir-fries, and marinades.

Fish Sauce: An Essential Staple to Thai Cuisine

Every kitchen has its staples.
More often than not, when you’re looking to pack flavor into a Thai dish, the fish sauce will be one of the first ingredients you grab. Thai fish sauce is an unusual condiment: it smells and tastes extremely pungent, but when combined with other ingredients, it blends into a whole, supports other flavours and is unobstructive.
Fish sauce is a central ingredient in Thai cuisine, it is the salty element in the seasoning that balances all savoury dishes.

Thai fish sauce
Fish sauce: sweet, salty, fishy, and funky all at once!

So, what is Fish Sauce?

Fish Sauce or Nahm Pla (น้ำปลา) has a rich, translucent reddish-golden brown color.
It can be pungent at first, but it is guaranteed to pack a punch on most Thai food.

Fish sauce is a typical salty seasoning in Thai cuisine, it is used in Thai dressings, stir-fries, curries and soups.

Thai fish sauce
Thai fish sauce is made from fermented anchovies.

How Fish Sauce is made?

Fish sauce is made from freshly caught anchovies that are too small for substantial eating.
The anchovies are combined with sea salt and water and the mixture is placed into barrels and left to ferment for a minimum of 1 year.

Fish should be the main flavor that you taste, followed by salt. It shouldn’t be the other way around. It shouldn’t be overly “fishy” and the smell shouldn’t be overwhelmingly off-putting. Some sweetness is okay.

Thai fish sauce
Mixing fresh chilies with fish sauce and lime juice makes the staple sauce accompanying almost every Thai dish.

Cooking with Fish Sauce

Fish sauce tightens the taste. Too little and the taste will be loose, but too much is too salty. Always add fish sauce gradually, tasting as you do so, in order not to over-salt.

Fish sauce is used as a condiment: in Thailand, it is added to curries, stir-fries and soups customarily. It is also used in most of Thai dressings often combined with coconut sugar and lime juice.

Thai fish sauce
Thai Fried Rice is flavored with fish, oyster and light soy sauces giving it its unique and addicting flavor profile!

Fish sauce, oyster sauce or light soy sauce?

It could be easy to confuse these three sauces because of their briny, saucy similarities, but they are totally different.

  • Fish sauce is watery, clear, and salty.
  • Oyster sauce is dark, thicker and sweeter. It is primarily used in stir fries.
  • Light soy sauce has a see through brown colour and is thin in viscosity. It is used for seasoning and can be used as a vegetarian substitute to Fish sauce.

Time to cook!

Green papaya salad (Som Tam) is an extremely popular dish in Thailand.
It's fresh, and balances all the flavors of sweet, spicy, salty, and sour, to perfection on a single plate.

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