Fish Sauce: 5 Ways To Use This Southeast Asian Condiment

Sauces are an essential part of cooking all over the world. Available in plenty of varieties, they give an incredible flavour to our dishes. Apart from all seven mother sauces, soy, Worcestershire, barbecue, pesto, and sriracha are some popular varieties used in cooking. But have you ever heard of fish sauce? Popularly used as a seasoning in Southeast Asian cuisine, it has a salty, savoury, and earthy flavour along with umami and sweet undernotes. 

It is made from salted fish (mainly anchovies) that has been fermented for up to two years. Fish sauce has a rich, reddish-golden brown colour and a distinct aroma. It tastes extremely pungent but blends perfectly when added to dishes. They are also known to be high in protein and amino acids. The luscious and tangy flavour of this sauce goes perfectly with vegetable, meat, and seafood recipes.  

Here are a few uses of fish sauce you must know: 


Due to its salty and umami flavours, fish sauce works perfectly as a marinade. It can be used for marinating all kinds of meat, including grilled recipes, vegetables, and seafood, and gives them a delicious flavour. You can also mix it with other seasonings like ground pepper, garlic, or soy sauce to enhance its taste. Try adding fish sauce to your pork chops marinade once and you will skip it again. 

Stir-Fry Sauce  

Just like soy sauce, fish sauce can be used to prepare stir-fried dishes. Add a dash of fish sauce to your stir-fry mixture, which typically includes soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and sugar. It goes well with stir-fried vegetables and noodle recipes. It can be used for biryanis, fried rice, and pasta. Thai fried rice tastes best when seasoned with fish sauce. 

Soups And Curries 

Fish sauce is an amazing condiment for soups, stews, and curries. It not only boosts flavour but also gives them a Western touch. In Thai curries, fish sauce is a key ingredient that balances out the spices in the dish. It can be added to French onion soup, coconut chicken curry, chicken stew, and braises. Curries with beans as the primary ingredient taste incredibly delicious with fish sauce. It is a must in dishes like Thai hot and sour soup and fish tofu stew. 

Salad Dressings  

The fish sauce works very well for salad dressings. It is mainly used for Thai and Western-style salad dressings. Replace salt with one or two teaspoons of fish sauce in your salad, and the result will surely make you fall in love with the flavour. For the best result, combine it with lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chilli. It goes well with both vegetable and chicken salads. Plenty of recipes can be prepared with fish sauce but adding it to tuna salad sandwich is a must. 

Dipping Sauce   

Apart from being a cooking ingredient, fish sauce can also be served as a dipping sauce. This versatile condiment goes well with dumplings, tacos, smoked fish, shrimp, grilled vegetables, and sticky rice. Fish sauce also enhances the flavour of barbecue sauce and salsa. It is a primary ingredient in Nuoc Cham, a Vietnamese dipping sauce. Apart from these, it is popularly used in Bloody Mary cocktails as well.  

3 Substitutes For Fish Sauce 

  • Soy Sauce: It is an amazing substitute for fish sauce when it comes to adding saltiness and umami flavour to your dishes. It's widely available and can be used in a 1:1 ratio as a fish sauce replacement.  
  • Tamari: Tamari is a type of soy sauce that is often gluten-free and has a slightly different flavour than traditional soy sauce. It can be used as a substitute for fish sauce in equal proportions.  
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Worcestershire sauce is a flavourful condiment that has anchovies but is diluted with other ingredients. It can also work as a great replacement for fish sauce.