Thai fish sauce, or fermented fish sauce, is a staple throughout southeast Asia (not just Thailand). It makes a great substitute for soy sauce. I use it instead of soy sauce now because it’s so much better for you. Since the fish is allowed to ferment for several weeks, you end up with a highly nutritious condiment.
Thai fish sauce can also be added to soups or stews, or anytime you want more “umamai” flavor in a dish. I use it in everything from beef stew to chili to barbecue sauce — it really boosts the flavor. Fermented fish sauce is also used in making ketchup.
This recipe is adapted from Sally Fallon Morell’s recipe in her book, Nourishing Traditions.
Homemade Thai Fish Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
Fish, small, including heads (1 1/2 pounds)
Sea salt (3 TBS) — where to buy sea salt
Filtered water (2 cups)
Garlic (2 cloves)
Bay leaves (2)
Peppercorns, whole (1 teaspoon)
Lemon rind, organic if possible (from 1/2 lemon)
Whey, or Caldwell’s vegetable starter mixed with water (2 TBS) — where to buy culture starters
1. Cut up fish into small pieces and place in wide-mouth mason jar.
2. Cut up the lemon rind into small pieces.
3. Add sea salt and press down with a wooden pounder or meat hammer.
4. Add remaining ingredients to jar and stir together.
5. Add additional water to cover fish if needed — water should cover fish but be sure to leave at least an inch from the top of the jar.
6. Cover and leave at room temperature for about 3 days.
7. Transfer to refrigerator and let sit for several weeks.
8. Strain liquid through a strainer (you may use cheesecloth if you like) and bottle the liquid (old soy sauce bottles are great for this). Discard the solids.
9. Store fish sauce in the fridge. It will keep for several months.
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