Fish sauce, the essential ingredient for Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.
Fish sauce, the essential ingredient for Thai and Vietnamese cuisine -photo credit Jim Little

Gluten free fish sauce is commonly used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It is the secret ingredient that may intimidate home cooks but is essential to recreate the recipes you are familiar with from these countries. It is readily available in Asian supermarkets as well as grocery stores with a large Asian section.

If you have eaten Vietnamese or Thai food you have probably tasted fish sauce. Called nuoc mam in Vietnamese and nam pla in Thai, fish sauce is a complex flavour ingredient used in almost every dish, much like soy sauce is used in Chinese cooking. It is a salty, pungent sauce derived from fermented tiny anchovies and smells like it. Although it is naturally gluten free some North American brands have added wheat so always read the label.

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Buying Fish Sauce

The two popular brands of fish sauce that I see are Squid brand and Golden Boy. One of my favourite cookbook authors, Hugh Carpenter, recommended Squid brand fish sauce when I first started cooking Asian food and I have been cooking with it ever since.

More recently Golden Boy brand came out with the small 200 ml bottle of fish sauce. Although I don’t use Golden Boy brand I know that small bottle will appeal to some cooks. The large 725 ml bottle of Squid brand fish sauce may seem like a big commitment to some but that is the bottle I buy.

Whatever brand you buy, once opened fish sauce will last indefinitely at room temperature.

Fish Sauce – The Recipes

Here are some of my favourite recipes that use fish sauce:

Salad Rolls with Nuoc Cham dipping sauce

Vietnamese Salad Rolls with Nuoc Cham dipping sauce.

Cabbage Chicken Salad

A plate of Vietnamese Cabbage Chicken Salad

Vietnamese Pork in Tomato Sauce

Gluten Free Vietnamese Pork in Tomato Sauce

If you are looking for a vegan option I posted a recipe for a vegan fish sauce substitute. I used it for many Thai recipes during a cooking class and we were all impressed with the final taste of every dish.

A jar of a Vegan Fish Sauce Substitute

If you have a fish sauce story I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

More Thai and Vietnamese Recipes

More Thai Recipes


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