Ah, fish sauce. The grossest-smelling key ingredient that you need in your life. Considering that fish sauce is usually only used by the teaspoon in most recipes, it’s still one of those things that you shouldn’t skip. It adds a depth of savory-umami flavor to many foods that can’t be replicated any other way. It adds a profound punctuation of “meatiness” without adding meat. It’s also very salty- so if you are adding it to a dish, you may need to reduce the amount of salt called for. Don’t be turned off by the smell- the flavor it adds won’t taste anything like it. Often used in Asian recipes, you can also find it in my mushroom sauce recipe and a variety of other worldwide foods.
Having tried a few brands, my absolute favorite is Red Boat 40° North Fish Sauce (above). This tends to be agreed on throughout the internet. The difference really is noticeable. It’s definitely one of the most expensive options out there, but in my opinion it’s totally worth it- and since you never use too much of it at once it’ll last you forever. Fortunately (unlike some of the other specialty ingredients here at Stovetop Diplomat) Red Boat 40° North Fish Sauce is fairly easy to find. Here in Denver, the cheapest option is at my favorite Asian specialty store, Pacific Ocean Marketplace. It is also sold at at Whole Foods and some of the specialty / fine food grocers in the area. Or, of course, you can purchase it at the link above. This isn’t an ad, and I’m not being paid anything if you buy this fish sauce- but I really think you should get yourself a bottle.