Jul 24, 2017

Fish Sauce

Dipping Sauce made with fish sauce,
pickled ginger, and Asian chili oil

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I'm a big fan of Southeast Asian food, especially sauces like Tamari sauce, oyster sauce, seasoned rice vinegar, sesame oil, and fish sauce. Fish sauce is sometimes made from different species of fish, but generally it's made from just anchovies, salt, and water, then fermented in wooden barrels. Fermenting gives this simple sauce a wonderful nutty, rich and savory flavor. In Vietnam, fish sauce can be sour and spicy when lime juice and chili peppers are added. Southeast Asians usually use fish sauce as a cooking sauce, or as a dipping sauce, instead of salt.

Fish sauce was also used in ancient Greece cuisine and in Classical Roman cooking. It is believed to be the precursor to soy sauce. Worcestershire sauce, is a related product because it is fermented and contains anchovies. As a matter of fact, the first ketchup recipe appeared in print in Eliza Smith's 1758 cookbook 'The Complete Housewife'. The recipe called for anchovies, cloves, ginger and pepper. Eventually tomatoes were added to ketchup here in the U.S.

I've been cooking for a long time and have come to love fish sauce as a complex flavor additive to enhance many different recipes, not just Asian recipes, so I always have a bottle in my kitchen. My favorite is a Vietnamese fish sauce called 'Red Boat 40˚ N, which does not contain added water, preservatives or MSG. It has a light amber color, not fishy tasting or too salty. For more information about this amazing sauce, plus great recipes, check out their website. This sauce is also available on Amazon.com.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

Filipino Chicken Afritada
This is a Spanish-inspired, everyday stew served in Filipino households using fish sauce. Fish sauce or “Patis” is a commonly used ingredient in Filipino cooking. One of the top Filipino brands of fish sauce is 'Pufina', which can be purchased on Amazon. This dish should take about an hour to cook plus about 10 minutes of prep time.

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 pounds whole boneless chicken thighs, each cut into 2 pieces each
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup chicken stock
1 14-ounce can of tomato sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 bay leaves
1 large carrot, cut into bite size pieces
2 medium potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
1 large red bell pepper, cut into bite size pieces
1 cup frozen green peas
1 teaspoon granulated white sugar, or to taste
salt and black pepper to taste

Add oil to a large pot. Heat on medium high heat. Add chicken pieces and saute until it is nice and golden brown. Add garlic, and onion and cook for 5 minutes or until they are just starting to brown. Now add pineapple juice and the chicken stock. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the tomato sauce and fish sauce. Now add the bay leaves, carrots, potatoes, green peas, and red bell pepper. Season with sugar, salt and black pepper to taste. Simmer another 5 or 10 minutes until vegetables are just tender. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve over steamed rice.

Makes 4 to 6 servings depending on how hungry you are.

Note: Although this dish is traditionally cooked with the ingredients listed above, feel free to add other vegetables if you like, such as whole okra, yellow squash, celery, or zucchini.

Thai Beef with Broccoli 
in Oyster Sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 pound boneless beef roast, thinly sliced crosswise into 2-inch strips
1/4 pound broccoli floret, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup water

Heat oil in deep, heavy skillet or wok over medium-high heat; add garlic and cook until a bit of garlic sizzles at once. Toss well. Add beef and toss until it changes color. Add broccoli florets and toss for about 1 min., until they turn shiny and bright green. Add oyster sauce, fish sauce, sugar, pepper, and water and cook 3-4 min., tossing often, until broccoli is tender and beef is cooked. Transfer to small serving platter and serve hot or warm. Makes 4 servings.

Thai Chicken Fried Rice
4 cups cooked cold jasmine rice (cold rice is essential so the grains will not stick together when stir frying)
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups boneless skinless chicken thighs sliced thin
2 eggs
4 green onions, sliced thin
2 teaspoons palm sugar (table sugar is fine if you can't find palm sugar)
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 cucumber, sliced
2 limes, cut into wedges

Heat peanut oil in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. While pan is warming, toss the cold rice with your hands, making sure to separate the grains from any clumps. Add the garlic to the heated wok, and toss until fragrant and slightly golden. Add chicken and stir fry for about 1 minute. Push the meat and garlic up the sides making a well in the middle and add eggs. Scramble eggs for 1 minute in middle of pan then, add green onions and peas and incorporate all ingredients together, stir frying for another minute. Add rice, turning over rice with pan ingredients several times to coat and stir frying for 2-3 minutes. You want the rice to begin to have a toasted smell, making sure that all the ingredients are constantly being moved around the pan for even cooking. If your pan seems to have cooled down to the point where the ingredients are no longer sizzling, you may need to turn the heat up slightly. Sprinkle in the sugar and add the fish sauce and oyster sauce. Stir fry all ingredients together for one minute more or until sauces are absorbed and mixture is completely combined. Transfer to serving platter. Garnish plate edge with sliced cucumber, lime wedges, and additional whole green onions if desired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Grilled 'Opakapaka with Hawaiian Butter Sauce
'Opakapaka is also known as the Hawaiian pink snapper, a white fish with a delicate flavor. This fish is great grilled, then combined with a delicious butter sauce. Naturally you can use other fish for this recipe, like red snapper.

4 fresh ‘Opakapaka fillets, about 6 ounces each or use red snapper
Hawaiian Butter Sauce (recipe below)
cilantro for garnish
sliced lime for garnish

First make the Hawaiian Butter Sauce (recipe below). Then marinate ‘Opakapaka in 1/2 cup of the sauce for 10-15 minutes. Remove from marinade and grill very quickly, about 3 to 4 minutes on both sides. Brush fish with marinade as it cooks. Serve on plates garnished with cilantro and lime wedges on the side. Serve with white rice, topped with Shitaki mushrooms, that have been sautéd in Hawaiian butter sauce. Makes 4 servings.

Hawaiian Butter Sauce Ingredients:
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup finely diced Maui onion
2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons minced shallot
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons Chinese 'Sriracha' sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons minced parsley

In a medium saucepan, heat the canola oil over low heat. Sauté the onions, garlic and shallots until softened, approximately 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Using a whisk, whip the softened butter until fluffy, then slowly add the Sriracha and Thai fish sauce. When the fish sauce and Sriracha have been incorporated into the butter, add the cooled onions, shallots, and garlic, and then add the parsley, whisk to blend. Makes about 1 3/4 cups of sauce. Note: This sauce is also delicious used as a dipping sauce for grilled lobster or shrimp.

Filipino Sardines & Tomatoes
Lately I have noticed in one of our local markets, Friendly Market, small, dried sardines. I asked the meat manager, PJ, how locals eat them. He said that the Filipinos fry them, then add tomatoes, onions, and garlic. He also said that they are a little hard on your breath, so I used fresh sardines for this recipe, which don't have that strong odor. 

If sardines aren't your thing, try this recipe using shrimp. If you can't find Southeast Asia calamansi limes, you can substitute lemon juice, however if you live on the Hawaiian island of Moloka'i, you can get them at our Saturday farmers market.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large shallots, minced (2 tablespoons)
4 cloves garlic, minced (1 tablespoon)
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika, or regular paprika
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fish sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large can of sardines in tomato sauce
Fresh calamansi limes, or fresh lemon wedges, for squeezing over the sardines

Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof sauté pan over moderately high heat. Add the shallot, garlic, dried red pepper flakes, and paprika and cook until the shallot becomes soft and translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine, continuing to cook until the tomato paste just begins to brown, 1 minute more.

Toss the cherry tomatoes into the pan and sauté until the tomatoes soften and have released some of their juices, 5-7 minutes.

Pour the wine into the pan, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the water and fish sauce and simmer until the liquid reduces and thickens a bit, about 5 minutes more. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove the sardines from the can and arrange them in a single layer, on top of the tomato sauce in an oven safe sauté pan. Pour the tomato sauce in the sardine can over the sardines. Place the pan underneath the broiler and broil for 5 or 6 minutes, flipping the fish over once during that time.
Serve with steamed white rice and calamansi limes, or lemon wedges, on the side for squeezing over the sardines. Makes 2-4 servings.

Lemon Butter Dipping Sauce
I particularly like this delicious sauce with boiled artichokes, shrimp, or crab.

4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons Tamari sauce or soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice

Combine all ingredients and microwave for 30 seconds until warm.
Makes about 1/2 cup, enough for 2 servings.

Dumpling Dipping Sauce
A great dipping sauce for Asian dumplings.

8 teaspoons finely minced garlic (about 8 medium cloves)
4 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons fresh juice from about 4 limes
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and fine stems
1/4 teaspoon Asian chili oil, or to taste

Combine garlic, fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, cilanto, and chili oil in a small bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved. Makes 3/4 cup.

Thai BBQ Sauce
4 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon fish sauce or 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-size piece ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1-2 teaspoons chili sauce

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stirring until well blended.

Taste-test your bbq sauce, adding more honey if not sweet enough, or more lime juice if too sweet or too salty for your taste. Also add more chili if desired.

Use the sauce as a marinade for your meats, fish, or seafood, and brush it on while grilling. Great with steak, ribs, burgers, salmon, shrimp, and more!

Note: I like to double this recipe and then drizzle a little more over the entree before serving. This great sauce will keep in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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