Fish sauce is an anchovy or featherback fish seasoning sauce used extensively in Thai cooking. Not suprisingly it has a very strong fish scent and a high salt content. It is used to add salt, but also adds a delicate fish smell to dishes. There are two main types of sauce, in the photo above you can see old fish sauce left and the regular fish sauce on the right. The old fish sauce is only used in cooking whereas the clear distilled product is also used to make dipping sauces.
Old Fish Sauce
To Thai people this sauce 'homms' (smells good), however to westerners this has a very strong stench until it is cooked. Don't let that put you off, it is necessary for many Thai dishes and the strong scent does not remain after cooking. The jar contains slices of featherback fish, lots of salt and rice powder to thicken, you have to prepare the old fish sauce at least 1 month before using it.
2 ltr Water
500 gms Salt
1 Jar Pickled Spotted Featherback Fish (454gms)
1 Tablespoon Toasted Sticky Rice (optional)
An air-tight container to store it in.
1. Boil the water, add the salt and dissolve it completely.
2. Leave to cool back to room temperature.
3. Empty the contents of the jar into the salty water.
4. Add the toasted sticky rice to give it a slight nutty taste. (This is optional, my mother does this so I do this, but many Thais do not).
5. Mix, put in the air-tight jar in a dark cupboard and leave for a month.
6. After 1 month the salty brine will taste fishy, this brine is the old fish sauce you will use in cooking. To use it spoon just the liquid directly out from the storage jar. You can keep the jar for years provided it does not get mouldy, once the brine is used up, you should make a new batch.
Regular Fish Sauce
This is a clean filtered sauce made from anchovies. The bottle shown is Thai Squid brand fish sauce, but the sauce does not contain any squid. This sauce requires no special preparation, it can be used straight from the bottle and can even be used uncooked to make chilli dipping sauces and as a seasoning for salads.