Not long ago as I was going through the checkout line at Safeway, the cashier looked at my bottle of Megachef fish sauce and asked, “What is this?” I explained it to her and she remarked how hard it was to figure out. “Anchovy Sauce” seemed gross to her. We laughed at how unappealing that phrase was but I assured her that the condiment was key to Vietnamese and Thai cooking.
I had had a similar conversation with my hairstylist. Because of Crohn’s disease, Ashley has been on a gluten-free diet and preparing more Asian food. She purchased Thai ingredients from Safeway but things didn’t taste very good. I suggested that it may have been the fish sauce she bought.
Such conversations, as well as chats that I’ve been having with food media about the pho book, got me thinking about fish sauce basics. I recently wrote a “Beginner’s Guide to Fish Sauce” (including how it’s made!) for Lucky Peach. For this post on VWK, I’d like to dial things down to the basics: how do you shop for fish sauce, then how do you use it. If you have experiences or tips to add, please do!