Finally a discussion on this BLOG that might be useful to someone who reads it. I am primarily thinking of my dad who is an adventurous eater and who pretty much wants to visit us in Thailand for the food. I imagine his greeting at the airport going something like this “Hi son, where’s Brenda?” followed quickly by “What are we having for dinner tonight?” But some of the others of you might also be able to use this entry to spice up your next Thai or Chinese dish, or maybe even a taco or burger. Use it instead of salt and apply it after all cooking is done for best affect.
There is another blog that discusses the making of fish sauce in detail. That is, they discuss making the sauce in the bottle that you buy at the store. But I suggest that you refrain from reading it if you are the suggestible type, or if something someone says has the ability to put you off your appetite. The sauce is good, but the process of making it from raw materials may be a bit much if you think milk comes from bottles or that chickens don’t have feathers. Never-the-less, here it is if you are up for it.
But the trick for making good fish sauce is in what you do to it after it comes out of the bottle, so I asked Suporn (our maid/cook) to take me through her modifications. Turns out they are so simple that I can’t believe she actually showed me rather than laughing out loud while informing me that she simply can't work for anyone as stupid as me any longer.
Pour about a quarter cup or so of good quality fish sauce into a bowl. Good quality sauce should be reddish/brown and clear, not cloudy. I'm told that good brands in the US are Tra Chang and Golden Boy. Cut up two or three of those tiny, 1 – 1 ½ inch chili peppers into tinier slices and add them to the sauce. Use both green and red peppers so your sauce will be pretty as well as tasty. Mash up a toe of garlic and add that too. Drop in about ¼ tsp of sugar and squeeze a quarter or half lemon or lime (to taste) into the mix. Then stir it all up for 30 seconds or so. Take a taste and you will find that you have made a salty and peppery-hot condiment that tastes great on just about everything.
Don’t use a lot on your food especially at first because depending on the peppers you use it can be HOT. I put less than a half tsp on an entire dish of fried rice. Brenda uses about a tsp. but she likes things saltier than I do. The sauce is high in sodium and is the primary salt substitute in Thailand so don’t mess around if you have high blood pressure or anything else that makes salt a no-no. But it is very high in protein and wonderfully healthy otherwise.
Use this recipe as a starting point and play around adding some this or some that to get your blend exactly like you like it and keep some in the fridge. Suporn says it’ll keep a week without refrigeration and I expect that is a very conservative estimate. Most Thai houses don’t have refrigerators so the sauce is kept on the shelf in 90+ degree heat most of the time. But make small quantities often so you can experiment. It doesn’t take long and even if you aren’t an adventurous eater you will enjoy the flavor it adds to your favorite dishes.