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Old 04-02-2007, 08:58 PM   #1
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Fish Sauce Substitute?

I'm sorry if this is a repeat ... I did a search for "Fish Sauce" and didn't find anything that answered the question I have.

I have a recipe that I'd like to try from this month's "Cooking Pleasures" for Red Pork Curry. The ingredients are (please tell me if I'm breaking any rules by posting these and I'll change it):

vegetable oil, thin cut pork, shallots, red curry paste, coconut milk, 2 TBL. ASIAN FISH SAUCE, lime juice, sugar, lime peel and basil (Thai or regular).

First, I live in a community of 2,000 - my dad's grocery doesn't carry fish sauce. Second, I'd rather not try to find it at the Asian market 45 miles away or do a special order just for 2 tbls.

SO - is there an alternative? I'm guessing it is added for the salt (based on other posts I've read) BUT does it add another flavor that I won't be able to replicate? Suggestions?

Thank you in advance!

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Old 04-02-2007, 09:19 PM   #2
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It isn't just for the salt. It has a fishy flavor component. I'd try a couple of anchovie filets.
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Old 04-02-2007, 09:32 PM   #3
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Personally I do not think there is any viable substitute. It has a very unique flavor. Why not order it online? It will last forever and once you use it you will want to use it more.
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Old 04-02-2007, 09:41 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GB
Personally I do not think there is any viable substitute. It has a very unique flavor. Why not order it online? It will last forever and once you use it you will want to use it more.
+1

There is a reason the sauce is so pungent. Worse case scenario, a little sake and sal****er redux, and a smelt puree. Ultimately there is no sub for fermented fish juice, rendered from sun sat barrels.
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Old 04-02-2007, 10:37 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TATTRAT
+1

There is a reason the sauce is so pungent. Worse case scenario, a little sake and sal****er redux, and a smelt puree. Ultimately there is no sub for fermented fish juice, rendered from sun sat barrels.
Yes just to think how they make it sicks me out but i still eat it :). We have a huge asian market where i live and they even have a fish sauce with fish head s in it...yuck!! Anyways its one of the most traditional taste with thai food and in almost everything. In a pinch i would use soy sauce or maybe you could use soy sauce and anchove in a blender but i would definitly get the real stuff if you can.

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Old 04-03-2007, 03:37 AM   #6
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As someone who cooks a lot of Asian meals--NO WAY JOSE! there is NO appropriate substitute for fish sauce--follow GB's advice and order it online--the best is made with anchovies from what I've read and my own experience. It's a flavor ingredient that can't be substituted as the stuff is fermented. Good luck!!!!
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Old 04-03-2007, 08:16 AM   #7
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There's definitely no substitue for it, IMO. A small amount can really make or break the whole dish.
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Old 04-03-2007, 08:53 AM   #8
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shrimp paste will work just as well and also keep forever, you need to buy the Solid blocks of it, it`s far more concentrated than the fish sauce and the smell will knock you back unless you`re used to it, but if you chip a little off and dissolve it in hot water, you Never will know the difference in the dish :)
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:35 AM   #9
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fish sauce is awesome. once you use it, you will be hooked. buy a bottle online.
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Old 04-03-2007, 09:48 AM   #10
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Like everyone else says, there is no good substitute.

If you have any interest in making Thai food at home (as you seem to be doing), you really need to buy a bottle. It's easily avialbale on line, in asian stores or in many large supermarkets (if there is a larger town near you).

I recommend Three Crabs brand.

Just a question for you: if you can get red curry paste how come you can't get fish sauce? They are sold inthe same places.
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Old 04-03-2007, 10:08 AM   #11
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How about oyster sauce? The flavour is pleasant and enriches many oriental dishes. I think they are fairly readily available, too.
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Old 04-03-2007, 10:10 AM   #12
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While it does have a unique flavor - high-quality fish sauce is NOT fishy!!! Not in the very least.

If you can't find it, just sub some light (aka Japanese) soy sauce. It won't be authentic, but will serve the same purpose.
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Old 04-03-2007, 10:59 AM   #13
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Quote:
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How about oyster sauce? The flavour is pleasant and enriches many oriental dishes. I think they are fairly readily available, too.
That would make a Thai dish taste chinese. IMO oyster sauce and curry paste, lime, etc are not good partners.

Soy sauce would be closer, IMO, but the end result will be decidedly lacking in authentic flavor.
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Old 04-03-2007, 12:10 PM   #14
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I agree with Three Crabs, jennyema, and any other brand that has an anchovies base. Get thee to thy internet online shopping!!
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Old 04-03-2007, 12:24 PM   #15
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Another country heard from: I hate the stuff and it sure tastes fishy to me!

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Old 04-03-2007, 03:36 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jennyema
...Just a question for you: if you can get red curry paste how come you can't get fish sauce? ...
jennyema, I can't get red curry paste either. I can get yellow powdered curry and do tend to use it often in different dishes so it [red curry paste] sounds like something I would use more of (and quite frankly, something that sounds better!) so I was going to search on line and order some.

My misconception with fish sauce is two fold ...

First, I thought it was "stuff" that would go bad once opened which made me hesitant to order it since I only need 2 tbls. However, if it will keep forever, I'm more open to the idea of ordering it.

Secondly, the name makes it sound, well, gross. I each oysters fresh from the shell, all sorts of sashimi and sushi and use anchovies in a variety of recipes but "fish sauce" - ewwww. But if the majority of you are saying it's not really that fishy then, again, I'm more open to trying it.

Thank you ... Thank you ... Thank you to everyone's wonderful perspectives (i'm certainly open to more if people want to share)! I appreciate your advice and will let you know how the recipe turns out.
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Old 04-03-2007, 04:06 PM   #17
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By all means order up some real Thai curry paste. The yellow powder couldn't be more different than what your recipe requires.

There are many different varieties of curry paste and they are widely available on the internet.

Also, buy a bottle of fish sauce. It's in almost every Thai and Vietnamese dish -- without it it just won't taste right. It is made from fish so it is somehwhat "fishy" but it's used as a flavor backnote most of the time. It is, at least, in your recipe.

Even my friends who gag at the smell of fish would sorely miss a Thai dish without fish sauce.

If you like achovies, you might just drink it from the bottle!
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