Can I use anchovies instead of fish sauce?

In this article, we answer the following question: Can I use anchovies instead of fish sauce? We talk about the importance of fish sauce and its unique taste and characteristics. 

Can I use anchovies instead of fish sauce?

You can use anchovies instead of fish sauce in a fish, as long as you chop them finely and do not exaggerate with the quantity. Your best option is a light soy sauce, which will at least provide the ‘saltiness’. But of course, if you need a fishy flavor, you can always add some fish paste or maybe a fillet from a can or bottle of fish, like anchovies. Just ‘wizz’ the two of them in a blender for a few minutes.

Fish sauce is native to Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam where it is a staple ingredient in many dishes. Used in soups, sauces, and as a seasoning. It consists of a broth that is obtained by fermenting salted fish or shellfish. It is used as an ingredient in the kitchen, but it is also common to find it on Thai tables as a seasoning that the diner can add to their dish to taste.

There is a great variety of fish sauces, using anchovies, prawns, squid, or even mollusks according to the recipe. Some recipes incorporate some herbs and also taste of chicken or pork.

Although we are supporters of “do it yourself”, in this case, we recommend buying the finished product. It is very economical and has a very long life. Making the genuine fish sauce at home would be complex and possibly very unpleasant to smell since it requires fermenting fish.

When using the fish sauce, we advise you to do it in moderation since it imparts a characteristic flavor that added in excessive quantity would end up dominating the entire stew. Interestingly, this characteristic and rich flavor to which I refer is not identifiable with the fish. 

For this reason, the fish sauce is used for all kinds of stews, both seafood or fish, but also meat, vegetables. It’s also a great ingredient for making salad dressings or dippings in which to dip a Vietnamese roll briefly, for example.

Fish sauce is an essential ingredient in almost all Thai curries or the famous Vietnamese soups, like the one in the photo, which is a Pho soup with beef. All the kitchens of these countries therefore always have a bottle of fish sauce on hand and we recommend the same to you. They are inexpensive, very little is used, and they last a long time.

The importance of fish sauce

Fish sauce is like salt in European food/ Although it has a strong smell and is quite offensive, when it is heated, alone or with other ingredients, the smell disappears.

The reason that it is used a lot is that it is very versatile and for few who do not know its characteristics, it is an agent that changes the flavor of itself, and that increases the flavor of the other ingredients with which it is mixed. 

That is, when you add it, it already produces a different flavor, for example, sugar or lime juice, or more like meat broth. More than that, each cooking method brings out a different flavor as well. Grilled or steamed, boiled, sautéed, or fried, all the results come out with a different flavor. Finally, the sauce also changes if it is added before or after cooking.

For example, when preparing soup, such as Pho, combining with the star flavor of aniseed, fennel, clove, and burnt ginger, and onion, then with the flavor of the fish sauce, a subtle salty comes out because they stand out more aroma of meat and spices that this sauce without overlapping the others.

When it comes to marinating meats, their strong odor, strong salty flavor characteristics may not yet have changed. But in a few minutes when the meat touches the hot plate, it is already transforming the aroma, texture, and flavor of the meat itself.

To make the dipping sauce to accompany the Nems (Vietnamese rolls), which does not need to be cooked, it leaves an intense flavor and smell to increase the flavor of the rolls. The rolls without the fish sauce would not turn out as good.

To experiment with using this product, instead of adding a pinch of salt, add a teaspoon of fish sauce and see how the flavor comes out. From there, you can experiment with the other ingredients.

The bottom line

In this article, we answered the following question: Can I use anchovies instead of fish sauce? We talked about the importance of fish sauce and its unique taste and characteristics. 

There is a great variety of fish sauces, using anchovies, prawns, squid, or even mollusks according to the recipe. Some recipes incorporate some herbs and also taste of chicken or pork. You can use anchovies instead of fish sauce, but do not use too many of them since it can easily be too much and make your dish bitter.

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

References

Bonappetit.com – Fish Sauce

Thestonesoup.com – The Best Simple Fish Sauce Substitutes

Tastessence.com – Oyster Sauce Vs. Fish Sauce

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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.

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