Can you leave out fish sauce?

In this article, we will answer the following question: Can you leave out fish sauce? We explain how fish sauce is made so that you understand better why it has such a long shelf life. 

Can you leave out fish sauce?

You can leave out fish sauce up to a few years, it is not mandatory to refrigerate it once opened. Unlike ketchup or mustard, fish sauce or soy sauce has a much longer shelf life. Fish sauce can last up to 2/3 years

The soy sauce lasts about 1 year and a half. The soy sauce is already fermented and for this reason, does not require refrigeration. Fermented foods last much longer and are less likely to spoil over time. However, if you plan to keep it for longer than a year, refrigerating may be your best option. While fish sauce is not completely fermented, it has a long shelf life.

Among the sauces that you must refrigerate after opening are:

  • Black bean sauce
  • Chili paste and chilli sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Plum sauce
  • Sweet and sour sauce.

How is fish sauce made?

The fish sauce is an aromatic liquid, with a salty, reddish-brown taste. It is one of the basic ingredients of Thai cuisine (it is also widely used in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam). Playing the role of salt in Western cuisine, or soy sauce in Chinese cuisine, the good quality fish sauce adds a special flavor. Basically, without fish sauce, Thai cuisine would not be the same.

Called “Nam plah”, or “nam pla”, in Thai (literally means “fish water”), fish sauce is actually the juice extracted from fish meat, through a long process of salting and fermentation. Small fish are generally used, which do not have a special commercial value. For the sauce to have a special aroma and taste, the fish must be very fresh. 

As soon as the fishing boats return with their catches, the fish is cleaned and drained, then mixed with sea salt. It is transferred to large earthen vessels, the bottom of which is covered with a layer of salt; a layer of salt is also placed on top of the fish. 

The heavy, wooden lid that covers the barrel is additionally heavy with stones, or weights, to prevent the fish from floating above the liquid that forms during fermentation. The vessels are left in sunny places for 9 months, or even a year.

From time to time, they are discovered, and the fish is directly exposed to the sun, which helps to disintegrate and turn into liquid. The periodic discovery of the vessels leads to obtaining very good quality juice.

After the nine months, the liquid is removed from the vessels, preferably through a mouth at the base of the vessel, thus being forced to pass through the remaining layers of fish. The juice is strained, and the sediments are removed. The strained sauce is transferred to clean dishes and left in the sun, in the air, for 2 weeks, so that the strong smell of fish dissipates. Only then is it ready for bottling.

The finished product is 100% fish sauce of the best quality, first hand. The intermediate qualities, the second and third hand, are obtained by adding saltwater that covers the fish left in the dishes; leave to stand for 2-3 months each time, then filter before bottling. 

Finally, the remaining fish is boiled with salt water, then strained, producing the poorest quality of the fish sauce. The aroma and taste are getting weaker and weaker as the quality of the sauce decreases. Therefore, some top-quality quantities are added in the lower grades to improve them.

Fish sauce not only works wonders in Southeast Asian dishes but is also very healthy. It contains many proteins (about 10%) and the full range of amino acids needed by the body for growth and regeneration; it also has a rich content of vitamins, especially B12, and other natural nutrients (calcium, phosphorus and iron). It is much healthier to use fish sauce instead of salt, or fish sauce mixed with hot peppers instead of salt and pepper.

Few know that fish sauce, in fact, has Mediterranean origins. The Romans especially appreciated this salted fish extract, probably varieties such as anchovies, which they called “garum”, or “liquamen”; many gave this liquid magical powers!

Although they forgot it in time, the Romans were right: the fish sauce is really magical. Somewhat unappetizing in flavour, when added to food it radically transforms them. I have never eaten anything tastier, lighter and more flavorful than Southeast Asian food! 

Fortunately, it is found on the market, in almost all supermarkets and is not expensive. Overcome prejudices and use it: it will give you magical powers in the kitchen!

Other FAQs about Sauces which you may be interested in.

Does Worcestershire sauce have to be refrigerated after opening?

Final thoughts

In this article, we answered the following question: Can you leave out fish sauce? We explained how fish sauce is made and why it has such a long shelf life.

The bottom line is that fermented foods last much longer and are less likely to spoil over time. However, if you plan to keep it for longer than a year, refrigerating may be your best option. While fish sauce is not completely fermented, it has a long shelf life.

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

References

Bonappetit.com – Wait, What Is Fish Sauce, Anyway?

Thespruceeats.com – What Is Fish Sauce?

Thewoksoflife.com – Fish sauce

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.