In this article, we will describe how to neutralize the fish sauce if it makes the dish too salty or too spicy. We also talk about the importance of fish sauce in a dish and what to use it for.
How do you neutralize fish sauce?
To neutralize fish sauce, you can prepare white vinegar with a little water in another pan and heat this mixture simultaneously as we heat the fish sauce. The white vinegar and water will evaporate to create a powerful and effective odor sensor. We tried this method with fried fish, and after lunch, there was no smell in the kitchen as if we hadn’t prepared anything.
How to neutralize fish sauce if the dish is too salty
This is the most common situation: oops, our recipe tastes way too salty! There are different ways to fix this.
- Have you ever heard that putting a potato in an overly salty soup or stew could soak up the excess salt? Yep, that’s a myth! After many scientific tests, it turns out that it doesn’t change a thing.
- In recipes with a liquid base, you can add… more liquid! It will dilute the salt. (It’s probably better to add water than salted broth, on the other hand, do we agree on that?) You will then have to adjust the recipe: either cook it longer to keep the right proportion of liquid or thicken the drink – with cornstarch, for example. You will also need to add more spices or other seasonings to compensate! (Everything except salt).
- Add cream (or vegetable “cream”). This will also dilute the recipe but also work by balancing the overly salty taste (dairy products – or their substitutes have this neutralizing side. It is even possible to add cream to a sauce that would not normally contain any, like pesto, marinara, or bruschetta preparation, for example!
- No cream? Add plain yogurt or sour cream (or their plant-based equivalents) instead. It works great with dips, chili, or the like, as well as stuffed peppers.
- Add other ingredients—for example, more vegetables, more legumes (already cooked), rice, etc.
- If the excess salt is light enough, a little sugar can help balance it out. You can try a spoon or two (sugar, brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup). Not enough to taste sweet.
- Another trick that can mask the overly salty taste of the fish sauce is to add an acidic ingredient, such as lemon/lime juice or vinegar. No need for a lot! It works well with fish or grilled meats.
- Add a simple, barely salty sauce on top. Almost all store-bought sauces are ultra-salty, so you may need to make it! Here’s a creamy dill sauce that works on vegetables, potatoes, eggs, fish, red meat, etc.
- If nothing works, it’s always possible to double the recipe, without adding more salt! This is not still doable, but it works well for soup or casserole-style dishes that freeze well afterward.
How to neutralize fish sauce if the dish is too spicy?
If your dish is too spicy, you want to dilute/balance the overly spicy taste. Here are some ways to do it.
- Add more liquid (and maybe salt and pepper a little more this time).
- Add more ingredients, protein, vegetables, legumes, or starches.
- Add dairy products, such as cream, yogurt, or sour cream.
- Add coconut milk to an Asian dish, such as a soup, a stir-fry, a curry …
- Add an acid, such as citrus juice or vinegar.
- Add nut butter. Again, this usually works super well in an Asian dish: a tablespoon or two of peanut or almond butter does an excellent job of masking the spices.
- Adding tomatoes (or tomato sauce) can help neutralize individual dishes like chili or pasta sauces!
The importance of fish sauce
In Asia, fish sauces serve the same function as soy sauce, and it is wildly popular precisely in regions where this legume does not grow well.
It is a salty condiment, with a very recognizable flavor of intense umami, which evokes more roast meat than the sea.
There are many varieties of fish sauce. In Thailand, it is known as nam-pla, in Vietnam, nuoc mam, Korea jeot-kal, or in Japan shiokara. These sauces are made with different raw materials and other fermentation times, but their manufacture is practically identical.
First, fish or shellfish waste is mixed with salt until a saline concentration of between 10 and 30% is obtained. This mass is sealed in closed containers for a month to get the fish pastes and 24 months to make the sauces.
Pasta (harder to find in the West) has a robust fishy taste and rotten smell. But the sauces are barely reminiscent of what they once were: it is a salty condiment, with a very recognizable taste of intense umami, which is more reminiscent of roast meat than the sea. Its uses in the kitchen are unlimited.
What to use fish sauce for
Although the fish sauce is a condiment found in almost all of Asia, it is essential if we want to introduce ourselves into Thai or Vietnamese cuisines, where it is ubiquitous.
In Southeast Asia, fish sauce is used to dress all kinds of woks, salads, and even curries, and it is essential in such iconic dishes as pad thai or Vietnamese rolls, which are dipped in a sauce in which the nuoc man is necessary.
This article described how to neutralize the fish sauce if it makes the dish too salty or too spicy. We also talked about the importance of fish sauce in a dish and what to use it for.
In Asia, fish sauces serve the same function as soy sauce, and it is wildly popular precisely in regions where this legume does not grow well. If you added too much fish sauce and want to neutralize it, our recommendation is to use vinegar and water, a 1 to 1 ration. Other options include: doubling the portion in size, adding dairy products, vegetables, a little sugar, or water.
If you have any comments or tips, please let us know!