Few ingredients have chilled me to my core like fish sauce once did. Even the name made my skin tingle. Before I even ever opened a bottle, I was convinced it would smell like liquid death. Hoisin, mirin, soy, plum sauce, ponzu… you could have given me any other Asian condiment out there, but I didn’t think I could have been paid enough to try fish sauce. My fish sauce avoidance was so intense that I needed to almost give myself a twelve-step introduction before even considering a grocery store purchase. I researched, I read, I collected recipes, I even had nightmares of being chased by a bottle of the brown liquid… But eventually I gave in, committed to a recipe that called for fish sauce, held my nose, and gave it
Surprisingly, it actually wasn’t so bad. It still smelled like death, but from what I later gathered, that’s one thing every fish sauce user agrees on (some even said it smelled like wet cat, which my cat-loving friends actually confirmed for me). Smell aside though, using it was completely worth it. I had tasted something within this recipe that I had never experienced before; there was this extra, subtle flavor, meaty yet fishy in a pleasant way. Turns out, with the right amount of knowledge, creativity, and a healthy dose of reality orientation, fish sauce can be more than a nightmare-inducing condiment. It doesn’t have to be that ingredient you’re hesitant to buy “because you’re only going to use a tablespoon of it once and never touch it again” (I tried that excuse, twice). So throw aside your doubts and reservations and take a leap of faith here. Yes, fish sauce will make you feel worldly when your friends come over and see you using it, but it will also allow for a completely new food experience that you’ll wish to enjoy over and over again.