Substitute for Fish Sauce?

I'm not a fan of the fishy flavors, but would really like to try "Momofuku's Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette" and am wondering if there is any appropriate substitute for the fish sauce in the vinaigrette?

  • Posted by: Ghazzzit
  • November 18, 2012


Reiney November 18, 2012
I'm going to add my encouragement to try the recipe with fish sauce anyway - if you've ever had Thai, Vietnamese or other SE Asian cooking chances are nearly 100% that you've already had tablespoonfuls of the stuff. It's a critical balancing element in the hot/sour/salty/sweet nature of these cuisines. Yes, it smells horrible, but takes on an entirely different characteristic when added to food.

The vinaigrette is basically a nuoc cham - so you're making a Vietnamese dipping sauce, the same kind you get for spring rolls at your local pho joint.

As others have said, soy or tamari can replicate the salty component but it really adds a different flavour entirely to the dish and takes away from the light & fresh element that a nuoc cham provides.
Ghazzzit November 18, 2012
Thank you for the detailed response! I've found that I really enjoy most Thai that I've encountered, but all of the Vietnamese cuisine I've tried has had an underlying unpleasantness for me that has wound down to the fish sauce. I'm sorry to say it's still a taste I haven't acquired.
pierino November 19, 2012
I absolutely agree with Sarah on this. When you open a bottle it smells like something you would use in your garden but when it combines with other foods something magic happens. The same goes for using moderate amounts of chopped anchovies (provided they are good anchovies). Fish sauce is anchovy based. Chopped anchovies added to meat stews will add a "bottom" flavor that doesn't taste fishy and most people won't be able to identify it. Even my anchovy hating sister.
cratecooking November 18, 2012
Fish sauce has a very complex flavor, so any substitute will yield a very different flavor. I would start with a reduced-sodium soy or tamari sauce in place of the fish sauce.
bigpan November 18, 2012
Fish sauce does not have a substitute, but the fishy smell is only in the bottle - when you combine with other ingredients you get the taste that is desired for the recipe. Otherwise chefs would not suggest it!
Ghazzzit November 18, 2012
Great, thank you for the advice!
Stephanie B. November 18, 2012
You can try soy sauce, but it won't be quite the same. You will get a similar salty, full flavor. You may also want to investigate different brands of fish sauce. Many of the ones that have fermented for a long time don't taste "fishy" while other brands can smell a little funky.
Ghazzzit November 18, 2012
Great, thank you for the advice!
Recommended by Food52