Fish sauce in our A-Z - Cooking Index
Fish sauce is a key ingredient in many Thai, Vietnamese and other south-east Asian cuisines.
Fish sauce refers to all sauces that are made from fermented fish. That is often where the similarities end as different countries have different types of fish sauce, often made from entirely different fish and other additional ingredients. Some sauces only use dried fish, some only use fresh fish, some will contain shellfish and some will only contain the internal organs of the fish. Most will have salt added and some will have extra herbs and spices added.
In Thailand fish sauce is known as nam pla (you will also find it sold in many Western shops as nam pla). In Vietnam it is called Nuoc mam; in Cambodia it is teuk trei and in Burma it is ngan byar yay.
Several cultures use blocks of dried fish from which they shave off small pieces to add to dishes to produce a similar flavor to fish sauce; the Malaysian belacan, a dried shrimp paste, is an example of this.
Do not be put off by the smell of fish sauce. Although it smells pretty noxious on its own it adds a pleasant fishy and salty background note to a dish.