I Hate Fish Sauce

March 16, 2021

I can remember cooking with fish sauce in a previous life. When John and I traveled to Thailand — sometime last century — we attended a wonderful cooking school in Bangkok and learned a lot about cooking Thai food over the course of an entire week. Thai cuisine relies upon fish sauce for a lot of its character. I think most of Southeast Asia — maybe all of Asia — uses fish sauce. I don’t remember finding it nauseating. For years we cooked up great Thai dinners. Always had the fish sauce handy. Maybe it’s another cruel by-product of aging, that our tastes change?

Anyway… two hours post dinner, I’m still tasting fish sauce, still smelling fish sauce, it seems to have permeated everything and I think we might have to sell our house and move to a new fish-sauce-free home. I’m seriously losing it here. And I blame the fish sauce, and Christopher Kimball.

Though maybe we ate bad shrimp? Maybe it’s just another of Kimball’s foul recipes? (In fairness, I think this is only the second bomb.)

Here’s how it went down:

Prepped some finely chopped ginger, sliced shallot, diced garlic, thinly sliced jalepeno and some pepper:

Then caramelized some sugar over a hot burner with a little bit of water until mahogany in color (be brave, Kimball cautioned, let it smoke and turn dark brown). This was early in that process…

Here’s just a few seconds later…

Then comes 3T of fish sauce (off heat). After a moment, add the pre-prepped mix, return to the heat, and cook for just about 30 seconds. Then, finally, add the shrimp, crank to high, and cook until opaque (about a minute or two.. it was hard to tell because the sauce covered it pretty well):

Yum, right? Even though it smelled like fish sauce, I was hopeful the caramel sauce would neutralize the salt and smell and produce something sweet….

…. but no. It was rather bitter, fishy and decidedly not sweet.

Jim’s comment: edible.. but a 2 (on our 4-star scale).

And my hair smells like fish sauce.