I call fish sauce my secret ingredient, the one I reach for when a dish needs a certain something to bring the flavors together. Although it has a pungent, smelly aroma, it tastes neither strong nor fishy.
Fish sauce became my kitchen staple when I first tried it as a substitute for anchovies in a Caesar salad dressing. I found the stand-in added a new dimension to my dressing, and now I use a judicious splash in tomato dishes, fish soups, green vegetables and stews — even in a bloody mary.
It adds a spark of flavor to enliven bland foods unlike anything else.
Rather than used straight, fish sauce is often diluted with water and balanced with lime juice, chilies and sugar, such as in a Thai or Vietnamese dipping sauce, or added to a marinade or curry.
If you rarely use fish sauce, refrigerate the bottle. Otherwise, store it in a cool, dark place in the pantry. If lots of crystals form or it smells acrid, discard the bottle.
Any place anchovies go, fish sauce can go, too, and more easily. It’s great to use fish sauce to season a steak before or after cooking, similar to how you would use anchovy butter or Worcestershire sauce, which also is made with anchovies.
Adapted from “Flavorwalla” by Floyd Cardoz (Artisan, 2016, $29.95)
- 1 1-pound flank steak
- 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced on the bias (white and green parts)
- 1 cup thinly sliced Thai basil leaves, with tender stems
- 1 cup thinly sliced, washed and dried cilantro leaves with tender stems
- 1 cup mint leaves
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
- >> Marinade:
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 6 garlic cloves, smashed
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- >> Vinaigrette dressing:
- 1/3 cup fish sauce
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- Juice of 3 limes
- 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon minced Thai chili, or more to taste
Combine marinade ingredients in a large zip-close bag. Seal bag and rub mixture around a bit to blend it together. Add steak and massage bag to coat steak with marinade. Seal bag and refrigerate 4 hours.
In a large bowl, combine dressing ingredients; stir. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 15 minutes to 2 hours.
Prepare a high-heat grill. Remove steak from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while grill heats.
Remove steak from marinade and grill about 6 minutes per side for rare, or to the desired doneness. Transfer to rack; rest 6 minutes.
Meanwhile, add scallions, basil, cilantro, mint and red onion to bowl with vinaigrette. Toss gently to combine.
Slice steak against grain and arrange on a serving platter. Spoon the salad over steak. Serves 4.
Nutritional information unavailable.