Gluten free fish sauce is commonly used in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It is the secret ingredient that may intimidate home cooks but is essential to recreate the recipes you are familiar with from these countries. It is readily available in Asian supermarkets as well as grocery stores with a large Asian section.
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If you have eaten Vietnamese or Thai food you have probably tasted fish sauce. Called nuoc mam in Vietnamese and nam pla in Thai, fish sauce is a complex flavour ingredient used in almost every dish much like soy sauce is used in Chinese cooking. It is a salty, pungent sauce derived from fermented tiny anchovies and smells like it. It is naturally gluten free.
Buying Fish Sauce
The two brands shown in the photo here are Squid brand and Golden Boy, the ones I see at the Asian grocery store. One of my favourite cookbook authors, Hugh Carpenter, recommended Squid brand fish sauce when I first started cooking Asian food and I have been cooking with it ever since.
More recently Golden Boy brand came out with the small 200ml bottle of gluten free fish sauce. Although I don’t use Golden Boy brand I know that small bottle will appeal to some cooks. The large 725ml bottle of Squid brand fish sauce may seem like a big commitment to some but that is the bottle I buy.
Whatever brand you buy fish sauce should be naturally gluten free but always check the label. Once opened it lasts indefinitely at room temperature.
Fish Sauce – The Recipes
Here are some of my favourite recipes that use fish sauce:
If you are looking for a vegan option I posted a recipe for a vegan fish sauce substitute. I used it for many Thai recipes for a cooking class and we were all impressed with every dish.
If you have a fish sauce story I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.