Vegetarian Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is absolutely essential for Southeast Asia cuisines, including Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Indonesian and Philippine. This has been a serious problem for vegetarians. The usual advice, "Use light soy sauce" or "Use plain salt", is not at all satisfactory. Commercial vegetarian fish sauces are difficult to find, and I can report first hand they are as awful and disgusting as others have claimed. They are from Vietnam, which has a strict Chinese style Buddhism, while Thai Buddhism is happy with "don't ask, don't tell". This is the policy I recommend, but it will not be acceptable to some strict vegetarians. Do-it-yourself formulas I've read seem over complicated and I'm not confident of the results, so here I present the very simple and effective recipes I've composed. Both clear and murky fish sauces are used in Southeast Asia, and I present a recipe for each.


Dish of Clear Vegetarian Fish Sauce

Vegetarian Fish Sauce - Clear
California
  -   Mam Nem Chay
Makes
Effort:
Sched:
DoAhead:  
1-1/2 cup  
**
30 min  
Yes
While many recipes require a clear fish sauce, I have found very little on vegetarian versions. This one fills the bill pretty well. Of course, it can't taste "just like real fish sauce" without fish, but you knew there would be sacrifices before you chose vegetarianism.



1/4
3
2
1/4
1
1/3
oz
lrg
c
c
t
t
Wakame, dried (1)
Shiitakes, dried (2)
Water
Soy Sauce, thin  
Rice Vinegar
Sugar
  1. Place Seaweed and Mushrooms in a sauce pan with 2 cups Water. Bring to a simmer and simmer slowly for about 20 minutes. Strain, squeezing all liquid out of the solids. go ahead and eat the solids, maybe with a vinegar dip.
  2. Return Liquid to the pan with along with Soy Sauce, Rice Vinegar and Sugar. Bring back to a simmer for a minute or so.
  3. Store in a tightly sealed bottle. In the fridge it should last for months.

Dish of Murky Vegetarian Fish Sauce

Vegetarian Fish Sauce - Murky
California
  -   Mam Nem Chay
Makes
Effort:
Sched:
DoAhead:  
1 cup  
**
45 min  
Best

This is the "fish sauce" to use if you don't actually need a clear sauce. While little known in North America, the murky fish sauces are much used in Southeast Asia, especially in Issan (northeast Thailand), Laos and the Philippines, where it is used more than the clear.




1/2
3
4
1/3
1/2
1/2
oz
lrg
c
t
c
T
Wakame, dried (1)
Shiitakes, dried (2)
Water
Salt
Yellow Bean Sauce (3)  
Rice Vinegar
  1. Crumble Seaweed into a sauce pan and add at least 4 cups of Add Salt and simmer slowly for about 20 minutes. Drain the seaweed, squeeze out all liquid and discard the solids.
  2. Simmer the Seaweed Water down to about 1/2 cup.
  3. Put Seaweed Water and Bean Sauce in a mini-prep food processor and run it until smooth.
  4. Stir in Rice Vinegar and bring it back up to just a simmer, then cool.
  5. stored in a tightly sealed bottle. It should keep indefinitely in the fridge.
NOTES:
  1. Seaweed:   I use dried Wakame, easily available in East and Southeast Asian markets, but feel free to experiment with other seaweeds. For details see our Algae Page.
  2. Shiitakes, Dried:   Also called Chinese Black Mushrooms, these are available in any Asian market and in the Asian section of most supermarkets.
  3. Yellow Bean Sauce:   Alas, the "Dragonfly" brand (Kwong Hung Seng) we all loved is now "stop at the border" due to persistent contamination. I prefer AC brand, but Healthy Boy is probably more available. For details see our Yellow Bean Sauce page.
  4. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
sjv_vegfish1 110724 r 160608 orig   -   www.clovegarden.com
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