• Nước Mắm Chay •
This Vegan Fish Sauce can be used to mimic the traditional version, a staple of Southeast Asian cooking, with an equally savory, salty, and pungent flavor profile.
Fish sauce, the fermented and incredibly strong-smelling condiment widely-used all over Southeast Asia can be a tricky thing to substitute in a recipe. It has its own distinct flavor but it also acts to bring out the flavors of everything else in a dish. This umami savoriness is why it is used so much in soups, snacks, and entrees. Even something as simple as a salad in Thailand, for example, can be rendered non-vegan (even non-vegetarian) because of this ubiquitous ingredient.
That’s where this Vegan Fish Sauce comes in.
In order to mimic the flavor of traditional fish sauce, we have a few basic flavor profiles to consider: fishy/oceanic, umami/savory, and slightly fermented. For the fishiness, I use two kinds of commonly available seaweed: nori and wakame. Both can be found in almost any Asian market and while they won’t lend that distinct fish smell and taste, they do pack a very strong oceanic punch.
It also needs to be an umami bomb just like regular fish sauce, so a combo of soy sauce, shiitake mushroom, and tomato paste do very well to pack a high-glutamate punch.
And since fish sauce is a fermented product, I add just a touch of miso, not so much that you can taste it but enough to give a slight tang (in combination with the tomato paste).
It is really salty and pungent, but that is what you want it to be. This mock fish sauce sits tucked it away in a jar in the fridge until you are ready to use it for all of your favorite Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and other Southeast Asian recipes. I even use it as a substitute for jeotgal (anchovy paste) when I make kimchi!
- 3 cups water
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 4-5 whole dried shiitake mushrooms (around 10g)
- 3 large sheets of nori seaweed, torn into pieces
- ¼ cup wakame seaweed (around 6-7g) or the same amount of kombu kelp or a combination of both
- 1 shallot (or small onion), roughy chopped
- 1 large clove of garlic, smashed
- 15 peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon miso
- ¾ teaspoon sea salt
- Put everything into a medium pot and bring it to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and cover with a lid.
- Simmer on low for 20 minutes to extract all of the flavors out of the ingredients. When done, you'll want to clarify the liquid, as it will have become slightly cloudy. Simply pour it all through a fine cheesecloth or coffee filter and let the liquid drip through. You can help it along by pressing the solids gently with the back of a spoon.
- After it is all drained, transfer your homemade vegan fish sauce to an airtight jar or bottle and put it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Because of the high salt content, it lasts in the fridge.
-Use full sheets of nori---the size you would use to make sushi. (8 inch x 7.5 inch -- 20cm x 19cm)
-If you're not familiar with wakame seaweed, it's the kind that is floating around in miso soup, so you've probably eaten it many times! Kombu kelp is the seaweed that is used to flavor dashi, the stock that is an essential building block of Japanese cuisine.
-Make a quick dipping sauce for spring rolls, tofu, or veggies by mixing 1 Tablespoon of this fish sauce with 1 Tablespoon of lime juice, a little lime zest, 1 teaspoon sriracha, 1 teaspoon sugar (or sweetener of choice), and a pinch of any fresh herbs you have on hand (cilantro, mint, basil).