Fish sauce is a common ingredient used many Southeastern and Eastern Asian cuisines, among those Thai food. It lends a distinctive umami flavor to many dishes, and Thai food really doesn’t taste like Thai food without it. It is typically made by fermenting whole fish, or fish blood with salt- but there is also a vegan way to capture this flavor.
The real secret to getting a fishy flavor without the fish is by finding underwater vegetation- seaweed. I used a couple different varieties I picked up when I spent a week up on Grand Manan Island, in New Brunswick. I got them at Roland’s Sea Vegetables, which provided at least a dozen different varieties of dried seaweeds- in the end I got 4-5 types, including dulse flakes and alaria (which is similar to wakame). I used both of them in the creation of this fish sauce, and found the flavor deeper and more delicious than when I had made it in the past with only dulse. I highly recommend this combination of seaweeds, but you should feel free to experiment with the types that are available to you.
My fish sauce recipe is a modified version of this one by Dana Veldon.
Vegan Fish Sauce
- 3 cups of water
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp. of Chinese peppercorn
- ½ cup of dulse flakes
- ½ cup of dried alaria seaweed
- ½ cup of mushroom soy sauce
1. In a medium sized sauce pan, add the water, garlic, peppercorn and seeweeds and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.
2. Strain the solids from the liquid, and return the pot to the stove. On medium-low heat add the soy sauce and continue to cook down, until the liquid tastes slightly fishy and very salty. Refrigerate for future use.