Fish Sauce

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

fish sauce an essential part of the diet in SE Asia and an essential ingredient for SE Asian cookery, is made by fermenting small, whole fish in vats of brine and drawing off the supernatant liquid, which is then matured in the sun before being bottled. The product is nuoc mam in Vietnam and nam pla in Thailand.

This product is closely related to the garum and liquamen of classical greece and classical rome. However, in Europe other methods of preserving fish were introduced and their use for fish sauce was discontinued. It is of interest that this happened, since it is not uncommon for a mode of preservation, if it produces a distinctive flavour (such as fish sauce has), to outlive the introduction of new technology. (One English firm was marketing a product called ‘garum’ in the 19th century, for an advertisement appears in an English cookery book of the period; but this seems to have been an isolated survival or renascence.)