Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Vegetarian Fish Sauce

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Fish sauce is one of those ingredients that everyone seems to be using now. You see it in everything from cuisine to cocktails. The world has gone fish sauce crazy! So, what is fish sauce? It's made of tiny fish that are heavily salted and fermented in huge barrels for a year or more. The result is a salty, bacon-y, parmesan cheese-esque sauce that adds a ton of umami flavor to anything it touches.

This fish-less fish sauce is perfect anywhere you'd normally use the fishy stuff and from all accounts it tastes pretty close. I first saw a version of it on a Chow message board. I've made some changes to that recipe over the year or so that I've been making my own vegetarian fish sauce. I like to keep some around to use in stir fry, Thai curries, kimchi, and salad dressings. It makes a great addition to stocks and soups that need a little umami bump.

Vegetarian Fish Sauce

1 quart water
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1.76-ounce package Emerald Cove kombu (rinsed briefly under cold water)
1 1/4 cups dried shiitake
1/2 cup soy sauce (like Bragg's)
1 tablespoon cane sugar (like Whole Foods 365 brand)
2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime

In a medium pot over hight heat, bring the water, garlic, red pepper flakes, kombu, shiitake, soy sauce, sugar, salt, peppercorns, ginger, vinegar, lemon juice, and lime juice up to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Allow mixture to simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, strain, and return liquid to the pot. Reduce mixture to 1 pint. Allow mixture to cool and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.