Flavor Boosters: Anchovy Paste and Fish Sauce

ceasar salad

Short-cut Ceaser Salad

Anchovy paste in a tube is my favorite purchase from our last visit to Italy. Even though the quality of anchovies are better when you buy them in salt or oil in jars, anchovy pastes are far more convenient, because all you have to do is squeeze out the amount you need, and they also last much longer. Plus, there’s no need to make it into a paste, or someone identify these and say “Oh, I hate anchovies!”  If they don’t see them, and you use just a little bit, they will love the flavor. (Example: Who doesn’t like Caesar’s salad?)  The only thing is, it’s almost gone, and they are hard to come by in the US.

So now what do I do?

I’ve been using the “liquid version”, which is far more economical, and easier to get, at least in the Bay Area where Asians are abound.

It’s fish sauce. Not just for Thai and Vietnamese dishes, you can add a dash of this instead of anchovies to add depth in flavor, called umami in Japanese.  If you make home-made Chinese noodle soup, use this to season the broth. Without adding much else, it creates a delicious soup.  I used to take a long time to make noodle soup without using anything with MSG in it.  Now all I need is a cooking liquid of poached chicken (which is shredded and often added back as topping of my noodle soup), a few slices of ginger, and fish sauce.  That’s pretty much it.

Just be careful not to use too much when using in non-Southeast Asian dishes.  The smell could be overpowering!

There are many kinds… I recommend the Three Crab brand. (Also SF Chronicle Food writer, Mai Pham’s and Slanted Door Chef, Charles Phan’s favorite.)

Many celebrity chefs are also turning into fish sauce as secret ingredients lately.  Click here for an article by San Francisco Chronicle food writer Janet Fretcher about using fish sauce for both Asian and non-Asian dishes.

Here’s the recipe for “pregnant-woman-friendly” Short-cut Caesar Salad from Janet’s article.

Shortcut Caesar Salad
This makes a main-course lunch salad or a small dinner salad.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 16 baguette slices, about 1/3-inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup prepared mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce, or more to taste
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced to a paste
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound hearts of romaine, in bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°. Brush the baguette slices with olive oil on both sides, then cut each slice in half to make half-rounds. Place on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Put the mayonnaise in a small bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil, lemon juice, fish sauce and garlic. Add several grinds of black pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  3. Toss the romaine with enough of the dressing to coat the leaves nicely. Add the Parmesan and croutons and toss again. Serve immediately.
  • Serves 2 to 4
    PER SERVING: 255 calories, 5 g protein, 7 g carbohydrate, 24 g fat (4 g saturated), 11 mg cholesterol, 724 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.

Do you like fish sauce or anchovy?  What do you use in it?  Please share with us!

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