If you like cooking Southeast Asian food, then you know how important fish sauce is as an ingredient. One of the biggest issues for vegan cooks is trying to replace this complex flavor. Some omit it and some replace the fish sauce with soy sauce, which is not a bad substitute, but there are major complexities to a dish when you get rid of fish sauce.

I’ve been on a quest to discover the perfect vegan fish sauce recipe for several months now. I’ve tried the very simple to the extremely complex recipe, and I think I’ve found myself the perfect medium, leading to quite spectacular results.

But to know how to create the perfect fish sauce is to disect the flavors. I had a bottle of fish sauce and a spit bucket as I was trying out my recipes. See, if you blur out all the complexities, fish sauce mainly tastes like salt. That’s why soy sauce is a good subsitute for it. When you go more in depth, you start tasting the savoriness from the fish, which is why I’ve put 2 types of seaweed to mimic fish flavor, along with shitake mushroom and miso for that savory umami flavor. In addition to that though, there is a funky, slightly astringent, but somewhat sweet background to fish sauce, and in a lot of vegan recipes, that flavor is replaced by pineapples.

Before you roll your eyes at the amount of ingredients and work you have to do for this recipe, I’m telling you it creates a pretty big jar of fish sauce, which you might take you 2-3 years to finish. The time you invest to good fish sauce is integral to the types of recipes you create. That is how important fish sauce is.

And actually, there isn’t too much work to the recipe. It’s more time because I recommend letting the mixture sit for a couple days. It helps the flavors mesh and kind of mimics the fermentation process of fish sauce a bit. Anyways, I’ve said too much. Just know you’re not going to regret spending a bit of time making this recipe, which will guarantee you amazing recipes for the next 2 to 3 years.

Vegan Fish Sauce

(Makes 3 cups)

  • 2 2-inch pieces kombu (seaweed)
  • 1/2 cup wakame seaweed
  • 6 cups water
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorn
  • 1/4 cup shitake mushrooms, dried
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 3 pineapple rings
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt

Directions

  1. Bring water, kombu, wakame, garlic cloves, peppercorns and shitake mushrooms to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let mixture rest for 1 hour.
  2. Strain out the mixture, but keep the solids. Pour liquid back into the pot. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Add in pineapple juice and pineapples. Reduce mixture by about half.
  3. Stir in the salt and miso. Return the strained solids back into the pot.Cover and let sit for 1-2 days in a cool spot. Mixture is then ready to be bottled and kept in the refrigerator.