Dip Your Shrimp Fritter Into This!

Monahan's Seafood Market | Fresh Whole Fish, Fillets, Shellfish, Recipes, Catering & Lunch Counter-Ann Arbor, Michigan

Umami, that hard to describe, savory, satisfying, “5th taste”, pops up in several umami-laden recipes on this blog. Smelt Nabanzuke, Asari miso soup, flounder Edo style, Nabayaki style udon soup all contain that mysterious supercharged flavor. For years I’ve been adding the umami rich anchovy to many dishes, knowing what that little extra magic can do to really liven up and bring out the flavors of all kinds of dishes from seafood stir-frys to pastas, sauces, tapas and salads. I even top my deviled eggs with a good quality anchovy (Ortiz from Spain is a good one).

Imagine a sauce with a level of anchovy umami that’s even more intense with incredible complexity and depth of flavor and you’ll have the favorite sauce of southeast Asia – fish sauce. Nuoc mam in Vietnam, nam pla in Thailand, this sauce is used every day and is as common as salt would be in the west. I now use fish sauce for many of the same things that I would use anchovies in and without this ingredient you couldn’t even begin to attempt any Vietnamese or Thai recipes.

Fish sauce is made by salting anchovies (or other small oily fish) and letting them ferment for at least a year. The resulting liquid has a strong pungent odor. It’s hard to believe that something with such a smell could create such addictive goodness. One of the great uses of nuoc mam is Vietnamese nuoc cham (fish sauce vinaigrette), a simple dipping sauce loaded with minced hot peppers, garlic, sugar, lime juice and of course nuoc mam. This sauce is used for many dishes but I like it best as a dip for fried fish or shellfish. This Vietnamese shrimp fritter recipe is perfect with this sauce. It’s got it all! The sweet decadence of shrimp in a fried, fluffy fritter dipped into a sauce that has a salty, sour, sweet, not bitter, and that indescribably delicious 5th taste, oh yes! – UMAMI!


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