Fish sauce, also referred to as nuoc nam, is a commonly called-for ingredient in many Southeast Asian recipes. It adds a combination of tangy saltiness and authenticity to many Vietnamese and Thai dishes. But does fish sauce meet the guidelines for people on Paleo diets? How can people eating Paleo benefit from consuming fish sauce?
Is Fish Sauce Approved on a Paleo Diet?
If fish sauce is made with just fish and salt (and possibly other natural ingredients for flavor), then it can be safely consumed on a Paleo diet. Some brands of fish sauce have sugar or chemicals like monosodium glutamate added. Consumers may find highly processed products labeled “fish sauce” that contain hydrolyzed wheat protein. It is important for those who are abiding by Paleo dietary principles to avoid purchasing these items and look for fish sauce brands that only contain truly natural and pure ingredients. Fish sauce contains a large amount of salt, however, so if you are watching your salt intake you will want to use it sparingly.
Nutritional Breakdown of Fish Sauce
Serving Size: 1 tbsp (18 grams)
- Calories: 15
- Total Fat: 0 g
- Saturated Fat: 0 g
- Trans fat: 0 g
- Cholesterol: 0 mg
- Sodium: 1490 mg
- Total Carbohydrates: 0 g
- Dietary Fiber: 0 g
- Sugar: 0 g
- Protein: 4 g
Health Benefits of Fish Sauce
The antioxidant content of this condiment can provide health benefits. If fish sauce is used to marinate foods, its free radical fighting properties may minimize the oxidation that may occur naturally during the cooking process. Anyone who has a seafood allergy, however, will want to avoid fish sauce.
Where to Buy Fish Sauce
Fish sauce can be purchased in the Asian sections found in most major grocery store chains. It can also be purchased from Asian food markets. It is also possible to purchase specific brands online from the company websites, such as Red Boat fish sauce, which is Paleo-approved.
How to Make Fish Sauce
Many people may want to make their own sauce rather than purchasing it from a store. To make fish sauce at home, you will need fish, salt, and water. Homemade recipes often feature additional ingredients including garlic and lemon rind for a deeper, more complex homemade sauce with a lot of umami flavor.
Homemade Fish Sauce
- 1 ½ lb. fresh fish (sardines, mackerel, or other fish)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp. sea salt
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp. whole peppercorns
- ¼ tsp. lemon rind
- 2 tbsp. pickled vegetable brine
- 2 cups water
Chop the fish up into 1-inch pieces and place them in a medium sized mixing bowl. . Mash the fish pieces up with a potato masher, and then place them in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. Place the garlic cloves under the wide edge of a knife blade and lightly smash them. Add the smashed garlic cloves to the jar. Grate lemon rind and place in jar. Add the remaining ingredients to the jar and be sure to cover the fish with water. Shake the ingredients together well and cover tightly.
This fish sauce can be fermented for as long as 90 days, but fermentation can also be completed in as little as 4 days. Once you are finished fermenting, place the jar in your refrigerator and allow it to chill for an additional 4 weeks. Use a strainer with a fine mesh to filter out the solids. (You can use these to make natural fish stock, if you like.) Use a coffee filter to filter the liquid that results from the straining. Place the fish sauce into clean bottles using a funnel and place in the refrigerator. This recipe makes 2 cups of fish sauce.