Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Adventures in Fish Sauce

   My husband is an alumni of Virginia Tech.  To say he is a big fan is an enormous understatement.  If you haven't been to the south, then you may not know that school spirit is on a whole different level there.  Besides the beautiful campus, amazing sense of community, and insane love of football at Virginia Tech, the food on and around campus is some of the best college fare out there.  

    This Christmas I gifted Kevin with the cookbook "A Taste of Virginia Tech" by Gallagher and Schoels and promised to bring some of that VT food right here to Boston for him.  My first crack at the cookbook was a basic Thai dish made in just one pan which is always a plus for me.

{Ingredients. Anytime I can use fresh basil is a bonus}

    This dish included fish sauce, which I have never worked with before.  In fact, it took me some hunting to even find it.  I love making foods from scratch, so I considered making it myself.  Heck, I've made vegetable and chicken broth before, could this really be much different?  The answer is yes-- completely different.  Let's just say as soon as I heard the words "fermenting" and "anchovies" I realized I was out of my league.  So I finally tracked it down in one of our local supermarkets that has a really extensive international selection.  A word of advice: if you've never used fish sauce before, do NOT smell it!  You will not want to use it.  There was a point right after I added it that I thought I had ruined the dish.  With that being said, don't be afraid of it.  Once it blended with the other ingredients, it took this dish from an everyday stirfry to something that tasted much more authentic.

{Simmering away}

    I rarely, if ever, make recipes exactly as printed.  I also hesitate to copy a recipe directly from the book and share it here.  If you hope to duplicate the recipe at home, I highly recommend the book, especially for VT alum that are feeling a little homesick.  For others, it bares a striking resemblance to this recipe from Food and Wine Magazine.  Consider adding red curry paste for even more spice!


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