Nuoc Mam Chay, Vegetarian "Fish" Sauce
I'm pretty convinced that the only way my dad has been able to stay a vegetarian for the past 10+ years is through the brilliance that is my mom's cooking ability. She can vegetarianize pretty much anything. Her bun bo chay (vegetarian Vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup) is so good that I prefer it to the real version a lot of the times. One of the huge struggles for a Vietnamese vegetarian is fish sauce. We put fish sauce on EVERYTHING. Like, seriously, everything. Have you had nuoc mam on scrambled eggs? Well, it's freaking amazing. So, rather than having to use soy sauce condiment as the lone vegetarian condiment, some amazing people have figured out how to make vegetarian fish sauce.
Of course, it does seem to lack that extra 'funk' that fish sauce has, but it's pretty darn close. This recipe is from my mom's cousin. She makes a huge batch and takes most of it over to the Buddhist temple where they use or sell it and then divies the rest up for some of us lucky folks.
My mom has a short cut version that she will typically use to replenish the veggie nuoc mam. Here I have both recipes:
Mo Ba's Nuoc Mam Chay recipe:
- 2 Dole pineapples, finely chopped
- 4 lbs. sugar
- 15 well ripened tomatoes, seeds discarded and cut in eigths
- 5 gallons of water
- 1&1/2 c. sea salt or to taste
- Cook pineapples and sugar on low heat until caramelized to golden brown. Add tomatoes and continue to cook until it turns into a jam consistncy.
- Add water and salt and boil thoroughly. Let cool and strain.
- Put sauce in small jars and store in refrigerator for a few weeks. Keep the rest in the freezer for future use or it will turn into vinegar.
1/2 c. sugar, 1/3 c. Coco Rico soda, few drops of soy sauce, some lime juice, taste to adjust. Finely chopped garlic and Thai chili peppers
I cut back my mo ba's recipe by about 1/4 of the quantities to cut down on quantity and time and add a bit of Huy Fong Chili Garlic sauce.