It’s a common question when you are shopping for seafood that comes frozen or fresh from the market: how long does the fish sauce last?
The short answer is: it depends. Sometimes it goes bad faster than you can use it, and sometimes you can store it for a really long time. Sometimes it can’t be stored and needs to be used quickly because it goes bad when exposed to air. This article is going to answer some common questions about fish sauce, including how long does it last, how should you use it, and what are the best food pairings for the savoury, salty fragrance of the condiment.
How Long Does It Last?
The first question you need to ask yourself when it comes to fish sauce is how long does it last?
There are various factors that determine how long fish sauce will stay fresher than usual. For one thing, the type of fish you use to make the stock will affect the lifespan of the sauce. Bacteria and fungus can start breeding inside containers of sauce once it starts going bad. When this happens, the whole contents becomes unusable. That’s why it’s important to use high-quality seafood that you know is fresh and free of any toxins. When selecting the fish for your stocks, avoid anything with a particularly strong smell, as this will affect the lifespan of the stock and eventually the sauce.
Second, the storage conditions of the vessel you use to store the stock have an enormous impact on how long the fish sauce will stay fresh. Freezing, cooling, or storing the fish in the fridge will all extend the shelf life of the product. Similarly, if you add some extra ingredients to your fish stock – for example, lemon – then you are going to drastically increase the shelf life of the product. The same goes for adding a touch of Scotch Bonnet or other types of chilli peppers. These are all common ways of extending food shelf life. There are, however, times when you might want to use the product as soon as possible, so you might not want to bother with these methods of prolonging the life of your fish sauce.
Third, the method of preparation of the food you are pairing the fish sauce with will affect how long it stays fresh. Some foods, like fried chicken, will become relatively more stable once they are cooked. Other foods, like raw fish and meat, are more prone to decay, so the shorter the time between cooking and eating, the shorter the shelf life of the product.
How Should You Use It?
Fish sauce is always referred to as a “condiment”, but this term can be a little misleading. This product is more accurately described as a “seasoning”. Just like salt or pepper, fish sauce adds a touch of flavour to your dishes. When used in combination with other savoury ingredients – for example, soy sauce and Sriracha – then the effect is extremely potent. It really does make a huge difference when used in small quantities as a marinade or as part of a salad dressing. For best results, try keeping a little bit in reserve and adding it to your food as needed. This way you can maintain the freshness of the product as long as possible.
However, if you are making something like Chinese takeout, then it might be best to use the entire bottle. This is especially the case if you want to maintain the crisp, fresh taste of the restaurant–prepared food. If you reduce the amount you use in cooking, then you will end up with a fish sauce that has gone a little bit “off” in terms of the taste. When paired with certain foods, especially creamy desserts, then it can become a little bit much. Too much fish sauce and you will find that some of the flavours get “cooked” out of the food, which can leave a bad taste in your mouth. If you want to pair it with chocolate, then go easy on the sauce. Only a small amount is needed to bring out the taste of chocolate in your food. Otherwise, it will likely taste like soap.
What Are The Best Food Pairs?
Now that you know how long fish sauce lasts and how you should use it, you can start thinking about what are the best food pairs. The short answer is anything involving meat, especially beef. This is because the acid in the meat breaks down some of the strong smelling compounds in the fish, so the aroma is much less intense when eaten in conjunction with beef or other types of protein. For the best results try using high quality, well-marbled beef with your next order of chicken.
When it comes to dessert, the rule is the same as with most savoury foods. The shorter the time between eating and enjoying your favourite sweet treat, the more stable the flavour will be. This means that some of the more fragile flavour compounds in the product will start to break down, resulting in a less exciting dessert experience. When you reach the end of the bottle, then this is certainly the case. If you are storing the condiment in the fridge, then you will notice that the product goes bad much faster when in the presence of ice crystals. This is because the ice crystals “melt” the fish sauce, resulting in small droplets of liquid on your food. When these droplets hit your tongue, then your taste buds will be flooded with the strong, savoury taste of the product. You are better off avoiding this effect by eating ice-cream straight from the freezer. The same goes for soup. Make sure that your broth doesn’t sit in the fridge for too long, especially if you are making it from scratch. This is because the longer the food sits in the fridge, the more the flavours “mellow” and start to mix together. When this happens, then it is often difficult to determine the original flavours of the food. This is why it’s important to use high-quality ingredients for your kitchen, as they will stay fresh for much longer. If you are in a rush to use up the last of your fish sauce, then you can always reduce the quantity you use in cooking or try adding some extra ingredients to the recipe. This will increase the shelf life of the product slightly, but it will also change the taste somewhat. It is always better to use more food flavourings than necessary, rather than trying to cover up the taste of something that has gone bad.
At the end of the day, you should aim to use the entire bottle of fish sauce. Just make sure that you don’t put it in the fridge, as this is the worst place for it to be. Left to sit, the smell of the stock will become increasingly strong, and before you know it, the entire house is filled with the pungent aroma of decaying fish. The last thing you want is to be inviting unwanted guests over for dinner.