Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in many Southeast Asian cuisines, known for its umami-rich flavor and ability to enhance the taste of any dish.
But have you ever wondered whether fish sauce is acidic or alkaline?
The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. In this article, we’ll explore the chemical properties of fish sauce and how they affect its pH level.
From analyzing commercial products to examining the differences in production across various countries, we’ll uncover the truth about whether fish sauce is acidic or alkaline.
So, let’s dive in and discover the science behind this beloved condiment.
Is Fish Sauce Acidic Or Alkaline?
Fish sauce is indeed acidic. When we eat food, it breaks down into an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic, or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper, and iron produce an alkaline ash. On the other hand, sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine, and iodine found in meat, coffee, dairy, and alcohol leave an acid ash.
In a data article that reports on the chemical properties of commercial fish sauce products associated with the fish sauce taste and flavor, all products were analyzed in triplicate. Dried solid content was analyzed by a moisture analyzer. Fish sauce salinity was determined by a salt meter. pH was measured using a pH meter. The acidity was determined using a titration assay. Amino nitrogen and total nitrogen were evaluated using a titration assay and Combustion-type nitrogen analyzer, respectively.
The analyzed products originated from Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, China, the Philippines, and Italy. Data on the chemical properties of the products are provided in table format in the current article. The presented data on the chemical properties of 46 commercially available fish sauce products from these countries may be used as a reference for culinary studies of the fish sauces and related products.
Fish sauce production varies wildly from country to country due to differences in available ingredients. To quantify the differences, five sauces were analyzed: from Thailand, Vietnam, China, South Korea, and Japan.
The Thai sauce is made from anchovies, salt, and sugar and possesses an intense fishy flavor. Fermentation provides green, fruity, floral, and cheesy/acidic notes. The heat of the sun and any cooking process to improve the color creates a roasted nutty scent as well.
Cooking and salting give the sauce a vegetable nuance, especially onion and potato-like. However, the most sulphurous one is Chinese with additional green/fatty undertones thanks to ingredients like shrimp, fish, and salt.
In South Korea, sand lance, krill and salt are used to make the fish sauce. Its nuttiness is provided by benzaldehyde—a typical volatile for almond. Some malty notes can be found also thanks to 3-methylbutanal which is the key component in chocolate though in fish sauce it has a more fatty – fruity flavor.
The same substance is present in Vietnamese sauce which is made from fish, salt and sugar. It is the most cheesy and acidic one as well.
The Japanese variant is prepared from many different ingredients namely dried bonito, salt, soy sauce, sugar, sweet rice wine mushroom seaweed weed yeast and vinegar. The composition is much more complex offering a wildly diverse aroma. No fishy notes are palpable due to the intricate mixture. Dried bonito possesses fishy scents but they are gone or in such low concentration that it is impossible to taste. Instead the Japanese sauce is the most fruity and floral with intense roasted and woody undertones coming from soy sauce and dried tuna.
What Is Fish Sauce?
Fish sauce is a liquid condiment that is commonly used in East Asian cuisine and Southeast Asian cuisine. It is made by coating fish or krill in salt and fermenting them for up to two years. Fish sauce is known for its ability to add a savory umami flavor to dishes, which is due to its glutamate content. The flavor and aroma of fish sauce can vary depending on the ingredients used and the country of origin. Some of the common ingredients used in fish sauce production include anchovies, shrimp, krill, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Fish sauce is used as a seasoning during or after cooking and as a base in dipping sauces. It can also be used as an ingredient in soups and stews or as a marinade for meats. Overall, fish sauce is a versatile condiment that can add depth and complexity to a wide variety of dishes.
The Chemistry Of Fish Sauce
Fish sauce is a complex mixture of various chemical compounds that give it its unique taste and aroma. The pH of fish sauce is typically acidic, which means that it has a low pH value. In the data article mentioned earlier, the acidity of fish sauce was determined using a titration assay. This assay measures the concentration of acids present in the sample by adding a base solution to it until the acid is neutralized.
Apart from its pH, fish sauce contains various other chemical compounds such as amino nitrogen and total nitrogen. These compounds are important for the flavor and nutritional value of the sauce. Amino nitrogen is an indicator of the protein content in the sauce, while total nitrogen is an indicator of the total nitrogenous compounds present in the sauce.
The chemical properties of fish sauce vary depending on its country of origin and the ingredients used in its production. For instance, Thai fish sauce is made from anchovies, salt, and sugar and possesses an intense fishy flavor. On the other hand, Japanese fish sauce is made from dried bonito, salt, soy sauce, sugar, sweet rice wine mushroom seaweed weed yeast and vinegar, which gives it a more complex flavor profile.
PH Levels And Fish Sauce
As mentioned earlier, fish sauce is acidic. The pH levels of fish sauce vary depending on the production process and ingredients used. In a study analyzing the chemical properties of commercial fish sauce products from Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, China, the Philippines, and Italy, the pH levels of the analyzed products were measured using a pH meter.
The pH levels of fish sauce ranged from 4.6 to 6.9, with an average pH of 5.7. This indicates that most fish sauces are acidic in nature. The acidity of fish sauce is due to the presence of organic acids such as lactic acid and acetic acid, which are produced during the fermentation process.
It is important to note that the pH levels of fish sauce can also affect the growth of microorganisms during the fermentation process. In one study, it was found that a pH of 2 was optimal for pepsin activity during fish sauce processing, while a salt concentration of 15% was suitable for preventing the growth of putrefactive bacteria.
Commercial Fish Sauce Products And PH
In the data article mentioned above, pH was measured using a pH meter for all the analyzed fish sauce products. The results showed that fish sauce is indeed acidic with a pH value ranging from 4.5 to 6.5. This is due to the presence of organic acids such as lactic acid, acetic acid, and succinic acid, which are produced during the fermentation process.
The acidity of fish sauce is an important factor in determining its taste and flavor. It provides a tangy and sour taste that enhances the overall flavor of the dish. However, excessive acidity can also lead to a sharp and unpleasant taste.
It is worth noting that the pH value of fish sauce may vary depending on the type of fish used, the fermentation process, and the addition of other ingredients such as sugar or vinegar. Therefore, it is important to check the pH value of fish sauce before using it in a recipe to ensure that it complements the other ingredients and does not overpower them.
Regional Differences In Fish Sauce Production
Fish sauce is a staple seasoning in East and Southeast Asian cuisine, and its production varies greatly by region. In the Philippines, fish sauce is made from round scad and is not graded according to fermentation and extraction, but rather by brand. The manufacturing process appears to be less fastidious than in Vietnam and Thailand, resulting in a lack of distinction in both grade and flavor. In contrast, Thai fish sauce is made from anchovies, salt, and sugar, and possesses an intense fishy flavor with green, fruity, floral, and cheesy/acidic notes. Vietnamese fish sauce is also made from fish, salt, and sugar but is the most cheesy and acidic one. Chinese fish sauce has additional green/fatty undertones due to ingredients like shrimp, fish, and salt. South Korean fish sauce is made from sand lance, krill, and salt and has a nuttiness provided by benzaldehyde—a typical volatile for almond—with some malty notes. Finally, Japanese fish sauce is made from dried bonito, salt, soy sauce, sugar, sweet rice wine mushroom seaweed weed yeast and vinegar. The composition is much more complex offering a wildly diverse aroma with no fishy notes palpable due to the intricate mixture. Instead the Japanese sauce is the most fruity and floral with intense roasted and woody undertones coming from soy sauce and dried tuna.
Health Implications Of Fish Sauce PH
The pH level of fish sauce has health implications that are important to consider. As mentioned earlier, fish sauce is acidic, which means that consuming it in excess can lead to health problems such as acid reflux and GERD. These conditions can cause discomfort and pain in the digestive system, making it difficult to eat and enjoy food.
It’s important to note that the pH level of fish sauce can vary depending on its origin and how it’s processed. For example, the Thai fish sauce is highly acidic and has an intense fishy flavor due to its ingredients and fermentation process. On the other hand, the Japanese fish sauce has a more complex composition, offering a diverse aroma with no fishy notes. However, it still has an acidic pH level.
While fish is a highly nutritious food loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, consuming fish sauce in excess can lead to a high intake of sodium, which can raise blood pressure and lead to health complications such as heart disease.
To avoid these health implications, it’s important to consume fish sauce in moderation and choose options that are lower in sodium. Additionally, individuals with acid reflux or GERD should avoid consuming highly acidic foods, including fish sauce, to prevent discomfort and pain.