Is Fish Sauce Alkaline? A Complete Guide

Are you a fan of East Asian or Southeast Asian cuisine? If so, you’ve likely encountered fish sauce – a staple seasoning that adds a savory umami flavor to dishes.

But have you ever wondered if fish sauce is alkaline or acidic?

In this article, we’ll explore the pH levels of fish sauce and how it affects your body. We’ll also delve into the production process of fish sauce and how it’s used in cooking.

So, let’s dive in and discover the truth about fish sauce!

Is Fish Sauce Alkaline?

Fish sauce is a liquid condiment made from fish or krill that have been coated in salt and fermented for up to two years. Due to its ability to add a savory umami flavor to dishes, it has been embraced globally by chefs and home cooks. But is fish sauce alkaline or acidic?

When we eat food, it breaks down to 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; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Fish sauce is acidic due to its high salt content and fermentation process. The pH level of fish sauce ranges from 4.5 to 5.5, which is considered acidic on the pH scale.

The PH Levels Of Fish Sauce

To determine the pH levels of fish sauce, a study was conducted on 46 commercially available fish sauce products from Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, China, the Philippines, and Italy. The products were analyzed in triplicate, and the pH was measured using a pH meter. The results showed that the pH level of fish sauce ranged from 4.5 to 5.5, which is considered acidic on the pH scale.

It’s important to note that fish itself is only mildly acidic, with a pH ranging between 5.3-6.5. However, fish sauce is much more acidic due to its fermentation process and high salt content. While this may raise concerns for those following a low-acid diet, it’s worth noting that fish sauce can still be enjoyed in moderation as a flavorful condiment.

The Impact Of Fish Sauce On Your Body’s PH Balance

Although fish sauce is acidic, it does not have a significant impact on your body’s pH balance. The body tightly regulates its pH balance through various mechanisms that involve multiple organs, such as the kidneys and lungs. While your diet may affect the pH of your urine, research generally suggests that consuming acidic or alkaline foods is unlikely to have a significant impact on the pH level of your blood.

Furthermore, fish sauce contains glutamate, an amino acid that has been linked to improved cardiovascular health. One tablespoon of fish sauce contains about 600 mg of sodium, which is less than a third of the maximum recommended daily limit of 2000 mg. Studies have suggested that consuming high amounts of sodium can cause an increase in blood pressure, but that is not the case with fish sauce. In fact, several studies have shown that eating fish sauce can have a positive effect on blood pressure, providing that it is consumed in moderation.

The Production Process Of Fish Sauce

The production process of fish sauce involves mixing raw fish or krill with coarse salt and fermenting it in large wooden vats for a period of six to eight months. During this time, the mixture is distilled five times before being transferred into jars and sun-fermented for the final 2-3 months. This process results in the breakdown of proteins in the fish or krill, which produces an umami flavor and aroma.

Traditionally, fish sauce is made by mixing raw fish with salt and putting it in a tank or container for more than 24 months. The juice produced by the decomposition of fish protein is then filtered to obtain the fish sauce.

However, an improved process has been developed that produces fish sauce with desirable qualities in about two months instead of the traditional 10 to 12 months. This process involves heating and aeration, which can lead to problems such as loss of volume and contamination with molds and bacteria. These issues have been resolved by day-to-day monitoring of fish sauce levels, replenishment with plain tap water when necessary, and installing cotton filters at the intake end of the pumps.

In Southeast Asia, fish sauce is widely used as a condiment and a sauce. It is an important foodstuff for Koreans and Southeast Asians, and is also used as a staple material in making kimchi. Fish sauce is rich in calcium, making it a good nutritional source. Despite its acidic nature, it is still widely used due to its unique flavor and aroma that adds depth to dishes.

The Role Of Fish Sauce In Cooking And Cuisine

Fish sauce is a staple seasoning in East Asian cuisine and Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly in countries like Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. It is used as a seasoning during or after cooking and as a base in dipping sauces. Fish sauce is a “great pantry staple” that can be “used in a surprising number of foods,” according to experts. It’s perfect in “anything that’s missing something, whenever you want to add flavor beyond just adding salt, or just want to pump up the umami in a dish.”

Fish sauce is a versatile ingredient that can be used in a range of dishes such as stir-fries, marinades, curries, soups, and even pasta sauces. It is especially useful in dishes that require a savory depth of flavor or umami taste. Fish sauce can also be used to replace salt in recipes, as it provides a salty taste along with its umami flavor.

Fish sauce is not only limited to Asian cuisine but can also be used in Western dishes. For example, it can be added to Bolognese sauce and lasagna to enhance their umami flavor. It can also be used as a secret ingredient in meatloaf or meatballs for an extra savory kick.

In addition to its use in cooking, fish sauce is also commonly used as a dipping sauce for various dishes such as spring rolls, grilled meats, and vegetables. It can be mixed with other ingredients like lime juice, chili peppers, garlic, and sugar to create a delicious dipping sauce that complements the flavors of the dish.

Alternatives To Fish Sauce For Those With Dietary Restrictions

For those with dietary restrictions, finding a substitute for fish sauce can be challenging. Luckily, there are several alternatives that can be used in place of fish sauce without compromising on taste.

One of the best substitutes for fish sauce is Worcestershire sauce. It has a similar sweet and salty flavor and can be used in a 1:1 ratio to replace fish sauce. It is also lower in sodium, making it a great option for those following a low-sodium meal plan.

Soy sauce is another common substitute for fish sauce, especially in vegan cuisine. It can be used in a 1:1 ratio, but some recommend adding a splash of vinegar to achieve a more balanced flavor. However, it’s important to note that soy sauce may not be gluten-free and can vary greatly in flavor depending on the type and country of origin.

Oyster sauce is also a good substitute for fish sauce, but it has a sweeter flavor and thicker consistency. To achieve a similar consistency to fish sauce, simply add some water to thin it out. Use oyster sauce in a 1:1 ratio to replace fish sauce.

Finally, for those who want to avoid all animal products, a savory mushroom and soy sauce broth can be used as a substitute for fish sauce. Simply simmer dried shiitake mushrooms and soy sauce in water for 15 minutes, strain it into a bowl, and use it as a 2-to-1 substitute for fish sauce.