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Dashi vs Fish Sauce: What Are the Differences?

Is Dashi the Same as Fish Sauce?

Dashi is one of the indispensable ingredients for Japanese cuisine, and made mainly from kombu and dried bonito shavings. The deep taste of dashi is very delicate and contains umami ingredients. It will dramatically change the taste of the dish.

I think some people are wondering how to get this dashi stock when making Japanese dishes.
If you have fish sauce at home, you might think like…

Is Dashi the Same as Fish Sauce?

In conclusion, these two are completely different. If you substitute a fish sauce for dashi, it will definitely ruin the dish. You should be careful about that.

Here, I would like to explain each feature and difference.

Dashi

Material and how to make

Put a material rich in glutamic acid including kombu, bonito shavings, dried small sardines (niboshi), and dried shiitake mushrooms in water or hot water. Strain it to complete the soup stock.

Taste

The dashi itself doesn’t have much taste. The saltiness and sweetness are weak, but it has umami taste. This umami taste makes the food many times more delicious. By the way, many commercial products such as dashi granules have salt or sugar added.

Suitable dish

Miso soup, soup for noodle dishes (udon, soba, somen, etc), simmered dish, and dashi-rolled egg


Interested in learning more about Dashi?

What Is Japanese Dashi and How Is It Used?
10 Best Dashi Stock Substitutes

Fish Sauce

Material and how to make

Reddish brown/dark brown liquid made by fermenting the mixture of pickled fish and salt.
Fermentation proceeds by the action of autolysis and aerobic bacteria. The type of fish differ depending on the production area, for example, Japanese sandfish and sardines are often used.

Taste

Fish sauce has a unique fishy smell, and is very salty, much saltier than the regular soy sauce. In addition to the saltiness, it has a rich umami taste.
It is a seasoning that has a strong function of adding salt and umami to cooking.

Suitable dish

Fried rice, stir-fried dish, spaghetti sauce (Aglio e Olio), etc. If you put it in place of soy sauce, it will be too salty. Best to add just a little bit.
Even if you don’t like the unique fishy aroma, it will be mild if you use it for cooking with heating.

Did you know?

Fish sauce is often used in several cultural areas in the coastal areas of Southeast Asia.
Especially in Southeast Asia including Thailand, fish sauce is almost the only salty seasoning excluding salt, and used in so many dishes.
Thai fish sauce is called “nam pla”, and the fishy smell is even stronger than that of Japan.


In fact, the use of fish sauce in ordinary Japanese households is decreasing nowadays. I think it’s because soy sauce is more storable than fish sauce, furthermore, soy sauce has saltiness and flavor that are easy to use for various dishes.

Please check this page for overview of Fish Sauce
What Is Fish Sauce? and Different Types of Fish Sauce

Can You Use Fish Sauce Instead of Dashi?

Please check this page for the answer for this question.

Can You Use Fish Sauce Instead of Dashi?

Conclusion

Dashi: Soup containing only umami taste

Fish sauce: Very salty seasoning containing umami taste with fishy smell

Because fish sauce is much saltier than soy sauce, please be careful about the amount you use. Both are great ingredients that add amazing flavor and umami taste to your cooking!

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