Fish sauce is commonplace in East Asian cooking. If you enjoy Chinese, Thai or Vietnamese cuisine then there’s a good chance you’ll have tried or at least come across fish sauce.
Nowadays the sauce is used worldwide and is widely available in supermarkets as well as specialist Asian cooking shops. But if you intend to eat out at an East Asian restaurant, order takeout or even cook with it yourself, you may be wondering if it is gluten free.
Here’s our full breakdown on everything you need to know about fish sauce, gluten and whether fish sauce is gluten free or not.
What is Fish Sauce Made From?
For those of you wondering what exactly fish sauce is, look no further.
Fish sauce is a staple of East Asian cooking and is made using fermented fish or krill. Fish is coated in salt and fermented for as long as two years to produce a dark brown liquid. It is used as a seasoning and as a base for sauces.
Modern day fish sauce is usually made from just two ingredients: fish and salt. The fish usedvaries with everything from anchovies, prawns and mackerel. As long as the fish has a strong flavour and is high in oil it can be used to produce fish sauce. Herbs and spices are sometimes added to variations of fish sauce for extra flavour.
Other ingredients are sometimes added to improve the appearance and taste. These include caramel, roasted rice and molasses. Occasionally mass-produced fish sauce is watered down.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is an encompassing term for a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and other grains.Within gluten there are two primary types of protein – gliadin and glutenin.
Gliadin is a class of protein present in wheat and other grains. This is actually what allows bread to rise in the oven.
Glutenin is a protein existing in wheat flour. Without going in too deep, glutenin is what gives dough its stretchy properties.
How to Know if Something Contains Gluten
It’s well known that foods like bread and pasta contain gluten and should be avoided if you’re intolerant or on a gluten free diet.
However, there are plenty of other foods that are not so obvious, and you might want to check before consuming.
Allergy information has come a long way in recent years, and you will likely be able to find out if a particular food contains gluten simply by checking the packaging. A lot of food packaging will clearly display if it is gluten free. If the packaging says nothing of the sort, then there is no harm in double checking online.
If a particular food happens to have gluten, rest assured, there are plenty of gluten free alternatives for whatever it is you are after.
From gluten free bread to gluten free pasta and everything in between, you will be able to find something to satisfy your needs.
Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet
First and foremost, there are those with a gluten allergy who need to avoid gluten for obvious reasons. Luckily for those people, most food packaging comes with gluten allergy advice printed on the label.
However, there are other reasons to avoid gluten besides intolerance. Cutting gluten out of your diet can facilitate weight loss. This is obviously a big motivator for many.
Another benefit of avoiding gluten is the fact that you will check labels carefully as a result. This will allow you to be more informed about what you are eating and improve your diet as a result.
Is Fish Sauce Gluten Free?
Fish sauce has a savoury umami flavour which gives it its recognisable taste. This umami flavour comes from its glutamate content. Glutamate is an amino acid and not to be confused with glucose.
So, is fish sauce gluten free? The answer is sometimes.
Although many fish sauces do not contain gluten, there are those which contain wheat extracts, so it’s important to check the label or to ask in a restaurant just to be safe.
There are plenty of gluten free fish sauces which are commonly used in Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. Two examples of brands that make gluten free fish sauce are Golden Boy and Squid Brand.
If you’re allergic to gluten or are on a gluten free diet the most important thing is always to check the label. The majority of fish sauce is unlikely to contain gluten but it’s best to always make sure. This isn’t an ingredient you can just assume to be gluten free, so do yourself a flavor and make sure…see what we did there?