The Bloody Maria at El Big Bad downtown. Photos by Mai Pham.

Vietnamese cooks have long been familiar with salty, pungent fish sauce, or nuoc mam, which is made of fermented fish (primarily anchovies) and used to flavor everything from pho and French vinaigrette to caramelized pork spareribs. But here in Houston, the salty-sweet sauce is now everywhere, with local chefs incorporating it into all sorts of unexpected dishes—just one more way our city’s vibrant Vietnamese community is influencing our modern cuisine. –Mai Pham

El Big Bad

The Maria (pictured above) is a Jerk cocktail with beef jerky–infused tequila and fish sauce–infused house-made tomato juice, finished with atomizer spray of bourbon barrel–aged fish sauce 

Triniti

Chef de cuisine Greg Lowry cooks up deep-fried veal sweetbread nuggets in fish sauce–based Thai chile sauce with miso butterscotch. 

Del Frisco’s Grille

Chef Jeff Taylor created a Vietnamese-inspired banh mi burger with french fries tossed in fish sauce, malt vinegar, and sesame oil. 

Jonathan’s the Rub

Chef Jonathan Levine tosses together a dish of Seafood Fra Diavolo, with fish sauce as the secret ingredient.

Reef

Chef Bryan Caswell offers a fried strawberry dessert with coriander biscuit topped with coulis of strawberry, sorghum, chili, black pepper, and fish sauce.

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