Fish sauce starts out as tiny fish and ends up as a beautifully complex, fishy, briny, savory, funky sauce with just a touch of sweetness. If you don’t have a bottle in your kitchen, you’re missing out! It’s most commonly recognized as a facet of Southeast Asian cooking, though other cultures feature it, too.

What’s the best way to work with fish sauce? It’s strong and salty, so a little bit goes a long way. We love it in soups, sauces, curries and more. Here are our favorite ways to feature it in our eats.

Basil Chicken, above. This recipe might seem very simple, but when shallots cook down with six whole cloves of garlic, pungent fish sauce, fragrant Thai basil and “kecap manis,” also known as “sweet soy sauce,” the dish synthesizes into a flavor powerhouse. Serve with rice or noodles.



(Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad. The fish sauce here features in the dipping sauce for this simultaneously light and filling noodle salad. It’s a version of the classic Vietnamese sauce Nuoc Cham, a powerfully flavorful addition to any meal.



(Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Caramel-Cooked Cod. If you love — and we mean love — fish sauce, this recipe is for you. A whole half cup goes into the caramel sauce for this gently cooked cod. Yes, caramel can be savory.



(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post)

Thai Red Curry Pork. What a wonderfully cozy, saucy dish for chilly days! You can find red Thai chili paste at most grocery stores easily, no need to stress about making you own. A little splash of fish sauce rounds out the flavors.



(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

Squash, Spinach and Coconut Soup With Ginger. This veggie-packed soup has some serious flavor from a healthy dose of spicy ginger, a glug of fish sauce, coconut milk and a Thai red chile pepper. Feel free to play around with the spice level to find what’s comfortable for you.



(Goran Kosanovic for The Washington Post)

Roasted Orange Salty Caramel Tofu. This showstopper of a tofu recipe uses a similar caramel sauce as the cod recipe does but relies on blood oranges as the citrus hit — resulting in a sweet-sour, gorgeously burnished effect.



(Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Sriracha-Roasted Cauliflower. Roasted cauliflower is a tried-and-true side, snack or addition to any rice bowl. This mix of sriracha, fish sauce and toasted sesame seeds — with a squeeze of lime — might make this your best cauliflower yet.



(Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

Pad Thai With Shrimp. Sometimes, you really just want to satisfy your takeout craving at home! This simple version of a classic pad thai is sure to please on the nights where you need to slurp up some noodles.



(Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)

Fresh Summer Peach Salad. I know it’s not summer right now. But! This salad is too good to keep off this list. Fish sauce and fresh, juicy summer fruit work so well together, especially with Thai basil and mint. For a more seasonally appropriate salad, try a Shredded Green Apple Salad With Fish Sauce + Cilantro to see apples in a new light.



(Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post; food styling by Bonnie S. Benwick/The Washington Post)

Stir-Fried Beef With Ginger and Scallions. You read that right: This recipe uses 6 ounces of ginger! Just under a half-pound! Its sharpness mellows out when cooked down with a bit of honey, and the whole dish comes together with a little fish sauce.

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