Whether stir frying or making curry paste, sauces matter when cooking your favorite asian recipes! But what can you substitute for fish sauce and shrimp paste if you’re cooking for someone who can’t have them?
If it’s your first time here, welcome to Courageous Kitchen. In our cooking classes in Bangkok, we specialize in helping guests cook their favorite Thai dishes. One of our biggest duties is helping everyone to work around any dietary restrictions they may have. Here are a few of the questions we hear most often, but if you have more, please let us know.
Does vegan fish sauce exist?
Yes, it’s called soy sauce! Soy sauce is amazing and comes in several brands and varieties. You may need to experiment some to find the ones you enjoy best, and expect brands from different countries to vary widely.
What’s the difference between light and dark soy sauce?
Light soy sauce usually refers to the most common type of soy sauce which has a thin consistency. Dark soy sauce is darker, thicker and pretty much its own beast.
Typically dark soy sauce is cloying and has a bitter after taste. Although we refer to it as ‘soy sauce’ it is mostly made of molasses. Typically to make it thick some sort of wheat flour is added which makes finding a gluten free version tough.
Is there a soy free alternative to soy sauce?
Your best soy free alternative would be using a high quality salt.
We also see coconut aminos recommended, but haven’t found them to be widely available.
Are there gluten free soy sauce options?
We are also starting to see more gluten free version of soy sauce become available. We have spotted Megachef with gluten free packaging in the US, and even in Thailand brands like the Healthy Boy Brand. With all of these purchases, be sure to check the labels. The Megachef brand is gluten free and made from non GMO soy beans. However, the gluten free Healthy Boy Brand sauce does not include wheat flour of course, but MSG (mono sodium glutamate) is included among the ingredients.
Is there a vegan alternative to shrimp paste?
If you’re buying curry paste or making your own, you may often find shrimp paste included as an ingredient. One way to replace that salty and umami taste that shrimp paste adds is to substitute in fermented soy paste or miso.
Also we are starting to see some vegetarian shrimp paste alternatives come to the market, but have not seen them widely available.
What are the best curry pastes for people with dietary restrictions?
There are so many curry pastes available on the market, so this is difficult to make a recommendation. If you can find it, we do recommend the WorldFoods Brand of curry pastes because they’re available around the world and have more than just green and red curry options. They typically meet most dietary restrictions as well, including being MSG-free, gluten free, and certified halal. However, our best suggestion is to always check the ingredients listed on the packet you find.
Of course, making your own curry paste is always the best option if you have time. Not only can you dictate which ingredients to use, we believe you’ll find a noticeable difference in the taste from the fresh spices.
What other vegan seasoning do you recommend?
We love using liquid aminos, liquid smoke, and nutritional yeast to create the meat free variations of our favorite asian and western dishes. If you stir fry often, remember you can create a premade vegan stir fry sauce to cut down on your prep time in the kitchen.
If you cook vegan food often you also always want to have great spices on hand. This means keeping your favorite fragrant dry spices like different types of pepper, star anise, and cinnamon. You’re well served to have fresh herbs like lemongrass, ginger, garlic, and shallots as well.
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