© Copyright 1995-2017, Clay Irving <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Manhattan Beach, CA USA
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Recipe from: The Foods of Vietnam by Nicole Rauthier. Stewart, Tabori and Chang. 1989.
Servings: 1/3 cup.
⅓ cup sugar
¼ cup nước mắm (fish sauce)
4 shallots, thinly sliced
freshly ground pepper
Thought your reference to cooking sugar syrup to "caramelize" it was interesting. It reminded me of a sauce that's used in Vietnamese cuisine. It's used in a variety of recipes and turns out to be the "secret" ingredient that gives barbecued Vietnamese stuff that unique taste when used as a marinade for strips of beef, chicken or pork. I use it in Satay recipes. The result is a subtle, delicious taste.
It also gives a nice glazed finish to stuff. Its use shouldn't be limited to Asian cuisine. In fact, I suspect that this is originally a French influence...
"...the only rule to remember is to turn off the smoke alarm and open all the windows, as the sauce will smoke heavily, with a pungent smell. Cook the sugar in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, swirling the pan constantly, until brown. It will smoke slightly. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and stir the fish sauce into the caramel, being careful to guard against splattering (the mixture will bubble vigorously).
Return the mixture to low heat and gently boil, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 3 minutes. Add the shallots and ground pepper to taste; stir to combine. Use in recipes where required.
Note: Cool this sauce thoroughly before using. If cold food is added to a caramel sauce that is hot, the sugar will harden instantly and you'll end up with a dish full of candy chips.