Does Your Kimchi Taste Fishy? Causes and Fixes

If your kimchi tastes fishy, it may be due to several factors. First, check the ingredients list to see if the fish sauce was used in the recipe. If so, this may be the cause of the fishy flavor. Kimchi that has been fermented for too long can also develop a fishy taste. If your kimchi is more than a few months old, it may be best to discard it.

What to do if your kimchi tastes too fishy?

Fishy kimchi can be prevented with ease, but if your kimchi is already too fishy, there are really only two things you can do.

Let it ferment for longer.

Usually, the unpleasant fishy flavor and smell will dissipate over time as fermentation progresses. So it could be worth it to try to let your kimchi ferment for a few additional days at room temperature.

Add some more veggies to bulk up your kimchi and balance the flavor.

You can add more neutral-tasting vegetables, such as napa cabbage, carrots and radish. This should reduce the fishiness significantly.

Does every type of kimchi have fish sauce? Is it crucial?

No, not all kimchi recipes include fish sauce. However, many do use it as it is a key ingredient. Needless to say, you can still get the authentic kimchi flavor without using any fishy ingredients at all.

How is fish sauce for kimchi made, and what does it taste like?

Fish sauce is often used as a seasoning or dipping sauce in many Asian cuisines. It is made from fermented fish and has a strong, umami and salty flavor. It is used as a seasoning in many Asian cuisines and can be found in the aisle of most supermarkets. Most fish sauces use a type of anchovy extract. Anchovy extract is made by grinding up anchovies and salt and then fermenting them for a period of time. The fermentation process breaks down the fish proteins into amino acids, which are responsible for the umami flavor.

Thai fish sauce vs Korean fish sauce

Thai fish sauce is made from anchovies, salt and water. It has a strong, salty flavor with a slightly sweet taste. Korean fish sauce is also made from anchovies, but often also includes other ingredients such as ginger, garlic, onion and peppers. It has a complex flavor that is salty, sweet, sour, and spicy all at the same time. Thai fish sauce tends to smell and taste a lot fishier than its Korean counterpart.

Substitutes for fish sauce

It goes without saying, that fish sauce is quite a bizarre ingredient, that is highly processed, contains an absurd amount of salt and is actually not needed to make kimchi.

If you are concerned about the fishy taste or the questionable manufacturing process of fish sauce, you can always omit the fish sauce from the recipe. Just be sure to use some other umami flavors to substitute the missing fish sauce. You can try adding some of the following:

  • Mushroom stock
  • Vegetable broth
  • Soy sauce
  • Seaweed (kombu, red seaweed or wakame)
  • A store-bought vegan fish sauce, such as Yondu Vegetable Umami

If you want to have some fun in the kitchen, you can also try making your own fish sauce. However, it is quite a lot of effort and requires a wide variety of ingredients.

This fish sauce requires a lot of labor, but is also incredibly creative. A lot of taste for a lot less salt!

How to know if kimchi is vegan or vegetarian?

If you make your own kimchi, it is incredibly easy to veganize any kimchi recipe. But what about store-bought kimchi? A breeze! Simply check the ingredients and ensure it does not contain any of the following, and you should be in the clear:

  • Any anchovy extract, fish sauce, or oyster sauce
  • Cane sugar, which is filtered using bone char
  • Shrimp paste
  • Octopus
  • Meat

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