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Fish Sauce Recipe Disaster: Sticky Thai Chicken

What the heck is Fish Sauce?!

Has anyone ever cooked with fish sauce? I mean who really goes in the grocery store and says "Hey! I forgot to get the Fish Sauce!" NO ONE! I had no idea that fish sauce even existed. It wasn’t until I sent my husband to the grocery store for tarter sauce and he brought back Fish Sauce. Yeah, we know what they say about sending men to the grocery store….I didn’t listen.


So now instead of tartar sauce, I have fish sauce. I didn't get angry...ok I lied. I was a little upset but I love trying new recipes. Rather than panic, I took out my phone and pulled up the mall of recipes, Pinterest. I typed in the search bar “recipes with fish sauce”.

Shockingly the first recipe was for chicken. Chicken! Using Fish Sauce! It was unexpected to find a chicken recipe but I was excited because I had most of the ingredients needed for the recipe. Which also meant that there was no need for any extra trips to the grocery store. I really did not feel like gearing up for war against COVID just to go to the grocery store. I would have to do a few substitutions, but nothing too major.

Sticky Thai Chicken Recipe

9 ingredients


  • 8 Chicken thighs, skin on, bone-in


  • 1/4 cup Cilantro

  • 1 tbsp Ginger


  • 1/4 cup Fish sauce

  • 1/4 cup Soy sauce

Baking & Spices

  • 1/4 cup Brown sugar

  • 1 tsp Red pepper flakes

  • 1 Salt and pepper

Oils & Vinegar

  • 1 Cooking spray


8 chicken thighs ✔

¼ cup cilantro ✔Nope! It was just for garnishment anyway.

1 tsp Ginger ✔Ummm I have ground ginger

¼ cup Fish sauce ✔Yep, unfortunately.

¼ cup soy sauce ✔I have that!

¼ cup brown sugar ✔I always have that!

1 tsp red peppers ✔Stocked up on that but I will use less than a teaspoon. (I'm not a fan of really spicy foods).

1 salt and pepper ✔I can’t cook without them.

1 cooking spray ✔I don’t have spray but I have olive oil. It shouldn’t hurt.

Let’s get Cooking

I wasn't sure if my husband and daughter would like my new dish, so I made a 2nd batch of chicken using only brown sugar, soy sauce, and minced garlic.


1. Preheat the oven to 425. Optional - spray oven-proof skillet with cooking spray.

2. Trim off excess fat and skin from the thighs. Pat dry and season on both sides with salt and pepper. Place in the skillet.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the red pepper flakes, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, and grated ginger. Pour over the chicken and turn the chicken to coat.

4. Place the skillet in the oven and roast skin side down for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken over and roast for 15 more minutes.

5. Optional - for more color and caramelization you can broil the chicken for 2-5 minutes, but do not walk away!

6. Serve garnished with cilantro.

The oven has been preheated to 425. It seemed pretty high to me but the instructions used the word “roast” so I assumed that was the reason.

The oven has been preheated to 425. It seemed pretty high to me but the instructions used the word “roast” so I assumed that was the reason.

The Skillet

My grandfather gave me a seasoned cast iron skillet that has been in our family for many years. When I saw that the recipe required a cast iron skillet I was super excited. It always makes me feel connected to my grandmother when I cook with it. Like I know what I'm doing; you know what I mean. I pulled out a glass pan for the “regular” batch of chicken thighs without the fish sauce and red peppers.

How it Started

I preheated my oven to 425 degrees. I cleaned, trimmed, and patted the chicken thighs dry.

The red peppers, brown sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, and ground ginger were mixed in a bowl.

The recipe advised having the skin side down so I poured the sauce over the side with the skin first. Then I flipped the chicken over and poured the sauce over the opposite side.

Everything looks good. Looks like I'm following directions correctly but there was just one thing that was bothering me. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by this because the bottle says “FISH SAUCE”. But the chicken smelled like fish!! I was concerned. All I could do at this point was put the chicken in the oven and pray for the best. So in the oven, the chicken went.


The sauce on the chicken was bubbling so beautifully and everything was looking good.

Aside from the fish smell, the scent that was coming from the oven had me in my super mom stance. You know that stand where your fists are closed and they are planted perfectly on your hips because you have accomplished the impossible.

The Finale

It was time for the finale! I put my oven mitts on, took both pans out, and turned the oven off. My skillet had done the job once again! The chicken was cooked to perfection.

But the ultimate test was not how the chicken looked. It was time to see how Sticky Thai Chicken tasted. So I cut off a piece of chicken thigh and confidently put it in my mouth.

The Verdict

Never in my life had I tasted a fishy spicy chicken, and that’s exactly what I had. It was not appealing AT ALL!

I guess I just like my chicken to taste like chicken and my fish to taste like fish! Needless to say, the fish sauce has found a new home in the trash!

I laugh to myself because my husband will taste just about anything that I cook. Bless his little heart.

Thankfully I had my sweet and savory chicken thighs that I cooked in just in case.

In conclusion, the recipe is good but I am not a fan of the fish sauce. I recommend omitting that one ingredient and your chicken will be flavorful and delicious. And not fishy!

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