A good Brussels sprout recipe is hard to come by. Boiled with lemon and salt, roasted with bacon and nuts. No… A la Uchi and Sakaya is the way you should be making these guys. This recipe has literally been years in the making ever since I first had Sakaya Kitchen’s Brussels sprouts at their food truck, Dim Ssam a go-go, in Miami. I was hooked, and I’ve been attempting to duplicate the recipe ever since. And, while I had gotten pretty close, it wasn’t until eating at chef Tyson Cole’s restaurant Uchi, having their Brussels, and asking around, that I finally figured out what I was missing: fish caramel!
Fish caramel is just a reduction of fish sauce and some other key ingredients that gives these Brussels the sweet, spicey, umami flavor that I had been searching for. Now, while I can’t be sure that Sakaya makes theirs the same way as Uchi, I would guess that given the similarities between the two, they’re pretty darn close!
I’d also like to point out that the fish caramel recipe in the Uchi cookbook contains 1 cup of white sugar to aid in the caramelization, which is how I made this recipe originally, but I see no reason why, given that the water/sugar combination is to create simple syrup, it couldn’t be substituted with agave nectar and a little added water. Here, I have left the recipe in its original form (sort of) and also included additional, optional ingredients that I had found to be part of the fish caramel recipe prior to buying the Uchi cookbook. These may enhance the flavor or they may not. It’s up to you…
Thank you to Ryan, Kristy, and Derek for being my sous chefs last night and helping make cinco de mayo a blast!
- stainless steel sauce pan
- fine mesh strainer
- cooking utensils
(all should be roughly chopped)
- 2 TBSP fat (I used duck)
- 1 stalk lemongrass, mashed with the back of a knife
- 1 whole head of garlic, above 12 cloves
- 1 large shallot
- 3 thai chilis
- large knob of ginger, about 1/4 cup, peeled
- 1 cup fish sauce (I prefer Squid brand or Three crabs)
- 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar (sub 1 cup agave nectar and add 1/2 cup water)
- optional: 1 medium onion
- optional: 1 handful of mint
- optional: 1 handful of basil
- optional: 1 handful of cilantro
- Take all ingredients except the fish sauce, sugar, and water, and put them in a saucepan over medium low heat. I recommended stainless steel because it will let a fond develop whereas non-stick will not.
- Allow the ingredients to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Do not be tempted to turn up the heat, caramelization takes time. Feel free to stir as necessary.
- Once the shallots and garlic have caramelized, deglaze the pan with the fish sauce. This means pouring it in, grabbing a utensil and using it to break up the caramelized bits at the bottom of the pan until they’re incorporated into the sauce.
- Add the sugar and water, and turn the heat up until the sauce begins to boil.
- Reduce by half until syrupy, 20 – 30 minutes.
- Strain and cool.
- 2 lbs Brussels sprouts, washed, dried, bottom part cut off and halved
- 1/4 cup fish caramel
- 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce or sambal
- fresh grated ginger to taste
- lemon juice to taste
You have two options to cook the Brussels sprouts, flash frying, which is what Sakaya and Uchi both do, or broiling. Either one works fine, but the flash frying will make them a little crispier. If you’re flash frying, turn the heat up as hot as possible and use grapeseed oil. Fry until the outside is crispy. Otherwise, place the Brussels cut side up on a baking sheet and broil until the outside is crispy. I like them to be a little bit charred.
Toss with fish caramel and sweet chili sauce/sambal, grate fresh ginger on top, and squeeze a lemon.
Ingredients for the fish caramel
The easiest way to peel ginger is with the edge of a spoon.
You can see a nice fond developing in the bottom of the pan here.
Straining will yield about 1 cup of fish caramel