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Take a bunch of sardines, chop 'em up heads and all, rub salt all over everything, cover with water and let it sit out for three months. Gross right? Wrong. Say hello to fish sauce, the backbone of Southeast Asian cuisine. This condiment is widely used in some of my favorite foods. Adding a little bit to vinaigrette develops a whole new flavor of sweet, briny and umami. This is a pretty classic kale salad, except I grilled the dino kale to add some char and soften it slightly. Take this to party and impress your grill master friends. Eat it on its own or crumble BBQ salmon on it and call it a proper dinner. I know I did.

How do you judge fish sauce? Look for "Vietnamese style" that is light amber color and the words nhi or thuong hang on the label. I like Thai Kitchen's or Viet Huong’s "Three Crab" brand for its consistently delicate flavor, aroma and color.

Vietnamese BBQ Kale Salad Ingredients 1 bunch of dino kale 2 cups of arugula 3 carrots peeled and sliced 20-25 cherry tomatoes sliced 1 large avocado sliced 20-25 shitake mushrooms sliced 2 tbs chopped cilantro 6 cloves of garlic 3 inches of ginger (equal amounts to garlic) 4 tbs coconut oil

Salad Dressing 1 tsp garlic 1 tsp ginger 1 tbs chili garlic sauce 1 tbs fish sauce 1/3 cup white wine vinegar 1/3 cup melted coconut oil 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil pinch of salt & pepper

DIRECTIONS Preheat your grill to high. Wash and thoroughly dry the kale. Lightly oil, then salt and pepper the kale. Spread on grill. Char one side lightly, and then remove. Trim the tough bottoms of the stems. Coarsely chop the kale and add with arugula. In a large pan, head the 4tbs of coconut oil to med high. Add the sliced shitakes, and leave them alone till they’ve properly browned. Lower to medium-low and add the garlic and ginger (reserving 1 tsp of each for the dressing). Cook until tender.

For the dressing: Mix the reserved garlic, ginger with the chili garlic sauce, fish sauce and vinegar. Then drizzle in the coconut oil while whisking vigorously, then repeat with the olive oil. Check for taste.

Toss the greens with the carrots, cherry tomatoes, shitakes, and cilantro. Add dressing to the salad. Garnish with avocado.

The Skinny

Did you know that fish sauce is a fermented and probiotic rich food? It's true! It's made with salt brine and fermented for several months, giving time to culture the lactobacillus bacteria that is so beneficial for your gut health. Fish sauce is full of the vital nutrients and minerals contained in fish and fish organs, and is enhanced by fermentation. This includes iodine and other substances that nourish the thyroid, and vitamins A and D.

While it must be noted that fish sauces is extremely high in sodium, used sparingly it can be a very healthful substitute for soy.

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