This 3-Ingredient Marinade Works for Meat, Fish, and Veg

Bon Appétit

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The beauty of a good marinade is that it requires very little of you. It will forgive you for leaving it alone in the fridge—mingling with some veggies or tofu or meat that it only just met and now has to literally become one with. And despite all of that neglect, it will still come through and reward you with the kinds of rich, umami flavors that can only be won with time. I’m in a season of life where this is the cooking approach I need: flavorful and mindless.

If this sounds like you too, you’ll want to know this: I stumbled across an excellent marinade recipe in Lara Lee’s newest cookbook, A Splash of Soy. Fish sauce and soy sauce are the power players, permeating whatever you’re marinating with their unabashed funky, salty notes. And a good pinch of sugar helps everything caramelize in a pan or the oven. It “sings from the Thai song sheet of flavor profiles,” says Lee. Like me, she grew up in Australia, where we allegedly enjoy more Thai restaurants per capita than any other country outside of Thailand.

A Splash of Soy: Everyday Food from Asia

Lee’s marinade is part of her seua rong hai recipe, which translates to “crying tiger” in English. It’s marinated and grilled beef served with a smoky, piquant dipping sauce. The balance of flavors in the marinade “amplify the joy of a good, juicy steak,” says Lee. But luckily for pescetarians like me, it also works with any protein or meaty vegetable—from mushrooms and eggplant cubes to shrimp and tofu hunks.

Here’s how to make the marinade:

Mix three parts soy sauce, three parts fish sauce, and one part coconut or brown sugar in a bowl. (For reference, that could shake out to 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. fish sauce, 1 tsp. sugar—and can scale up infinitely from there.) Transfer your chopped veggie or protein of choice into a sealable container and cover it in the marinade. Leave the mixture to sit for at least 15 minutes—though I think refrigerating overnight is worth the wait. Once you’re ready to cook, heat a large, oiled frying pan and sear until caramelized on all sides.

I love eating marinated shiitakes with fluffy white rice, a boiled egg, and a crumble of roasted seaweed. Instead of sautéing marinated tofu, I coat the cubes in oil and cornstarch and toss them into my air fryer until they’re audibly crunchy. And once I’m finally out of my flop era, I have dreams of food processing marinated shrimp into patties, with egg and panko, and pan frying them for Thai-style burgers. Whenever I’m ready, my sweet-salty marinade will be there—asking nothing, giving everything.

Recipe adapted from A Splash of Soy: Everyday Food from Asia. Copyright © 2023 Lara Lee. Photography © 2023 Louise Hagger. Adapted with permission of Bloomsbury.

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Author:Ali Francis |