Try This Ingredient If Your Stew Needs More Flavor

When made right, a stew is a symphony of textures, a medley of colors, its flavors exploding like the crescendo of a Bach concert in your mouth. Or, if you prefer, like when Beyoncé belts out, "I can feel your halo." When bland, a stew is nails on a chalkboard, or to quote Scarface, "Even if I were blind, desperate, starved and begging for it on a desert island, you'd be the last thing I'd ever" ... eat.

In other words, flavor is the name of the game. And, unfortunately, here's where things can get tricky. Most spices that you can add to your stew, you'll want to add at the very beginning, at the same time as you're searing your meat, or your onion and your garlic. Dried mushrooms do wonders for a stew's depth and flavor profile, but you can't add them as an afterthought, either (via Taste of Home). Garnishing an otherwise flavorless stew with fresh or minced herbs (think parsley or chives) can add a kind of superficial prettiness to it (via Eco Herb). But you won't create the true beauty that comes with complexity and depth. For depth, or the illusion of it, you'll need a true magician.

What to add if your stew needs a extra punch

We have two words for you: fish sauce. The Kitchn calls fish sauce "the unsung hero in your pantry." We call it Wonder Woman. A spoonful is all you'll need to wonderfully elevate the flavors already simmering in your stew, transforming it into the better version of itself. That's because fish sauce is an umami-bomb. "Treat it carefully, and it becomes a robust flavor booster, with no trace of fishiness remaining," writes Nick Kindelsperger of the Chicago Tribune.

Careful is key. You'll want to let your stew simmer for maybe half an hour after you add your fish sauce to it to ensure maximum flavor-boosting effect. And you'll want to experiment, says Bon Appetit. Take your time with it, add less than you might have, and then add just a little bit more, until you've found your sweet spot. Don't be scared. Celebrity chef David Chang uses fish sauce instead of parmesan cheese on his pasta. It's just that good.