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Which Fish Sauce to buy?

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 

Hey all,

 

Time to buy some more Fish Sauce. I LOVE the stuff! In France we used to buy "nước mắm", but around my neck of the woods here I seem to find more Thai stores than Vietnamese ones, so I usually buy "nam pla".

 

I remember reading something here about which one to buy - only I don't remember which one that was... anyone knows a good fish sauce, and what the differences between the different ones are? I think I remember that it's better to buy the lighter colored ones vs the dark colored one?

 

Also, do you keep it in the fridge, or in the pantry?

post #2 of 52

Three Crabs is a good reliable brand.

 

Look for this label  http://importfood.com/satc2401.html

post #3 of 52

I get nuoc mam, cuz that's the style I'm familiar with. Haven't noticed that brand differences seem to matter much.

 

It's probably against the rules, but I keep in in the pantry, just like soy sauce.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 52

MIne lives there too. No refrigeration required.

post #5 of 52

Brands I have used are Squid, Tiparos, and Three Crabs. Three Crabs is lighter and somewhat more delicate in flavor-good for dipping sauces and works fine for cooking. The other two are more heavy duty but also good and you can just dilute a little if too pungent in dipping sauce. I used to refrigerate but have had mine crystallize out the salt in the frig but not always. I think it is just like soy sauce and can be left out indefinitely due to the salt. I use this stuff in so many things, can substitute for anchovies in caesar salad dressing and really wakes up marinara sauce. Of course I use it mostly in SE Asian stuff but it is extremely versatile.

post #6 of 52
Thread Starter 

Great, thanks a lot - phatch, I've seen that one at the asian store, so I know I can find it! So far I've always kept mine in the pantry too, but some unknown reason I've gotten into the habit of keeping the soy sauce in the fridge! Not sure why.

 

What I remember is a discussion not so much about different brands, but different types of fish sauce, like type zzz and type xxx and type xxx was lighter colored and better tasting even though it was just about the same price. This is a bit confused in my mind at the moment and I can't seem to find the thread in question.

 

Anyway, thanks a lot for your help, I'm already one step closer.

post #7 of 52

Yeah, there is a term and I can't think of it now that indicates the first batch of liquid, nhi or something. After the first liquid is collected, salt and water are added agian to ferment a lower grade sauce.

post #8 of 52

Three Crabs is very good Thai style fish sauce.  Squid brand is very good Vietnamese style.  Three crabs is a little lighter and more delicate (to the extent that fish sauce can be delicate) while Squid brand has a little more body and oomph.   

 

Nuoc mam means "fish sauce" in Vietnamese, and nam pla means the same thing in Thai.  Any nuoc mam is nam pla.  They are one and the same thing.

 

BDL

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http://www.cookfoodgood.com
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What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
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post #9 of 52

Three Crabs is very good Thai style fish sauce.  Squid brand is very good Vietnamese style.

 

Just curious how "very good" is defined, in this context.

 

My current bottle just happens to be Three Crabs brand, and I haven't noticed that it's better nor worse than others I've tried.

 

Although made in Thailand, it's identified as Nuoc Mam NHI. So I'm wondering if 1. there is a difference between Nuoc Mam and Nam Pla? or 2. This product is designed for the export market (specifically to Viet Nam)? or 3. Some other reason for the labeling?

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #10 of 52

BDL> Yesreday you mentioned making a Ponzu.  I was in my local oriental grocery and found a Kikomman Ponzu Terriaki. Tried it and it amazed me that it was as good as it was. Taste  like orange , lime, lemon mixed Try it.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #11 of 52

Thanks Ed, we'll give it a try.  Linda and her sweet tooth really like teriyaki, so how can we go wrong?

 

BDL

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http://www.cookfoodgood.com
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What were we talking about?
 
http://www.cookfoodgood.com
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post #12 of 52
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post

Yeah, there is a term and I can't think of it now that indicates the first batch of liquid, nhi or something. After the first liquid is collected, salt and water are added agian to ferment a lower grade sauce.


Yeah that's what I was looking for but I can't remember either. Oh well - thanks!!

 

BDL, thanks for the extra info as well. Good to know nam pla and nuoc mam are one and the same. Always hard to pin down the exact meaning of those exotic names.

post #13 of 52

I recently acquired a tiny bottle of anchovy syrup (colatura) to prepare Linguine with Colatura , which appeared in the NYT back in 2003.  I have no experience with fish sauces of any kind and minimal experience with anchovies, but I was impressed with this stuff.  The problem is that it is pretty scarce and expensive, about $20 for 3 oz. or so PLUS shipping charges.

 

I was wondering if anyone has any idea how it compares with basic fish sauces?  I also wonder if anchovy paste could not be used similarly.  OTOH, the food people at the NYT are not fools and you'd hope that they wouldn't publish a recipe with such an exotic ingredient when there are equivalent products ready to hand.

 

(FWIW, I did not think this was a great dish, depending almost totally on the colatura for the "sauce."  But it is an amazing substance which gives instant -- with just a few drops --depth and richness to almost anything it touches.  But isn't this a general feature of anchovies in various forms?  And isn't this the purpose of fish sauces in general?)

post #14 of 52

There is a historic fish sauce of italy, it's name escapes me. Something like aquamen or so. Might be the colatura I don't remember.. It lost popularity shortly after Roman times

post #15 of 52

liquamen and garum are two fish sauces from ancient Roman times

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #16 of 52

Anchovy syrup isn't like any other syrup. From what I gather it is obtained from the runoff liquid when anchovies are being made. S therefore anchovy salt and water. And it is not cheap because it takes 5 months or more to make it. I used it once in a dressing for salad not because it called for it but it was in the storeroom for years and no one knew what to do with it... Look out it is very strong.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

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post #17 of 52

Look out it is very strong.

 

I found that out for sure when I made my Linguine with Colatura.  It especially packs an incredible salt punch.  I knew that going in but did not pull back on the salting (to taste like the sea) of my pasta water.  Big mistake...and I am a believer in well seasoned food.  I've been much more impressed adding a few drops to enrich the flavor of various other dishes than I was trying to use the Colatura as the principle foreground flavor.  I guess I'm going to have to buy some traditional Asian fish sauce to see how it compares.  I think the Colatura has that umami thing going on BIG TIME.

post #18 of 52

I use Golden Boy from Thailand. Light golden color, not too strong of an odor, a little sweet, a little bitter. Tiparos is also good -- a bit more assertiver flavor and aroma. Having said that, I like most of the fish sauces I've tasted.

post #19 of 52

Resurrecting this thread to give a plug to Red Boat 40°N fish sauce. Costs about 2x as much as 3  Crabs, but worth it. 

post #20 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post
 

Resurrecting this thread to give a plug to Red Boat 40°N fish sauce. Costs about 2x as much as 3  Crabs, but worth it.

Thumbs up with Red Boat. Best I have found so far.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #21 of 52

Out of curiosity what does fish sauce taste like, is it anything like worchestire sauce?  I have seen it in stores but never tried it.  Unfortunately I have health issues that make me reluctant to try new foods.

post #22 of 52

The general story told for the development of Worcestershire sauce is that it was an attempt to recreate the Fish Sauce the Brits had been exposed to in their occupation of India and environs. 

 

Worcestershire has some sourness and other flavors that Fish Sauce lacks. Fish sauce packs more savory punch and saltiness. A fish sauce with a high °N can have some parmesan notes in the finish, an artifact of fermented protiens.  Tasting Fish Sauce straight is not pleasant for most people and is best tried out in other dishes. Nuoc cham is my preferred method for comparing fish sauce. 

post #23 of 52

BTW: there's a lot of Garum making in Italy still today and other parts of Europe. In fact, one of my friend's mother (from Reggio Calabria) used to make a home made variation not so long ago,

post #24 of 52

My jug of Three Crabs is in the fridge, cuz it says right there at bottom left of the label, Refrigerate After Opening. Also provides that some crystallizing out of Fish Protein or Salt due to cold temp is usual.  Anyone got an Authority for pantry storage?

post #25 of 52

Vietworldkitchen.com recommends refrigeration as I recall and to use a bottle within 6 months before oxidation degrades the flavor. I've been a pantry storage guy with mine and don't have any complaints. I do use a bottle within 6 months generally though. The author of vietworldkitchen may well have a more nuanced palate for these things than i do.

post #26 of 52

Phatch,

 

That nuoc cham looks kind of interesting.  What would you use it on normally, preferably something north American and conservative.

 

Also would you consider it for beef stew? I am a big fan of Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce in meat dishes because I find the mixture gives a huge flavor boost to almost any meat dish.

post #27 of 52

Nuoc cham is good for salad and slaw as a Vietnamese style dressing--and fat free at that. Even better if you add some whole leaves of mint, basil and such. 

 

Slice a cucumber thinly and dress with some of this just before serving. You don't wan to let it sit or the cucumbers will weep too much liquid thining the sauce. Nor do you want to pre-salt the cucumbers to get rid of excess liquid because then it will be too salty. 

 

I use it most on rice paper wraps (goi cuon).

 

For something simple and North American. Boiled shrimp, served cool,  thinly sliced steak served hot, though a pork chop or chicken filet would be good too. Again. if you can put on a chiffonade of mint and/or basil, you'll be in heaven with Nuoc Cham. 

post #28 of 52

Thanks

post #29 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by allanm View Post
 

 

Also would you consider it for beef stew? I am a big fan of Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce in meat dishes because I find the mixture gives a huge flavor boost to almost any meat dish.

Most definitely. A big umami boost. It is a flavor enhancer. I use it on an incredible amount of things. People get hung up on the fish (in the name) part and are incredulous on how widely I use it. They seem to think it is only for seafood dishes.

 

Look at worcestershire, one of the ingredients is anchovies. Why, because they are a flavor enhancer due to their high level of ummai.

Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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Wisdom comes with age, but sometimes age comes alone.
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post #30 of 52
I've been using fish sauce in savoury Western dishes for some time, often where I would normally use Parmesan as a umami booster. It really does work a treat! My latest discovery in this department is miso paste, which is great if you haven't got any stock knocking around, especially for quick pan sauces. Its flavour is a bit more refined than fish sauce.
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