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Fish Sauce


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36 replies to this topic

#1 torakris

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Posted 28 May 2003 - 05:00 PM

Are they substitutable for each other?

What are the differences?

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#2 Jason Perlow

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Posted 28 May 2003 - 06:19 PM

I use them interchangeably. I beleive the Vietnamese stuff tends to be a bit stronger in flavor than the Thai and maybe a bit saltier but this also depends on the "draining" method used by the manufacturer for that particular brand. Both types are used in Laotian, Burmese, Filipino and Cambodian cooking as well.

Here's some articles on both:

http://www.thaifooda...fishsauce1.html

http://www.saucecafe...cy/spicy39.html
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#3 tommy

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Posted 28 May 2003 - 08:34 PM

that's a good question. i don't recall seeing many recipes that specify "thai" vs. "vietnamese." i use thai all of the time. but only because i'm married to the brand "three crabs" (because ming uses it).

i'd be interested in knowing if there is an actualy difference. my vietnamese dipping sauce always turns out different than the stuff at vietnamese restaurants. perhaps that's part of it.

#4 polly

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Posted 28 May 2003 - 08:42 PM

From my limited comparisons, Thai fish sauce is nicer.
More refined and less sweet. I've probably been influenced by thai cooking teachers though...
I'm married to squid brand.
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#5 lamington

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Posted 28 May 2003 - 08:49 PM

The vietnamese sauce nuoc mam is usually darker and fishier than the Thai sauce nam pla. I've heard the Burmese fish sauce is even stronger, but haven't tried it.
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#6 torakris

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Posted 28 May 2003 - 11:13 PM

The reason I was asking is because I usually see recipes calling for either on or the other and it never says to substitute the other though occasionally it will say to substitute either more salt or soy sauce.
Are the cookbook authors just assuming if you don't have one type then you must not have the other one either?

I always use the Tiparos brand and was jsut wondering if it was worth it to buy a Vietnamese one as well.

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#7 MatthewB

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Posted 29 May 2003 - 06:24 AM

torakris,

Why not pick up a good Vietnamese brand & do a taste test?

I taste tested Thai & Vietnamese fish sauce & found definite differences.

I'd be interested to see what you think.

#8 torakris

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Posted 29 May 2003 - 03:53 PM

I guess that would be the easiest wouldn't it? :blink:

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#9 HungryChris

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Posted 29 May 2003 - 04:59 PM

I have grown to love Squid brand in anything hot with seafood. It does seem to add that depth that you appreciate, but don't know where it comes from unless you do the cooking. While I love to cook with this stuff, I'm still not ready to "do shots" of it for a comparison test. How would you propose to do the test? Perhaps break your next use of it into camps?

#10 MatthewB

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Posted 30 May 2003 - 05:59 AM

While I love to cook with this stuff, I'm still not ready to "do shots" of it for a comparison test. How would you propose to do the test? Perhaps break your next use of it into camps?

I'm quite serious about the "shots" form of taste-testing fish sauces.

Not easy to prove here on the boards but I'll do what I can, if necessary.

#11 AndrewM

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Posted 30 May 2003 - 07:03 AM

Anyone know anything about "unrefined" fish sauce. It's used in recipes in an article in the June Saveur on Thai food, in addition to regular fish sauce. I've never seen unrefined...what is it? :unsure:

#12 MatthewB

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Posted 30 May 2003 - 07:09 AM

Anyone know anything about "unrefined" fish sauce.  . . .  what is it?

It has pieces o' fish in it! :cool:

#13 pim

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Posted 22 July 2003 - 11:32 AM

Anyone know anything about "unrefined" fish sauce. It's used in recipes in an article in the June Saveur on Thai food, in addition to regular fish sauce.  I've never seen unrefined...what is it?  :unsure:

I think by "unrefined" they were refering to what we called Pla Ra, not Nam Pla (Fish Sauce). Pla Ra is what you get when you mix small fish with lots and lots of salt and let them rot. The resulting product looks a bit muddy, with broken pieces of fish in it. Pla Ra is used in North-eastern food. Bangkokians look down our noses at it as positively stinky peasant food. :-) I have grown to like a couple of dishes made with Pla Ra, but they are cooked and dressed up so much they are mostly unrecognizable from the original form. I think it's a case of "you can take a girl out of Bangkok, but....) Pardon my ignorance. :-)

Nam Pla is made in much the same way, except that it is refined before bottling.

Of course my bias is for Thai Fish Sauce. I use Tiparos, becuase that's what my family used when I was growing up. You just don't change your fish sauce brand---that would be downright sacrilegious!
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#14 mudbug

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Posted 24 July 2003 - 11:16 AM

Fish Sauce Information:

Find a lengthy article here: Fragrant fish and shrimp sauces add pungent punch to Asian cuisine

"Fish sauce is to Vietnamese cooking what salt is to Western and soy
sauce to Chinese cooking. It is included in practically all recipes.
Prepared from fresh anchovies and salt, layered in huge wooden
barrels, the manufacture of fish sauce is a major industry. The
factories are located along the coast to assure the freshness of the
fish to be processed. Fermentation is started once a year, during the
fishing season. After about 3 months in the barrel, liquid drips from
an open spigot, to be poured back into the top of the barrel. After
about 6 months the fish sauce is produced.

The first draining is the very best fish sauce, lighter in color and
perfectly clear. [Kinda like "Extra Virgin" fish sauce. S.C.] It is
relatively expensive and is reserved for table use. The second and
third drainings yield a fish sauce of lower quality and lower cost
for general- purpose cooking. The two towns most noted for their
fish sauce are Phu Quoc and Phan Thiet. Phu Quoc produces the best
fish sauce, some of which is exported. On the label, the "nhi"
signifies the highest quality. When fish sauce manufactured in
Vietnam is not available, that of Thailand or Hong Kong is quite
acceptable. Philippine or Chinese fish sauce will not be
satisfactory. For table use and available in all Oriental groceries
is Squid Brand Fish Sauce, the best one on the market. Whatever
brand, look for the "Ca Com" on the label, which means that only
anchovies were used++an indication of the highest quality for table
use."

From "The Classic Cuisine of Vietnam", Bach Ngo and Gloria Zimmerman,
Barron's, 1979.

Posted by Stephen Ceideberg; February 2 1992.

#15 JC

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Posted 30 July 2003 - 04:22 AM

I'm a Squid brand user myself.

#16 Kerouac1964

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Posted 31 July 2003 - 01:54 PM

I like all kinds, but I enjoy using Squid sprinkled on cottage cheese. What a great flavor enhancer!! :wub:

#17 itch22

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 05:29 PM

Posted ImageI'd like to resurrect this thread.

Correct me if I am wrong but...

1. Good Nuoc Mam should read on the label "nhi" or "thuong hang" to denote a high quality, specifically that it is the first "pressing" from the anchovies.

2. For Vietnamese nuoc mam, the label should also read either "Phu Quoc" or "Phan Thiet" which denote it is from one of these two famous nuoc mam producing regions of Vietnam.

3. It should say "25% dam" meaning it contains 25% fish sauce, since poorer brands are usually only 20%.

4. The ingredients should list "ca com" which is a specific breed of anchovies prized for their use in high quality fish sauce, lower quality sauces using a more common anchovy.

So if I am right on all of these, here is my question... I recently switched to Royal Crab Brand nuoc mam as it meets all the above criteria, however, it is a product of Thailand. How can it be from Phu Quoc and be a Thai product? Or was it produced in Vietnam but bottled and exported from Thailand?

(Edit to add pic.)

Edited by itch22, 21 October 2004 - 05:35 PM.

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#18 trillium

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Posted 26 October 2004 - 10:37 AM

I'd like to resurrect this thread.

Correct me if I am wrong but...

1.  Good Nuoc Mam should read on the label "nhi" or "thuong hang" to denote a high quality, specifically that it is the first "pressing" from the anchovies.

2.  For Vietnamese nuoc mam, the label should also read either "Phu Quoc" or "Phan Thiet" which denote it is from one of these two famous nuoc mam producing regions of Vietnam.

3.  It should say "25% dam" meaning it contains 25% fish sauce, since poorer brands are usually only 20%.

4.  The ingredients should list "ca com" which is a specific breed of anchovies prized for their use in high quality fish sauce, lower quality sauces using a more common anchovy.

So if I am right on all of these, here is my question...  I recently switched to Royal Crab Brand nuoc mam as it meets all the above criteria, however, it is a product of Thailand.  How can it be from Phu Quoc and be a Thai product?  Or was it produced in Vietnam but bottled and exported from Thailand?

(Edit to add pic.)

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I don't think so. My guess is that it is a Thai product that is trying to benefit from the reputation of the Phu Quoc region. Read this article in Time Asia for an explanation. I think they are trying to protect their place name, but it might be too late in the US.

regards,
trillium

Edited by trillium, 26 October 2004 - 10:37 AM.


#19 Stupid_American

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Posted 26 October 2004 - 02:31 PM

Thai brands will usually stand on their own virtues.
The writing at the bottom of that bottle is Cambodian or Lao, not Thai.
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#20 itch22

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Posted 27 October 2004 - 06:16 AM

I don't think so.  My guess is that it is a Thai product that is trying to benefit from the reputation of the Phu Quoc region.  Read this article in Time Asia for an explanation.  I think they are trying to protect their place name, but it might be too late in the US.

regards,
trillium

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Yes, I think you are right. I was asking around and a Vietnamese friend's parents told me it is a knock off.
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#21 Ptipois

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Posted 30 October 2004 - 02:34 AM

I have both nuoc-mam and nam pla sauces at home. For nuoc-mam I use Hung Thanh which is siêu hang (superior quality), based on ca com. It is dark, strong and salty. For nam pla I just use Tiparos. I think Thai fish sauces in general are more delicate, less salty and more fragrant than nuoc-mam, however I use the latter in Vietnamese dishes and the former in Thai dishes. I never cross them.

#22 pieman

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Posted 05 November 2004 - 01:31 AM

Phu Quoc Fish Sauce is now a registered trademark. It was registered fairly recently to protect the industry on the island and to fight Thai producers nicking the island's name for their bottle labels.

The Unilever owned Knorr brand started producing their own Phu Quoc fish sauce on the island a year ago. 17 local producers sell a proportion of their sauce to Unilever who bottle it on the island. Some local brand names, maybe all these 17 producers??, will no doubt have fallen by the wayside since Knorr arrived, but I could be wrong on that. I still buy a non-Knorr brand of Phu Quoc nuoc mam here in Saigon.

Unilever were planning to build a decent fish sauce museum, visitor's centre or something. Not sure if they have as yet, but I'll be back there soon and will check it out if it exists.

In the long term I'm not convinced that the snazzy local TV marketing campaigns of a company like Unilever is an altogether good thing for fish sauce variety on Phu Quoc. I imagine the smaller producers who are still around will eventually be priced out of the business. I'm no expert, but I reckon, even on Phu Quoc, there's a discernible taste difference between different producers. A difference I might not be able to notice, but something a lifelong user would know about and it's a difference that could be lost with any future Knorr monopoly.

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#23 lovebenton0

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Posted 06 November 2004 - 03:05 AM

I use Tiparos fish sauce, which I much prefer, recommended to me by snowangel. My SIL gave me a bottle of Lucky :blink: brand, which is also produced in Thailand, but it seems sweeter and not as rich. I don't like it as well as the Tiparo.

May find something to use it for. Maybe good plant food? :wink:
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#24 itch22

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 06:16 AM

I use Tiparos fish sauce, which I much prefer, recommended to me by snowangel. My SIL gave me a bottle of Lucky :blink: brand, which is also produced in Thailand, but it seems sweeter and not as rich. I don't like it as well as the Tiparo.

May find something to use it for. Maybe good plant food? :wink:

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I tried Lucky Brand once and didn't like it. This may be interesting to note, a local Philipine grocer says Lucky Brand is his best seller (compared to Squid Brand), but a local Vietnamese grocer refuses to carry it and he carries more brands of fish sauce than you can shake an anchovie at.
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#25 tootallfortoques

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Posted 15 November 2004 - 09:52 AM

Sometimes a brand name just grabs you.

Posted Image

#26 ned

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 08:41 PM

I really like fish sauce. I want the best bottle of the stuff that money can buy. I've no idea what the best fish sauce would be like, I'm just curious to taste it and see how it differs from what I normally taste. Like when you are used to a certain quality of olive oil and then one day somebody gives you a teaspoon of this fabulous spanish stuff and your whole idea of olive oil changes. People say three crabs brand is good. It still only costs ten bucks for a liter. Can't be the best. It's too cheap. How can fish sauce be so cheap anyway? Some brands that people say are pretty good only cost five bucks for a liter.

Two and a half questions:

1. Why is fish sauce so cheap considering all the trouble it takes to make it and then the round the world shipping?
2. Is it possible to spend, say, fifty bucks for a precious little bottle of the really good stuff and if so where can I go and do that?
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#27 Gifted Gourmet

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 08:48 PM

The two towns said to produce the best fish sauce are Phu Quoc and Phan Thiet in Vietnam

from this article:
Sauce Cafe.com

Hope this helps a little, ned! :wink:

and then this:

My favorite brands from among those available near my home in California, are Tra Chang (meaning "weighing scale") and Golden Boy. Reasonably good are the King Crab, Squid and Anchovy brands. Three Crabs Brand is not recommended. Taste several brands and choose your own favorite. 


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#28 Busboy

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 09:15 PM

I really like fish sauce.  I want the best bottle of the stuff that money can buy.  I've no idea what the best fish sauce would be like, I'm just curious to taste it and see how it differs from what I normally taste.  Like when you are used to a certain quality of olive oil and then one day somebody gives you a teaspoon of this fabulous spanish stuff and your whole idea of olive oil changes.  People say three crabs brand is good.  It still only costs ten bucks for a liter.  Can't be the best.  It's too cheap.  How can fish sauce be so cheap anyway?  Some brands that people say are pretty good only cost five bucks for a liter. 

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Ned, if you drank more wine, you'd know that the price of the bottle is not always a reflection of the quality within. :laugh:

Why don't you just go around to all the Asian markets in your area, buy every brand you can find, and taste them? Letting your palate, rather than your wallet guide you might be the better strategy.

Given the relatively limited demand for fermented fish guts, I don't think you're going to have to pay $50 to get top of the line stuff until some Vietnamese Emeril comes along to give Nuoc Mam the same elitist cachet top olive oils have. Don't worry, be happy. :laugh:

(In case you're wondering, I have a bottle of Three Crabs in the cupboard. The price tag has fallen off, but I can't believe it cost anywhere near ten bucks).
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#29 snowangel

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 11:42 PM

I don't have a clue why the stuff is so cheap. But, it is. That's the way it is. Growing up in Thailand, I can vouch for the fact that there is no "way expensive ultra" stuff. It is what it is.

I'm a Tiparos fan. I've tried them all, and go back to what every Thai cook I've ever known prefers.

Yes, buy every brand you can. Should edit that. Buy every brand you can that does not contain any sort of sugar.

And, pour some into some sort of small container with a lid, slice up some bird chilies (quite a lot, according to my taste). Put lid on it and pull it out whenever you are serving whatever that this would accompany well. Like my chicken soup tonight.
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#30 torakris

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Posted 02 December 2004 - 11:59 PM

I use tiparos as well, actually I use it because snowangel recommended it way back when... :wub:

I prefer its flavor to all the other I have tried.

You can sort of compare it to soy sauce in Japan, almost every person in Jaapn will have a bottle of Kikkoman in their house. Though there are various brands this is by far the one preferred and it is quite cheap.
There are artisanal brands but they aren't really what I would consider expensive and few people would use them as their everyday soy sauce.
I see cheap as a good thing, especially if it tastes great. :biggrin:

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