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Fish Sauce


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I have noticed fish sauce crystallize and get darker with age and then tend to use it in cooked dishes rather than dipping sauces.

Funny you should mention that, because I recently cooked with my pantry-stored Tiparos fish sauce, and it sounded as if someone had added a handful of mica crystals to the bottle. I used it anyway, and the dish turned out fine. I've owned this bottle for less than a year.

I can only imagine how bad spoiled fish sauce must smell, since I find the odor of even the fresh stuff quite repulsive. I suppose I should start storing it in the fridge. I don't use it nearly often enough.

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I can't quite imagine how fish sauce would go bad? It's so salty that I doubt anything would survive in there?

OTOH it is somewhat curious that some fish sauce says to refrigerate after opening, some says explicitly not to do so, and some say nothing.

The crystals are just salt, nothing to worry about. My guess is that over the storage time some liquid evaporates and as you can only put so much salt into liquid, what's too much crystallizes out. Of course this might just be armchair science, but as it's nothing to worry about it doesn't really matter.

As for the difference in color above, my guess would be that different batches have different color, and yes, age darkens it too. I think to really compare you'd have to buy two bottles and store one dark and cool w/o opening for year, then compare.

Of course, as this stuff is really not expensive I'd just throw it out once it throws you off and get some new. And maybe shake a bottle before using, though I don't really see anything in there that would shake up. Except the salt crystals.

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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If your fish sauce is over a year old, do yourself a favor, throw it out & buy a new bottle.

If your fish sauce is over a year old, you aren’t using enough fish sauce. :raz:

Formation of crystals means that the salt is dropping out of solution. I have had this happen, and if you add fish sauce to taste when you do your final seasoning, the slightly higher concentration of salt don't seem to affect the flavor of cooked dishes. I do choose lower-salt brands of fish sauce so that I can enjoy more of the addictive funky-fishy flavor without oversalting.

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  • 3 years later...

I've been searching for brands of Asian fish sauces trying to find the better quality ones to do a taste test and review. The Vietnamese Red Boat and Three Crab brands both seem to get excellent reviews. Does anyone have any suggestions?

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David Thompson has recommended the Megachef brand (he's the brand ambassador). Andrea Nguyen's review of the sauce can be found here.

I've used it and it is very good and available in Sydney.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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Right now in my pantry, I have Megachef and Red Boat fish sauce. In my humble opinion, Megachef easily beats Red Boat. Both are equally salty, but the Megachef carries a bigger umami punch.

There is no love more sincere than the love of food - George Bernard Shaw
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Here is an ingredient page by my Thai cooking teacher, Kasma loha-Unchit:

Kasma's Favorite Brands

Her favorite brands of fish sauce are Tra Chang and Golden Boy. We routinely debate this on her mailing list, and she's quick to point out unwanted additives in various other brands. In other words, read the label.

I'm quite fond of Italian colatura ("garum", dating to Roman times). Purist may object, along with the frugal. I like how it tastes.

Per la strada incontro un passero che disse "Fratello cane, perche sei cosi triste?"

Ripose il cane: "Ho fame e non ho nulla da mangiare."

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I'm a big fan of 'Squid brand'.

The megachef brand was created by the son of the founder of Squid brand sauce. It is sometimes referred to as "son of squid."

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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From an Australian review of Megachef:

"Ingredients: Aside from anchovy extract and water, Megachef contains sugar and fructose"

Red Boat lists 'Anchovy, Sea Salt' as the only ingrediants.

500ml Red Boat 40 is $10 direct from Red Boat + shipping which is how we purchase.

Have not seen local sale of MegaChef but 200 ml from Amazon is $16.99 USD.

Red Boat is Vietnamese and MegaChef Thai.

From my reading the best sauces are only anchovy and salt.

MegaChef does not seem to available in the Chicago area but if I find it, I will try blind tasting to compare.

I also can not acess the MegChef website to verify ingrediants.-Dick

Edited by budrichard (log)
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From an Australian review of Megachef:

"Ingredients: Aside from anchovy extract and water, Megachef contains sugar and fructose"

Red Boat lists 'Anchovy, Sea Salt' as the only ingrediants.

500ml Red Boat 40 is $10 direct from Red Boat + shipping which is how we purchase.

Have not seen local sale of MegaChef but 200 ml from Amazon is $16.99 USD.

Red Boat is Vietnamese and MegaChef Thai.

From my reading the best sauces are only anchovy and salt.

MegaChef does not seem to available in the Chicago area but if I find it, I will try blind tasting to compare.

I also can not acess the MegChef website to verify ingrediants.-Dick

Looking at the bottle. The sugar is 2% and fructose 1%.

These are hardly large proportions. Moreover, as fish sauce is used as a salting element in the sweet, sour, salty, piquant mix of Asian foods the addition of a bit of sweetener in these levels is hardly going to impact on its appeal in the final dish.

I'd have to say in tasting it compared with other fish sauces in my pantry, it's somehow smoother and more rounded yet still salty.

A while back I made up some prawn stock and reduced the hell out of it. I then added some salt. On tasting it, I thought I'd ruined it. However, having tasted these fish sauces made from anchovies the salt level is similar. The prawn has a similar salinity level but a much better flavour. I'm going to use it in some Thai dishes to check out how it goes in cooking.

ps. It costs around $4 for a 200g bottle here and can be found cheaper if you are willing to search.

Edited by nickrey (log)

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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  • 1 year later...

I have been using three crab brand for years but recently noticed that Huiray was using red boat, I picked up a bottle and just started using it. My question is why do you use it over others or do you? Also I would like to thank you Huiray for inspiring me to look to the east when deciding what to cook each day. ( Your photos are beautiful). Look forward every day to see what your up to.   

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While you are waiting for a reply from Huiray I thought I would mention some  interesting choices in Fish sauce.

As with many foods there are natural products and there are those that are chemically enhanced with artificial flavors and colors. With fish sauce there are also those who’s fermentation process has been reduced from 1 or 2 years down to 2 days by the addition of chemicals and enzymes. Short or artificial fermentation usually results in a strong fishy flavor and long natural fermentation in a sweet, nutty, rich flavor. I use Megachef because its 2-year natural fermentation gives it a big clean umami punch and then Red Boat is my second choice. Both are naturally fermented using traditional methods. I avoid artificial, chemically enhanced products because of their taste.

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 I use Megachef because its 2-year natural fermentation gives it a big clean umami punch and then Red Boat is my second choice. Both are naturally fermented using traditional methods.

 

Have you tried Blis? http://blisgourmet.com/home/products/fish-sauce-barrel-aged.html

 

While Googling around looking for info on Megachef, I came across this taste test: http://ourdailybrine.com/fish-sauce-taste-test/

Edited by Shel_B (log)

 ... Shel


 

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I use two different varieties more or less at random. One is Thai; the other Vietnamese. To be honest, I can just about taste the difference if I do a direct tasting, but in a dish I probably wouldn't know which was which.

 

I'm not going to mention brands as you probably won't be able to find them, just as have never heard of the ones you are all mentioning. 

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Willie, you're welcome and thanks for the compliments.

 

I actually have several brands in my fridge/pantry/kitchen including Flying Lion, Three Crabs, and that Red Boat brand; besides other fish sauces such as nuoc mam pha san and mam ca com an lien.  To me, Red Boat does have a cleaner taste and goes down smoothly if one were to sip it directly :-) and, as TheCulinaryLibrary noted, it is not lost on me that it is one of the brands that use just anchovies, salt and water.  It also is stated to have a higher protein content, FWIW. (I use the 40ºN one)  Since I don't use *that much* fish sauce, I tend to go with Red Boat in recent times (after I first tried it out) but it is also true that when cooking complex dishes with lots of other aromatics and spices going in it doesn't matter that much.  In fact, I can't remember if I used Red Boat or Flying Lion the last time I made a pot of pho stock, where much more than just a few splashes of fish sauce go in.  When just a few splashes of fish sauce are called for, in a stir-fry dish for example, or when mixing up a saucer of a dipping sauce with fish sauce in it straight from the bottle I just go with the Red Boat nowadays.

Edited by huiray (log)
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