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what brand of fish sauce?

Monica Mar 9, 2007 08:29 AM

I am thinking about making some Thai and Vietnamese food and the recipe is asking for a good quality fish sauce. Is there any brand you guys can suggest?
Does it differ depending on what cuisin?

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  1. hotoynoodle RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 08:40 AM

    i always buy the kind with the very fat baby on the label. i'm not enough of an expert to tell the difference between the brands, but it always looks kinda funny on my shelf.

    2 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle
      dukegirl RE: hotoynoodle Mar 9, 2007 09:01 AM

      Haha! I was just at the asian grocery this week and my 3 y.o. daughter insisted that I buy the fish sauce with the big baby on it! And the "panda bear" oyster sauce. There was also something in a can that had a screaming baby cartoon on it that she wanted to buy, but I had absolutely no idea what it was. I should've gotten it just to have on the shelf. =)

      1. re: dukegirl
        Wiley1 RE: dukegirl Mar 26, 2013 12:38 PM

        I wanted a smaller, easier to handle bottle, so I bought a brand called Thai Kitchen, made from anchovies, which is very concentrated and i can use less.

    2. alex8alot RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 08:42 AM

      I would love to know this as well. THey range in price from $2 to $10 and as there is never any English on hte label, I can't tell what the difference is.

      1. gold leader RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 08:44 AM

        Hi Monica, fish sauce is usually just fish, water and a whole bunch of salt that has fermented for a while. There are crude fish sauces which are darker, thicker and I think more salty than their lighter cousins which are sauces taken from the upper layer of the settled fermenting mush. In the Philippines, the sauce is made from the bagoong fish, in other countries, it's made from anchovies. So regional differences are there, but for me, are hard to appreciate.

        I've found that some brands have up to twice the sodium of others (1000mg/serving vs. 2000+mg/serving) and that choosing the lower sodium brands is essential to avoid over salting inadvertently. I use Three Fish Brand Vietnamese sauce, for what that's worth. I have used Purfina Filipino patis as well. Thankfully, it's pretty cheap, so buy two or three different ones and experiment. Good luck!

        1 Reply
        1. re: gold leader
          hotoynoodle RE: gold leader Mar 9, 2007 09:26 AM

          i'm always dubious about the nutritional labels on imported asian foods, since the english is often translated so badly. like the tin of chinese tea i bought that read: "keep out of not light and away from odiferous." and the cellophane bag marked "whole cashews" that were most definitely walnuts.

        2. r
          Richard L RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 08:47 AM

          I like Three Crabs brand and don't like Squid brand. However, I have also had decent luck with Taste of Thai from the supermarket which comes in a much smaller bottle if storage space is an issue. It takes me quite a while to use up a large bottle of fish sauce.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Richard L
            Chocolatechipkt RE: Richard L Mar 12, 2007 07:37 AM

            I like the Three Crabs brand too. And I just bought a bottle of the Taste of Thai (for someone else, who didn't want a huge bottle of fish sauce.)

          2. r
            redchile RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 08:50 AM

            I faced the same dilemma about a week ago, what fish sauce should I buy for a Thai noodle dish I wanted to make. Here in the Chicago suburbs there are numerous Asiatic markeplaces, and the variety of fish sauces is bewildering, with most prices ranging from $1.19 to about $5 for a 24oz. bottle.

            The brand I bought was Huoc Mam Nhi Phu Quoc double parrot brand from Thailand.. I buy a bottle every couple of years, so it's somewhat of an adventure selecting one.

            I bought it mostly because it wasn't the cheapest or most expensive, it came in a glass rather than plastic bottle, and most important to me, the sodium content was only about 1/2 of most other brands.

            Perhaps, someone who buys fish sauce more often can offer a more educated response.

            Oh, by the way, the Thai noodle dish was very good using this fish sauce in the recipe.

            1. k
              KimCheeGringo RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 09:25 AM

              I personally think that Vietnamese style fish sauces are the best tasting, and I usually buy Three Crabs brand because it is pretty widely available and it tastes good to me. Just look for the Vietnamese script on the bottle: it should read Nuoc Mam "Nhi, Ngon, or Thuong Hang" (with some diacritic marks that I can't reproduce here). The Nuoc Mam part means fish sauce, and the last word is the indicator of quality. Nhi, Ngon, or Thuong Hang means that it is the first draining of the sauce (made from a particular type of anchovy and salt only) from the fermenting barrels, which is supposed to be the best. The lower grades are produced after the first draining by adding fresh water and re-pressing. (There is always the possibility that I have been misled about the meanings of the words on the label, so buyer beware!!!) I definitely have found that the ones marked "Nhi" in particular are the least pungent in taste and odour and really do provide a background flavor enhancement rather than a slap in the face with funky fish sauce flavor. By the way, the best Nuoc Mam is supposed to come from Phu Quoc island off the south coast of Viet Nam. The problem is that I can't find any Nuoc Mam that is produced in Viet Nam at all. They all seem to be made in Thailand, even the Three Crabs Brand.

              1 Reply
              1. re: KimCheeGringo
                Nata Tariko RE: KimCheeGringo Jun 7, 2010 05:53 PM

                I just found a fish sauce from Viet Nam imported by a Vietnamese company in Houston.
                Label says Nuoc Man Sieu Hang
                Phu Quoc
                Excellent Quality Fish Sauce
                Made from Anchovys caught at FAO Area 71 in the Pacific Ocean
                In business since 1895
                Hung Thanh is the manufacturer

                I just mailed this to a friend back East along with other Asian spices she requested.

              2. k
                kkbriggs RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 09:42 AM

                My favorite fish sauce is the Thai brand Tiparos (it has a yellow, red, and blue label).
                690 mg sodium per serving.

                1. Da_Cook RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 09:46 AM

                  I was recently buying fish sauce at a favourite Asian grocer. At the back of the store resides the Vietnamese Sandwich Lady, who has a little counter, cold case fridge and convection oven. She makes the best Vietnamese sandwiches in town. She saw me with a bottle of Laughing Baby brand, shook her head and passed me a bottle of Three Crabs brand.
                  What a difference! It was like comparing Jack Daniel's to Wooodford's Reserve. The Three Crabs brand has elevated my asian cooking.
                  Da Cook

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Da_Cook
                    Val RE: Da_Cook Mar 9, 2007 10:02 AM

                    I also have the Golden Boy brand fish sauce (with fat baby on label..ha!)...I will try 3 Crabs next time I need to replenish!

                  2. Candy RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 11:30 AM

                    I use 3 Crabs and have Tiparos on hand too.

                    1. winedubar RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 12:55 PM

                      i always buy 3 crabs - its ming tsai's favorite too :D

                      1. bitsubeats RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 02:23 PM

                        my mother is korean and likes the vietnamese fish sauce. She uses the 3 crabs brand to make a green onion kimchee that all her korean friends love. If she were to make it with korean fish sauce it would taste totally different.

                        god I love fish sauce, it smells soooo good and makes me salivate every time I smell it

                        1. j
                          justagthing RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 05:26 PM

                          I was about to say the same as the majority, 3 crabs. Also, I have visited the houses of many southeast asian friends of mine and ineviebly (spelling?) they have 3 crabs as their fish sauce of choice...sounds like the majority winner!

                          1. mke2lax RE: Monica Mar 9, 2007 08:47 PM

                            I have the Three Crabs brand right now, but I have seen and used a Phu Quoc origin sauce from 99 Ranch Market in Gardena. Both were fine to me.

                            1. m
                              MikeG RE: Monica Mar 10, 2007 06:20 AM

                              Does't 3 Crabs have all kinds of additives - msg, even sugar I think? If I want that stuff for a dipping sauce, I'll add it myself, I don't want it in there for general cooking purposes. As for popular opinion, it seems to me I've seen as much "agin" it as I have "fer it" from both Vietnamese in 3D and the blogger types as well and American food writers.

                              Phu Quoc - unless VN law has recently changed - is slapped on all kinds of stuff - kind of like "XO" being used to denote quality, rather than any specific relationship to aged brandy. I'd love to try one FROM Phu Quoc, but have yet to to see a label here in NYC that actually says it is - all the ones I've seen seem to be of the former type.

                              Personally, I switch around, the way I do with soy sauce, and have been happy with all of the glass-bottled, no-additive brands I've tryed. Some of the others make good table sauce, but I prefer not to cook with them, and don't use enough to buy them for table use alone.

                              I do have to say that I think Tiparos must be an acquired taste, to me it tastes like "Ye Old Inne Vodka" compared to any of the major brands... unpleasantly pungent, unpleasantly strong in flavor, strong like stinky, not "aromatic."

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: MikeG
                                Da_Cook RE: MikeG Mar 10, 2007 12:28 PM

                                Yeah, it does.
                                Fructose and hydrolyzed plant protein. But hot damm it's good.
                                Da Cook

                                1. re: MikeG
                                  peachblossom RE: MikeG Mar 10, 2007 10:31 PM

                                  I agree with you. The other fish brand sauces which don't use additives are still quite good and I use those instead. I don't remember the name of mine but it is a vietnamese one with a big fish on it

                                  1. re: MikeG
                                    plum RE: MikeG Mar 13, 2007 09:10 AM

                                    In its defense, Three Crabs doesn't have MSG. It does have other Franken-ingredients through, namely fructose and hydrolyzed wheat protein. I still like Three Crabs for Vietnamese recipes, although if I could find the Viet brand with the pigeon on the label I would try it for sure. There is room for many different fish sauces in my heart...

                                    Andrea Nguyen on Vietnamese fish sauce:

                                    1. re: plum
                                      vuduboy RE: plum Sep 26, 2011 10:41 AM

                                      hydrolyzed wheat protein is MSG. The whole MSG thing is bad science anyways. Lot's of natural foods have msg like tomatoes and mushrooms...

                                      1. re: plum
                                        huiray RE: plum Dec 23, 2011 07:54 PM

                                        Well, the Viet brand I can get (of late) from the Chinese grocery I normally go to has a ship in black silhouette on the label; imported by Rhee Bros./Korean Farm. The label also indicates Stolephorus commersonii/Caught at FAO area 71, Pacific Ocean. Declared to have only anchovy, salt, water; also supposedly 19.32 g protein/100 mL (1 serving size).

                                        1. re: huiray
                                          Delucacheesemonger RE: huiray Feb 7, 2012 01:49 PM

                                          Try Red Boat Nuac Mam, you will never look back.

                                          1. re: Delucacheesemonger
                                            Cremon RE: Delucacheesemonger Feb 8, 2012 08:10 AM

                                            I have heard a lot about Red Boat lately. It's a new brand and is a lot more expensive but I am anxious to try it and see how good it is.

                                            1. re: Cremon
                                              huiray RE: Cremon Feb 8, 2012 08:30 AM

                                              From your profile I see you live in GA. The nearest place to buy it would seem to be in Jacksonville, FL. (http://redboatfishsauce.com/where_to_...) Otherwise, you can get it from Amazon.

                                              1. re: huiray
                                                Cremon RE: huiray Feb 8, 2012 12:19 PM

                                                Yeah, until they expand their distribution, I'll have to get it from Amazon. I am going to order it this weekend and try it. Just curious to see if it is that much better than the other brands. It's the first pressing from what I understand, making it the best we can get here in the US so my curiosity is definitely piqued.

                                    2. m
                                      MikeG RE: Monica Mar 10, 2007 06:22 AM

                                      Sort of like liquid belacan made from anchovies instead of shrimp...

                                      1. C. Hamster RE: Monica Mar 12, 2007 08:31 AM

                                        I have both 3 Crabs and Squid brand. Squid is stronger tasting, IMO. You can't go wrong with 3 Crabs.

                                        Golden Boy is also good.

                                        1. Monica RE: Monica Mar 12, 2007 08:56 AM

                                          what are some simple recipes that use fish sauce? Most Vietnamese/Thai dishes seem so complicated with a lot of different ingredients.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Monica
                                            plum RE: Monica Mar 12, 2007 08:01 PM

                                            Here's an excellent, very simple recipe is from Andrea Nguyen's cookbook, "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen". Makes a "broth" by diluting 2-3 tbsp fish sauce in 1 cup of water - just simmer a packet of fried tofu chunks cut into triangles in this broth until it's soaked up, and garnish with chopped scallions. This sounds too simple but it is absolutely delicious. I usually pan-fry my tofu in a nonstick pan with only 2 tbsp oil - it's kind of a pain but I like the results. Otherwise, buy some pre-fried chunks from a source you can trust not to be passing off old tofu to you.

                                            Another favourite recipe from this book is a half head of cabbage stir fried with fish sauce and an egg and a few cloves of smashed garlic. If you don't have a wok, sub in a soup pot - the point is, it has enough space so the cabbage isn't spilling out over the edges every time you try to stir it. Just heat up the pan good and hot, add in 2 tbsp oil and fry the smashed garlic cloves until fragrant. Stir in half a cabbage head (about 4 c, any kind of cabbage) cut up into ribbons and cook until crunchy-tender, stirring frequently. Add in 1 tbsp water at start of cooking, another if it seems like it might be sticking. Season with a lot of freshly-ground black pepper. When the cabbage is done to your liking, stir in 2 tsp fish sauce and one lightly beaten egg. Toss the cabbage rapidly until the egg begins to set into a custardy sauce. Serve immediately with rice. If you want a more substantial dinner, fry in some slivered five spice tofu or some bacon or some ground meat at the start. But it's damned good just by itself. It's even damned fine as a leftover at room temp for lunch the next day. Cheap, filling, tasty, done in fifteen minutes and every ingredient easily available on the way home from work.

                                            A cooking tip - I never never salt when cooking with fish sauce. You can always add salt at the table it you need to. But until you are familiar with how salty your fish sauce is, be careful. Well, yes, Three Crabs may be a processed fish sauce, but I don't care - it still tastes very good and I use it for Vietnamese recipes and get good results. It's a little bit lighter and sweeter, a perfect introduction to fish sauce. I also use and like a Thai brand called Golden Boy - is a bit more pungent, makes me think of Parmesan rind. Personally, I don't like Tiparos or Squid brand - to me it seems less umami, more stinky - and not savoury stinky either. Fish sauce is dead cheap, so buy a few bottles and see what you like. If you're worried about the smell, wrap the bottle up in a plastic bag and stash it under the sink. I don't refrigerate and wouldn't even if I had space.

                                            If you are interested in simple Vietnamese recipes, I can't recommend Andrea Nguyen's cookbook highly enough. Everything I've tried has been dead-on - while the cookbook does have a section titled "Charcuterie", fear not! I have been using it to make weeknight dinners for two months now - a lot of recipes in this book can be done in 30-45 minutes with ingredients you can mostly get at grocery. You can find any specialty items in a Chinese grocery - they'll keep a long time, as they are mostly sauces and dried mushrooms.

                                            Thai food I can't help you with as it really does seem to require a lot of ingredients. They only Thai dish I make regularly is chili-basil chicken. I sometimes make curries using Nittaya pastes, which are good. I am a hasty distracted and sometimes aggressive weeknight cook, and I have yet to find a Thai cookbook that has worked out for me.

                                            1. re: plum
                                              Monica RE: plum Mar 13, 2007 07:27 AM

                                              wow, thank you very much.
                                              I am going to make those tofu and cabbage this week.

                                              1. re: plum
                                                Monica RE: plum Mar 14, 2007 10:14 AM

                                                I made the fried tofu last night.
                                                I first fried the tofu on a nonstick pan and when they were nice and brown, I added the water/fish sauce combo to the pan until all the liquid was dissolved.
                                                I then added some scallion and sesame seeds(I love sesame seeds)
                                                It was delicious! I ate the whole tofu myself!

                                            2. k
                                              kkbriggs RE: Monica Mar 12, 2007 08:31 PM

                                              I guess I'm outnumbered on Tiparos :) My Thai friends got me started on it a few years ago and I have to admit I've not tried anything since then. I guess I'll have to try Three Crabs or Golden Boy now!

                                              Anyway, I'm posting again because I had to give a strong second to the recommendation for Andrea Nguyen's cookbook. It is FANTASTIC. If you don't want to buy it first, check it out from the library - I finally returned it yesterday (third time in a row checking it out with multiple renewals on each check out!) after going out and buying a copy for myself!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: kkbriggs
                                                Glencora RE: kkbriggs Mar 12, 2007 08:52 PM

                                                No, I also like Tiparos. Good flavor (yes, fishy but that's the point) and lower sodium. Also, it's made of anchovy, water, salt, sugar. And that's it.

                                              2. septocaine_queen RE: Monica Mar 12, 2007 08:58 PM

                                                I have the "Couple White Pigeons Brand" AKA Nuoc Mam Tay Ho. It is made in Vietnam and contains only Anchovy extract, water, salt, and sugar. I know it is good because my mother bought it for me. She would have two types of nuoc mam, one for cooking and one for eating. This one would be for using directly for dipping. It is like salt vs. finishing salt. She bought the stuff somewhere in Little Saigon in OC.

                                                1. m
                                                  MikeG RE: Monica Mar 14, 2007 11:55 AM

                                                  "hydrolyzed wheat protein"

                                                  Re the msg, true, strictly speaking, but HWP is used precisely as a source of concentrated, "processed" glutamates so it amounts to the same thing. It's the same stuff used in "industrial" soy sauce (like those little packets from takeout joints.)

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: MikeG
                                                    eatdrinknbmerry RE: MikeG Mar 9, 2008 12:08 PM

                                                    I use the Vietnamese 3 crab and Thai squid sauce. The Thai squid sauce is slightly lighter in salinity and maybe even sweeter. both work really well w/ flavoring soup noodle broths.

                                                  2. johnb RE: Monica Mar 9, 2008 06:05 PM

                                                    I generally use Tiparos, but recently picked up a bottle at Super H in Atlanta of "Two crabs" brand (they had it on sale, displayed in one of those multi-case stacks at the endcap of the aisle). Many people have mentioned 3 Crabs in this thread, but not 2 Crabs. Are these the same, related, no connection, or what? It tastes pretty good, a bit milder than the Tiparos, but does list hydrolysed wheat protein in the ingredients.

                                                    1. a
                                                      AirThai RE: Monica Jul 25, 2009 09:15 AM

                                                      For Thai Cuisine only 3 brands ...
                                                      #1 Trachang Brand 'Scale'
                                                      #2 Tiparos Brand : www.tiparos.com
                                                      #3 Squid Brand : www.squidbrand.com
                                                      Do not add in one time, add a little each time....and check.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: AirThai
                                                        grayelf RE: AirThai Jun 7, 2010 06:10 PM

                                                        I've been using Squid brand since grad school when a Thai student recommended it to me. Then I read an article lately saying that chefs prefer Golden Boy (the one with the baby on it) as it is less salty. I'm thinking of getting a small bottle of GB to test this theory. One thing about GB is that you CAN get small bottles around here; Squid I've only seen in the large 750mL-ish bottles, which can take a long time to get through in my house.

                                                        1. re: grayelf
                                                          Terrieltr RE: grayelf Feb 9, 2012 12:02 PM

                                                          I have found small bottles of Squid brand once or twice. It's my go-to brand, but I admit that some of that is inertia on my part. I buy it, 'cause it's what I always buy.

                                                      2. Karl S RE: Monica Jul 25, 2009 09:33 AM

                                                        Corinee Trang, in "Essentials of Asian Cuisine", gives the nod to Tiparos.

                                                        It's a useful book for people who don't know the differences between brands of Asian condiments: unlike most cookbook authors, who avoid opinions about brands, she offers opinions and explains why.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Karl S
                                                          johnb RE: Karl S Jul 25, 2009 11:47 AM

                                                          Update to my post just above of 1.5 years ago---I still haven't found three crabs, but get this I recently found a bottle of FIVE crabs. Take that, suckers! ;-)

                                                          2,3 and 5 all appear to be from the same company? 5 Crabs claims on its label to be a "super premium" sauce. Does anyone know--Is the number supposed to be some sort of quality grade, or is it just a Thai version of hype?

                                                        2. a
                                                          AirThai RE: Monica Jul 26, 2009 08:19 AM

                                                          Another book by David Thompson -- Thai Food. And on http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/feat...

                                                          1. Cremon RE: Monica Aug 3, 2009 10:07 AM

                                                            I have used Golden Boy all my life and it's my personal favorite. Three Crabs is very tasty too, but it is more expensive.

                                                            Here's a guy that compared Golden Boy to Three Crabs if anyone is interested in his direct comparison:


                                                            1. j
                                                              joonjoon RE: Monica Jun 9, 2010 02:08 PM

                                                              I find that all fish sauce is pretty good and everyone has their own opinion on what they like. It's sort of like asking what brand of ketchup?

                                                              FWIW, Cooks Illustrated did a Fish Sauce taste test and found that they're all actually pretty good.

                                                              1. saltwater RE: Monica Apr 11, 2011 09:20 PM

                                                                I know this thread is old, but several folks claim things about Tiparos, like that it contains sugar or hydrolyzed plant protein, none of which I've ever seen. Tiparos contains anchovy, water, and salt. I will enclose a photo of the glass bottle I usually buy. I like it better than the plastic bottle for some reason.

                                                                I wonder if one of two things is happening here. Either Tiparos makes more than one type of sauce, or Tiparos has imitators, that appear to be the same bottle, but aren't.

                                                                9 Replies
                                                                1. re: saltwater
                                                                  Bada Bing RE: saltwater Dec 19, 2011 09:57 AM

                                                                  That labeling is unlike Tiparos labeling here in the USA stores I've visited, but I don't recall checking the ingredients list for the brand.

                                                                  1. re: saltwater
                                                                    racer x RE: saltwater Dec 20, 2011 11:40 AM

                                                                    Here are the front and back labeling of a plastic bottle I have.

                                                                    I noticed a couple of things about the label on the back of the bottle you show, saltwater:
                                                                    Tiparos is spelled "Tiparose," which I assume is nothing significant, since the front of the label looks like it's the same brand; and anchovy extract is listed as the first ingredient, before water, which, assuming the product is mostly water, is not in strict accordance with US labeling rules that require ingredients to be listed in descending order in terms of percentage by weight.

                                                                    Maybe they are different versions of Tiparos fish sauce. The website (assuming I've got the correct website) lists more than a half-dozen fish sauces (click on "Our Products"). Not sure whether the differences in all those varieties are more a matter of actual taste as opposed to marketing/labeling.

                                                                    Maybe they are both Tiparos but based on different recipes. Maybe the labels are written according to different rules (if sugar quantity falls below a certain threshold, perhaps it doesn't have to be listed). Maybe one label was written sloppily. Maybe one is authentic and the other is an imposter. Etc.

                                                                    1. re: racer x
                                                                      Cremon RE: racer x Dec 21, 2011 12:02 PM

                                                                      The glass bottle will have a better product because the contents of the plastic one can oxydize through osmosis. It is slow but it will happen over a few months in a plastic bottle while a glass bottle can last years.

                                                                      1. re: Cremon
                                                                        racer x RE: Cremon Dec 21, 2011 03:40 PM

                                                                        Very interesting, Cremon.
                                                                        I wonder whether there have been any blind taste tests that have confirmed that the difference in taste after the amount of oxidation that takes place over a few months is noticeable

                                                                      2. re: racer x
                                                                        saltwater RE: racer x Feb 16, 2012 05:40 PM

                                                                        I wonder about "anchovy extract". Since I assume it required adding something to the anchovies to make the extract, I wonder if a company can view "anchovy extract" as one label item, even though that item contains anchovy and some other item (say salt)? Perhaps there is a range of what concentration is legal to call anchovy extract, and that accounts for why more or less water must be added to it to make it palatable. That could create movement in the position of water on the label between first to second position.

                                                                        Cremon's point about plastic v glass is interesting as well, since every shop I've stepped into has bottles that apparently sit for quite some time before purchase.

                                                                        1. re: saltwater
                                                                          Cremon RE: saltwater Feb 20, 2012 05:18 AM

                                                                          Actually, the "anchovy extract" is misleading. They don't actually add an extract of anchovies. I think they should be more clear on this but because they ferment the anchovies with salt until they liquefy and discard a paste from the bottom of the vat it's considered an extract of the anchovies. That is why they don't simply list anchovies as an ingredient. But I know lots of brands that say anchovy extract that make their fish sauce the old fashioned (proper) way so I wouldn't let that bother you when shopping for a good fish sauce.

                                                                          1. re: Cremon
                                                                            saltwater RE: Cremon Feb 21, 2012 05:02 PM

                                                                            That is the process I imagined, yes. Are the vats covered or open to the air? If they are open to the air, this could result in a difference in water content in the base anchovy extract. Then, differing amounts of water or salt might need to be added to a batch to make it taste like the brand wants. This could be reflected in the different labels.

                                                                            1. re: saltwater
                                                                              Cremon RE: saltwater Feb 28, 2012 06:08 AM

                                                                              They are covered for much of the fermentation process. They are allowed to air out after the liquid is separated from the stuff at the bottom of the vat to clear the sauce and let most of the smell disperse.

                                                                              1. re: Cremon
                                                                                saltwater RE: Cremon Feb 28, 2012 06:22 AM

                                                                                Thanks for the info, Cremon. Who would have guessed fish sauce had had the smell dissipate some? :-)

                                                                    2. w
                                                                      Wiley1 RE: Monica Dec 18, 2011 10:41 AM

                                                                      I have "cock" brand but the print size is too small to impress anyone..

                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                      1. re: Wiley1
                                                                        racer x RE: Wiley1 Dec 21, 2011 06:37 PM


                                                                        1. re: Wiley1
                                                                          huiray RE: Wiley1 Dec 23, 2011 07:55 PM

                                                                          They say it is what you do with it that is important.

                                                                          1. re: huiray
                                                                            Wiley1 RE: huiray Dec 24, 2011 08:28 AM


                                                                        2. b
                                                                          Breezychow RE: Monica Dec 21, 2011 03:55 PM

                                                                          While I haven't done any formal "taste tests", I have no problems at all with the "Squid" brand. It's very flavorful, which I really like. Other brands can just taste like salt.

                                                                          1. t
                                                                            tardigrade RE: Monica Feb 7, 2012 10:36 PM

                                                                            The one I currently have is "Flying Horse on Earth", which I admit I bought mainly for the name. Anchovies, water and salt as far as I can tell. My semi-local Asian grocery leans mainly to Chinese, and there selection was limited.

                                                                            1. Bada Bing RE: Monica Feb 8, 2012 01:19 PM

                                                                              I've generally used and liked Three Crabs. For many purposes, though. I think that most brands are pretty similar, once mixed in and cooked. The Three Crabs I like because it is a bit lighter and, dare I say, sweeter than many, which means that it seems to work well both with dipping sauces but also in cooked applications.

                                                                              On the recommendation of some posters here, I bought the Red Boat brand via Amazon. I do like it very much, and it is different. Uncooked, it has a richer and darker character, more earthy and with some aroma notes that I don't notice in other brands. It being fish sauce, those aromas are decidedly funky, and I have asked myself whether I actually welcome that aroma. But that's the way with fish sauce, and who consumes it straight, anyway? Diluted in a dipping sauce, the difference is subtle but detectable: basically, it's rounder and more mellow. The same sauce with Three Crabs would be brighter. One could easily prefer one or the other, according to taste.

                                                                              Although it is a little expensive, just think how long it lasts. If you're ready to drop $10-20 on a convenience pizza, there should be nothing stopping you from ordering this stuff or any fish sauce.

                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Bada Bing
                                                                                Cremon RE: Bada Bing Feb 9, 2012 06:54 AM

                                                                                +1 Hey, thanks so much for that insight!! I love the detailed analysis and description of the flavors here.

                                                                                1. re: Cremon
                                                                                  janeh RE: Cremon Feb 9, 2012 07:05 AM

                                                                                  I've been using Red Boat - I was intrigued after reading about it in the NYTimes a while back, . I'm fortunate to be able to get it at the Mekong Market in Phoenix, where it's no more expensive than other brands of fish sauce.

                                                                                  1. re: janeh
                                                                                    MikeG RE: janeh Feb 9, 2012 08:08 AM

                                                                                    Here in NYC, it varies but I've never seen it as inexpensive as, say, 3 Crabs brand, which runs about $3 for a 750ml bottle. At a Vietnamese grocery store, I found a 500 ml bottle of 40N Red Boat for $8.25. On the other hand, an international "specialty store" here sells the 250ml for $12.99! I love the stuff and think it's worth paying MSRP or lower, but not something inflated like the $12.99 bottle.

                                                                                    1. re: MikeG
                                                                                      Cremon RE: MikeG Feb 9, 2012 08:14 AM

                                                                                      If you think that's bad - try pricing a bottlle of Colatura di Alici (Italian made fish sauce or garum)

                                                                                      1. re: Cremon
                                                                                        Delucacheesemonger RE: Cremon Feb 9, 2012 01:00 PM

                                                                                        At Boulette's Larder, $ 32.99

                                                                              2. h
                                                                                Herf RE: Monica Apr 15, 2012 05:26 PM

                                                                                I haven't seen it mentioned so...Flying Lion is one I really like. It's made by the same company that makes Three Crabs.

                                                                                1. Bacardi1 RE: Monica Apr 16, 2012 08:31 AM

                                                                                  I've tasted a few, & so far my favorites are the "Squid" brand & "Three Crabs" (I think it's called). The "Squid" brand is the most easily found around here, so that's the one I usually have on hand. It's very nice - not too fishy; not too salty.

                                                                                  1. r
                                                                                    racer x RE: Monica Apr 18, 2012 08:23 PM

                                                                                    Is the Three Crabs everyone mentions the Vietnamese one?

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: racer x
                                                                                      Bacardi1 RE: racer x Apr 19, 2012 07:57 AM

                                                                                      Here's a link to some interesting info re: the "Crabs" brand of fish sauce. Apparently they have 3 different types - from "One Crab" to "Five Crabs".


                                                                                      1. re: Bacardi1
                                                                                        racer x RE: Bacardi1 Apr 19, 2012 09:33 AM

                                                                                        Thanks for the link. The pic answered my question: the same bottle as what I have at home.

                                                                                        Although I am surprised to learn that this popular Three Crabs brand is a relatively recent invention (1980s) cooked up in an American garage!

                                                                                        Another interesting discussion here (including in the comments section, where there is more talk about the oxidation problem):

                                                                                        1. re: racer x
                                                                                          Bacardi1 RE: racer x Apr 20, 2012 08:04 AM

                                                                                          Interesting stuff - thanks! I will say though, that while the article states it's perfectly okay to keep opened fish sauce in the pantry, I always keep mine in the fridge, which has been the advice from a lot of other sources as well.

                                                                                    2. f
                                                                                      ftbnny RE: Monica Mar 26, 2013 05:26 AM

                                                                                      Hello Monica, I use Phu Quoc Hung Thanh (anchovy extract, salt, no sugar, no gluten) and La Colatura di Alici Delfino (anchovy extract, salt, no sugar, no gluten). Both are clean and high quality.

                                                                                      1. fldhkybnva RE: Monica Mar 26, 2013 01:11 PM

                                                                                        I am a fish sauce newbie and based on recommendations here as well as sodium content I picked up Tiparos last week and was afraid to use it as I realized later that it is apparently among the more stronger smelling/tasting of the brands but I loved it and wished I had used more of it.

                                                                                        1. l
                                                                                          lafondu RE: Monica Mar 26, 2013 01:29 PM

                                                                                          I lived in Thailand and Tiparos was commonly used--it's very good. Here in the US, I find that some brands made here have sugar which totally alters the taste. (like "Asian Chef," whatever.) Fish sauce made in Thailand is a good bet. Otherwise check labels and buy one without sugar. You can add sugar at your own discretion but that is not the nam plaa taste! :)

                                                                                          1. Candy RE: Monica Mar 28, 2013 08:17 AM

                                                                                            3 Crabs or better yet, Red Boat. You may have to order Red Boat, it is a little difficult to find. It is premium quality and lower in sodium than other fish sauces.

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