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Fish Sauce - do you make your own or have a favorite?

Hello All,
I have always enjoyed a good spicy fermented fish sauce with meats, etc. I first had it when we did a project to recreate a typical Byzantine meal. There are still quite a few producers of fish sauce in Asia, many of which are not exported to / imported by the US. Since it is hard to find any particularly good fish sauce, do any of you make your own or know of a better source / have a favourite? I have been experimenting with food fermentation in general and might like to try my hand again. The problem being apartment living. Fermenting the fish sauce at our hunt club in a pantry outside our meat lockers was easy enough but, in a codo complex the odors may present a problem...

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  1. I use the Three Crab brand Viet Huong fish sauce from Thailand most often. It is available in most Asian markets.
    Depending on what I am making, I may also use Korean dark fish sauce, or a light Japanese sauce.

    3 Replies
    1. re: hannaone

      I also like the Three Crab brand. I tried it based on Ming Tsai's recommendation.
      There's one with a squid on it that's pretty good. There are so many though...

      I don't think I'd have the patience to make it, it is stinky, and the premade is so cheap...

      1. re: Richard 16

        I think that's what I use, too. I just grab whatever. :) making it my own would make my neighbors unite and drive me out of my apartment...

        1. re: baekster

          I won't use Three Crabs except for cooking. It may taste ok, but it is made with hydrolyzed wheat protein which means the manufacturing was rushed, and it's not made in Thailand, it's actually finished in Taiwan. They add glutamates to Three Crabs to artificially enhance the flavor and probably add a carmel coloring too. My main reason for not wanting to use Three Crans is that I don't trust the company that makes it and it is overpriced compared to the other brands.

          Squid brand is about average and comparable to Tiparos. I will use both when nothing else is available.

          Far and away, my favorite Brand is Golden Boy. I grew up in Thailand and it is the most trusted brand of the people that actually live there.

    2. I also use the Three Crab brand (Lynne Rossetto Kasper of the Splendid Table also recommends this brand). I am Filipino and like this one way better than the ones my parents use.

      6 Replies
      1. re: seconds

        Not to quibble but isn't Three Crab brand an artificial or, at least, highly processed sauce with several additives? Perhaps this makes it more stable and easier to sell? We've tried several sauces before and after making our own (which was more like the roman garum or byzantine garon sauce) and several of those readily available sauces are good but, not sauces that would stand on their own or really wow us. Perhaps it's just an entirely different take on fish sauce - sardines (or other seafood) with salt and sugar as opposed to a more complex fermented sauce with spices and a bit more bite...

        1. re: vonwotan

          From the ingredients label:
          Anchovy extract, Water, Salt, Fructose, Hydrolysed Wheat Protein

          1. re: hannaone

            Sounds like a pretty bad ingredient list to me. Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein = sign of a bad fish sauce. Check your grocery store brand soy sauce vs. a nice authentic Asian soy sauce. The difference in terms of ingredients will probably be some kind of hydrolyzed protein in the ingredient list in your store brand versus soybeans, wheat, sugar, salt, and water in the good stuff.

          2. re: vonwotan

            I've noticed a lot of Koreans in LA using Three Crabs in certain dishes because of its sweeter taste.

            1. re: Miss Needle

              Just curious, what dishes in Korean cuisine (not including banchan/kimchi) include fish sauce?

              1. re: Humbucker

                This may be pertaining to only my family as they use a lot of fish sauce -- but in addition to the banchan and kimchi, they used it in a lot of soups such as soybean sprout soup, yuk gae jang, chueotang. They liked the extra depth that fish sauce provided as opposed to soy sauce. btw, we didn't grow up with Three Crabs. We used Tipparos and switched to Squid later on.

          1. re: Romanmk

            Looks like another opportunity to have a tasting of sorts! I think I'll buy one Golden Boy, one Tra Chang and look around for a few more. Every once in a while we get together for tasings / competitions of sorts. The greatest thing about my ex was that were were both very competitive in the kitchen and spent a lot of time trying to outdo one another - with new dishes or to see who did the best job on old favourites...

            1. re: vonwotan

              You will probably like Golden Boy and Tra Chang. I like Golden Boy a bit more but both are very premium brands. Martha Stewart raved about Tra Chang on one of her shows and Martha Stewart Living Magazine, May 2006 issue listed Tra Chang as their best choice. I gave a bottle of Tra Chang (Because I knew I wouldn't use it if I had Golden Boy) to the owner of a Chinese restaurant that used Squid brand up until that point and he threw away what he had left of the squid. This Chinese restaurant owner makes all kinds of Asian cuisines and uses fish sauce in a small number of his preparations. He was amazed at the flavor. I know if I let him try my Golden Boy, he'll switch again.

              When I first moved back to the US from Thailand back in 1973, you couldn't get fish sauce anywhere. I missed that flavor terribly and lamented its loss. It took almost TWO decades before I finally found some crap brands that I was still very happy to get. The first real brand that became available was Squid brand, and it tasted MUCH better than the patis I had been using up until that point. I used that for a couple of years happily until Tiparos became available. I remember Tiparos being available in Thailand when we lived there, but our maids would not buy it for their tables. But it did taste slightly better than the Squid brand to me, so I used that one for years.

              When I first saw Golden Boy on the shelf at an Asian grocer, I was elated. I could not remember the brand name our maids used in Thailand but I remember it had a baby on it holding a bottle of fish sauce. When I saw the bottle, I bought all 3 that they had on the shelf. I now remember how really good this stuff was in Thailand. Never refrigerate this stuff and store it AWAY from light because light will make it darken, get opaque and start to taste very fishy - no matter WHICH brand you use.

              Everyone will have their favorites and I am not bashing anyone's brands. I just think that Three Crabs practice of rushing the fermentation and adding glutamates (that's why they add the hydrolyzed wheat protein - glutamates), using Anchovy EXTRACT and not fresh Anchovies and THEN charging more than anyone else does for their brands is asinine. So I won't buy it.

              1. re: vonwotan

                You can count me as another Golden Boy fan. The asian market where I buy it didn't have it the last time I was there though. Fortunately I have about a third of a bottle left, but I hope they get it back in stock soon.

                1. re: JonParker

                  Golden Boy rocks. I am down to my last bottle (though it is full) and the nearest Asian grocer that has it is almost 50 miles from here. I ordered 4 bottles online from Thailand yesterday. The shipping cost me more than the fish sauce, but 4 bottles will last more than a year and a half for me. I just keep them in a very dark spot and only keep the current open one in the pantry. I don't just use it for Thai food either.

                  Try this next time you cook a steak or beef:

                  Mix 4 tablespoons of fish sauce with a teaspoon of fresh lime juice and finely chopped FRESH (not dried) hot peppers. Spoon the mix over your steak instead of using salt and pepper. The taste is incredible.

                  1. re: JonParker

                    PS - add fresh minced cilantro to the steak Garum recipe I posted in addition to the fish sauce, chilies and lime juice. I add LOTS of cilantro to mine to where the garum is almost a paste.

                    You can add chopped garlic too if you want, but I don't myself.

              2. I know the one with the squid on it is really good, my mom uses it for everything. As for making it yourself, I think I'd be disgusted with the whole process if I had to make it myself and probably wouldn't eat it after that. Just buy it. There are something out there that you are just meant to buy and not make on your own

                1. "Cock" brand. "Product of Thailand" Ingredients: Achovy 68%, Salt 27%, Sugar 5%. Amusing label with a picture of squid, shrimp, crab, and a whole (non-anchovy) fish.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1

                    I have never tried Cock brand, but the shape of their small bottle looks VERY familiar to me so I know it was available in Thailand when I was a kid and it has been around for a long time. Do you like that brand? Is it easy to find where you live?

                    1. re: Cremon

                      I live one town over from Garland, Texas, and there is about a ten(?) block area that is basically "Downtown Saigon." There is a shoppping mall there that has everything Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, and about anything else you can think of.

                      Then there are several rather large Asian markets here in Plano as well. I suspect there's not much "Far Eastern" fare I can'f find if I set my mind to it.

                      I'm fairly new to using fish sauce though I've cooked Japanese and Chinese for years, so my opinion on how good it is is probably not worth the cyber paper it's written on. But this brand was recommended to me by the owners of a Vietnamese restaurant that USED TO BE right next to the mall. They had charcoal broiled lemon grass chicken that was to die for, with a dipping sauce that went with it. They recommended the Cock brand. And now they've closed... <sigh> I've heard they have a new restaurant at another location, but not the same menu. My experience is that when restaurants change locations, nothing tastes the same as it used to, so I haven't tracked them down.

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        I just ordered a 7 oz small bottle of Cock brand fish sauce to try from these people - http://shopwiki.com/detail/d=cock_bra... - I'll let you know what I think of it.

                        1. re: Cremon

                          Grreat! I look forward to hearing whether a connoisseur thinks what I'm using is good, bad, or indifferent. If my charcoal grill hadn't been stolen and still not replaced, I'd ask if you have a recipe for lemon grass chicken. Maybe this summer...

                          1. re: Caroline1

                            I tried the Cock brand of fish sauce today after it arrived via Fed Ex. I would rate it about average. It had more of a pungent smell than I am used to. The flavor was good, but it was saltier than the premium brands.

                            I will probably use it to cook with. I'll save the small bottles and refill them with Golden Boy for table use though. I do like the small bottles for portability. Having a big 23 oz bottle on the table is awkward.

                            And I am not above taking a small bottle of my own fish sauce into a Thai restaurant if I know they use an inferior brand. But the Cock brand tasted OK to me.

                            You might want to try Golden boy if you can get it where you are and give your thoughts.

                            1. re: Cremon

                              Thanks, Cremon. I've been hoping you wouldn't forget. And now I'm seriously wondering how strong their quality control is, because I have 24 ounce bottle and it doesn't seem all that salty to me. But to be perfectly honest, I don't find it all that exciting either. As I said before, I'm new to fish sauce.

                              Yesterday I made egg fu yung for breakfast and I do a lazy shortcut for sauce: a can of chicken broth, some conrstarch, usually some shoyu but this time I used fish sauce, and a little sesame oil. eh!

                              I will give Golden Boy a try. But from now on, I'm not buying 24 ounce bottles of ANYTHING I'm not fully familiar with! '-)

                              Thanks for your opinion!

                  2. Of the various Asian products available stateside the commercial products from Thailand are widely-considered to be the very best. I am particularly keen on the Tra Chang, or "Weighing Scales," and Golden Boy brands. As stated by others above, the faux-Thai product by Three Crabs brand is--relatively speaking--junk.

                    Here are some further notes of mine on the subject:

                    http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic....

                    In any event, given the unique nature of your past project you may want to consider the very fine Italian product, Colatura di Alici:

                    http://www.clovegarden.com/ingred/sf_...

                    http://www.mangibene.it/products/cola...

                    E.M.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Erik M

                      I fully agree with you. BTW, if you can't find Golden Boy or Tra Chang at your local grocer, you can buy it here - http://www.templeofthai.com/food/sauc... or http://www.templeofthai.com/food/sauc... - though I'd recommend buying it in quantity because it is being shipped directly from Thailand so unless you buy 6 or more bottles, the shipping runs more than the product. But you won't run out for a while :-)

                      1. re: Cremon

                        I'm just catching up on my reading and have to say I am thrilled that I found this board / these fora. Thanks for the recommendations, I bought bottles of Golden Boy, Tra Chang, and ordered one of Colatura di Alici (had to give it a try as a garum substitute) and we're planning on picking up a larger selection for comparison the next time we're in Chinatown. The Golden Boy and Tra Chang are both delicious and we'll need to experiment with both for a bit.

                        At some point I may also need to ask whether my friends wife would be willing to let us use her barn to make garum using another Roman recipe we found. The layering of spices in the barrel between the layers of fish and salt and that extra sharp tingling quality you get from the fermentation makes it distinctly different than the asian sauces.

                        1. re: vonwotan

                          Let us know how the Colatura di Alici is.

                          1. re: vonwotan

                            Hey man, how was the Colatura di Alici? I wonder how the flavor of those modern garums are compared to the thai fish sauces.

                            1. re: Cremon

                              We find the the Colatura di Alici to be an excellent fish sauce - with much more in common with the Thai sauces than with the garum recipe we used to make out first batch. One of the real challenges for the comparison is that there are a large number of garum recipes - some based only on whole fish and salt while others, like the recipe we used, include layers of herbs or spices between the layers of fish and salt...

                              The primary difference between the Colatura di Alici and a good quality Thai fish sauce is it strength or concentration. A few drops from our 250 ml bottle was enough to add quite a lot of flavor to the dishes we prepared. I found it to be wonderful in our pasta with olive oil, chiles, garlic as a substitute for the anchovies or sardines we usually use.

                              I believe this might be a way to serve one of our favorites to a few friends who profess a dislike for anchovies but love our ceasar salad and salade nicoise - each with a healthy dose of anchovie paste. When cooking with the Colatura di Alici, the fish oder doesn't fill our apartment in the same way...

                      2. Since I know very little about fish sauce, I ended up buying a bottle from the supermarket when I cooked the iron pot chicken recipe from the NY Times this week. The dish was delicious (I used Roland brand fish sauce) but the smell tham eminated from the wok was intense! My 13 yr. olds reaction was dramatic (as I would expect), but even my wife who was 2 floors away in her office called down to ask if the dog had and accident somewhere in the house (as for me, I've always got a stuffed nose, so I was oblivious). Was it the brand that I used? Would one of the other brands mentioned here taste better? Smell better while cooking? THanks for the info.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: jnk

                          Roland is like a patis. It's a very low end brand to be sure. Though I'd rather use Roland than make my own, I definitely won't if anything else is available. The smell was definitely due to the brand. The better brands will give off a more pleasant smell when you cook with them. For cooking it might not matter as much regarding the flavor, but for table use, I'd go with a premium brand like Golden Boy or Tra Chang.

                        2. Having a Philippena as a wife and going through Just about every Fish sauce available to us in Jersey. We have come to an agreement. She uses Three Crabs in her cooking, and I use Golden Boy in mine. I find TC too sweet and cloying, but GB tends to blend in to seasonings better.

                          1. I have only been cooking Thai food for about a year and am on my 3rd. bottle of Tra Chang Fish Sauce. Tastes good to me!

                            1. I guess I hadn't noticed the difference and as much as I cook Asian food. I'm happy with the results though.. I use Tiparos. For dipping sauces, marinades, and when I add to whatever I'm cooking...

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                I have used Three Crabs brand for many years but now question it's quality since the fermentation is apparently sped up with the addition of hydrolyzed wheat protein. Lots of the contributors to this discussion lauded Golden Boy so I just went to my local Asian supply store and bought a bottle of GB and then compared it with Three Crabs. I think the GB is slightly better, and at half the price. However, I note that Golden Boy is made of anchovy EXTRACT so wonder if they don't take short cuts too.

                                1. re: ThaiNut

                                  "However, I note that Golden Boy is made of anchovy EXTRACT so wonder if they don't take short cuts too."

                                  Sigh. "Extract," in this case is a merely the second-order extraction in an all natural fermentation process involving fresh, raw anchovies, sea salt, and water. When it comes to the manufacture of product destined for the export marketplace, e.g, the United States, Great Britain, etc., it's as good as it gets.

                                  E.M.

                                  1. re: ThaiNut

                                    Erik M is right. All the extract term actually means, I have discovered, is that the essence is extracted from the fish. So what you have in the bottle isn't the actual original product, but an extract of it. I stand corrected in one of my earlier posts here in a remark I made about 3 crabs using Anchovy extract. Ignore that part, but the enzymes in the hydrolyzed wheat protein are a catalyst designed to speed up the fermentation.

                                    I have tasted three crabs and will say that it does not taste bad at all. I have used it in restaurants where that was what they served and was happy with it.

                                    I just question paying almost $6 a bottle for it when there is better stuff out there for less.

                                    1. re: Cremon

                                      $6.00 a bottle! that's quite expensive. Here in NJ , Three Crabs is $2.49, Golden boy is $1.99 and Squid Brand is $2.99.

                                      1. re: currymouth

                                        It's $5.79 at Whole Foods here in GA.

                                        1. re: Cremon

                                          Are you guys talking about the same size bottle? That's an incredible price difference based on region.

                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                            part of the reason is that Cremon purchased it at a WF. Purchasing at an Asian market tends to be less costly.

                                            1. re: justagthing

                                              Quite right. WF,Wegmans, and even regular chain supermarkets is sometimes double or more than an asian market. If you want an even bigger surprise, price soy sauce!

                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                              The interesting thing here is that Whole Foods where I live only sells Tiparos, Three Crabs and Roland. Out of those three, I'd only buy Tiparos if I ran out of Golden Boy and couldn't get any more anytime soon. I have plenty of asian markets near me, all of them only carrying Tiparos or Squid brand.

                                              45 miles from my house is a huge asian warehouse type of market where I buy my Golden Boy brand, and which sells a number of other different brands. They don't sell Three Crabs, but they do sell Squid brand and Tiparos - and yes, the price is significantly less for Tiparos at that asian market than it is at Whole Foods.

                                  2. Make your own? With fermenting fish in a clay pot buried in tropical heat for 6 months? In arctic Boston? I'll just go for the stuff in my local market, thanks.

                                    I will say, and this may be a new Chow-topic, that my fish sauce tends to acquire fish-sauce-crystals and I feel that I'm losing vital fish-sauce-goodness when this happens. Any reccs about how to avoid this too-orderly behavior by fish sauce?

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: steinpilz

                                      The recipes we used and might try again are Roman Garum recipes, one from the UK. All call for fermentation of less than four weeks and include layers of herbs, boned and mashed fish and salt until the container is full. This mixture is turned daily after the first week until it liquifies. The temperature does not have to be particularly warm but cool weather means it takes a bit longer. Fortunately, my friends wife has climatised her barn year round.

                                      Garum is quite different than the asian fish sauce we all know so it may be worth another try. We really enjoyed it the first time but had a facility in Long Island that was nearly perfect for this type of project.

                                      1. re: vonwotan

                                        By coincidence last weekend I was reading in the local library a cookbook of ancient Roman recipes and saw Garum. I was amazed at how ancient many modern recipes are, they even made custard! That's great that you've made Garum.

                                      2. re: steinpilz

                                        The crystals that form are actually pure salt and not concentrated fish sauce, which I think is what has you worried. So what is happening in your fish sauce is that ONLY salt is being taken out of the sauce. It doesn't hurt the fish sauce but you wouldn't want to make an effort to remove more salt because that's what keeps it from spoiling. Small amounts of salt crystals forming because of the weather are ok. But the salt crystals shouldn't form unless you are storing the fish sauce in a cold place, so if you really want to stop it, find a warmer spot (devoid of light) to keep your bottled Thai gold.

                                      3. Below are three 'Product of Thailand' brands which do not contain hydrolized vegetable protien. Links provided from the online store that they can be purchased from. If there are Asian markets in the area in which you live I suggest looking for these products there. If not available ask if they can order or stock them for you. Last link is to templeofthai.com's home page.

                                        Golden Boy - Product of Thailand - Ingredients - Anchovy fish, water, salt, and sugar.

                                        "Good quality fish sauce is created through a several month long process of salting and fermenting tiny fish, usually anchovies. Flavorful amino acids such as glutamate are created as bacteria break down large protein molecules in the anchovies. Cheese, wine, bread and soy sauce undergo similar flavor and texture transformations. The liquid is then filtered and bottled. Inferior quality fish sauces often contain hydrolized vegetable protien, caramel coloring and other additives in order to provide a lower-cost product. However, fish sauce is an inexpensive product and these are unnecessary shortcuts which can result in a chemical after taste. When looking for a high-quality fish sauce look for clear, amber-brown color liquid with no sediment. Award winning Golden Boy brand is considered to be of gourmet quality and is made by a family-owned business located on the Gulf of Thailand. It measures up to the highest standards of fish sauce connaisseurs."

                                        http://www.templeofthai.com/food/sauc...

                                        Trachang - Product of Thailand - Ingredients - Anchovy fish, salt, sugar

                                        http://www.templeofthai.com/food/sauc...

                                        Squid - Product of Thailand - Ingredients - Water, anchovy extract, salt and sugar

                                        http://www.templeofthai.com/

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: crt

                                          Trachang doesn't have water? So does that mean it's literally liquefied fish in a bottle? I have to try that

                                          Btw, I think people are making too big of a deal about the three crabs brand and how it's vastly inferior to the other brands. I find it's passable, and fish sauce in it's purest form is basically just amino acids and glutamates swimming in water, no different than hydrolized protein or MSG.

                                          1. re: takadi

                                            None of them are made with added water. Any water you find is moisture from the bodies of the fish they use to make it with. I think the other brands mention water because they all have it in them. Tra Chang does not mention the water because they are not required to. If they did not add water to the product, they don't have to list it.

                                        2. I can get Golden Boy in Toronto, but what I am using hasn't been discussed,and it is different: Saigon Fish Sauce,7oz bottle,ingredients are fish,salt,and water. It was $2.39, and made in Thailand.
                                          It is thick, light brown, and has a wonderful deep aroma. The taste is much like anchovies, and I use it sparingly in stews,daubes, seafood dishes, and ramen.

                                          Has anyone used this thicker type of fish sauce?

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: jayt90

                                            Where in Toronto you find Golden Boy and Saigon Fish Sauce? I'm in London and may not be able to find either here.

                                            1. re: CookatHomeinLondon

                                              Sorry for the late reply, cookathome, but Chow was not always highlighting answers to my posts until recently.

                                              I got Golden Boy at T&T. It was not expensive, but it is very good, and easy to use without too much fear of overdoing it. There is a T&T in Mississauga, and one in Vaughan, I think.

                                              Saigon Fish Sauce (brown, salty, pungent, and almost as thick as ketchup) came from Soon Lee, at Markham and Lawrence. I didn't replace it when finished, as I don't cook a lot of Thai or Vietnamese food, but do quite a bit of Mediterranean, and Golden Boy is fine for that.

                                              -----
                                              T And T Supermarket Milliken
                                              5661 Steeles Ave E, Toronto, ON M1V, CA

                                          2. I recently found this article on the Slow Food web site about fermented fish and its use in various cultures through history.

                                            http://editore.slowfood.com/editore/r...

                                            1. Golden Boy is an interesting brand. Nobody has ever heard of it in Thailand. An American guy visited the factory once 10 years ago and took the time to report on it online, the report gets repeated over and over, but don't think Golden Boy is anything other than "average" at best. I've tasted it, very plain. I've never seen it used in any Thai household (where my family lives), you can't find it an any store in Thailand either. It's an export-only deal.

                                              If you want to have great fish sauce and can't find that brand, it's no big deal.

                                              Choice of fish sauce is generally up to the person but many Thai like Squid brand, a stronger-tasting fish sauce of excellent quality. Many others like Tiparos which is just average also, and familiar. Tra Chang, which is found all over Thailand in the best stores, does command a premium price and it's a mild delicious flavor. Personally I like Squid.

                                              You can see how fish sauce is made here, a nice tour of the bottling plant and the entire process is explained:

                                              http://importfood.com/how_fish_sauce_...

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Country

                                                Interesting that their (importfood) favorite, Tra Chang, is described as having a mild essence.

                                                Years ago I bought Lucky Brand. Then based on recommendations tried Three Crab. I found that to be too pungent (in putrid sense, not a fishy sense) for my liking, and have switched back to Lucky. Due to the plastic bottle and low price I suspect Lucky is run-of-the-mill in Thailand, but its ingredients list is bare-bones (e.g no fructose).

                                                1. re: Country

                                                  It's interesting you say no one has heard of it. We lived in bangkok from 1967 to 1972 and Golden Boy and Tiparos were all we ever used. Golden Boy was everywhere. Also, kasma Loha Unchit - herself a Thai expert in Siamese cuisine - says she grew up using that as well. Many resellers list Golden Boy, Tra Chang and Squid brand as premium brands. My reason for not liking Squid brand was because it turns dark brown very soon after you break the seal on the bottle and the flavor changes when that happens. So unless I can use the whole bottle up quickly, the flavor tends to go off on me before I can finish it.

                                                2. Has anyone tried Tra Chang Gold Label ?

                                                  The add reads:
                                                  Tra Chang "Gold Label" Premium Fish Sauce, Aged 2 Years. Here is "the best of the best" Tra Chang Gold Label. This has been aged two years in the finest conditions, unlike standard high quality fish sauce which is aged 8-12 months. We are certain that this is the finest fish sauce you'll find anywhere. Tra Chang is already known as having the best quality, using premium raw material. Enjoy the relatively mild aroma, beautiful amber color, rich taste and total absence of any sediment in the bottle.

                                                  Link: http://importfood.com/gourmet_fish_sa...

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: idavidson

                                                    Or is this the Tra Chang that everyone is talking about ?

                                                    1. re: idavidson

                                                      so the quality has everything to do with the care you take when siphoning the liquid from the fermentation ponds. :)

                                                      1. re: idavidson

                                                        I will be curious to see how good that Gold Label Tra Chang is - that is very new. That's only been on the market for maybe the last 6-8 months. I am going to order a bottle and try it. One of the things you hear all the time is how the very best stuff from Thailand (the true grade A fish sauces) never find their way out of Thailand and that we can't get it here. I wonder if this gold label is the real grade A stuff. Oh, and BTW - vonwotan - here is a link to a video showing Italians making Colatura di alici. (The video is all in italian but you don't need to understand what's being said to know what's going on)

                                                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVGaz5...

                                                        Because they use chestnut wood barrels, I'd imagine the flavor would be a little different than Thai fish sauce. But the starting ingredients are the same. At $23 for a 3 oz bottle, it would take a lot for me to buy the Colatura di alici - especially in the quantities that I use fish sauce. That video shows it almost being titrated drop by drop. I guess perhaps to justify the price, hehe. One thing I noted that is interesting -you see these Italian workers pulling the guts out of the fish before putting them in the barrel. I KNOW the Thais and Vietnamese do NOT go through that trouble. That is interesting because SOME Garum recipes ONLY use the guts of the fish. This is all very interesting.

                                                        Also, here is an article on how fish sauce is being used in new American cuisines...

                                                        http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/paci...

                                                        Here are Kasma Loha-unchit's recommendations:

                                                        http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/bran...

                                                      2. Fish sauce, by name
                                                        Nuoc mam, Vietnam
                                                        Nam pla, Thailand
                                                        Tuk trey, Cambodia
                                                        Ngan-pya-ye, Myanmar
                                                        Patis, Philippines
                                                        Shottsuru, Japan
                                                        Fish gravy, China
                                                        Interesting enough from what I have read Vietnam is kind of the home of fish sauce in Asia. Sadly in 1975 Vietnam quit exporting to Europe and the US. At that time Thailand took over. From what I have been reading lately the fish sauce from Phu Quoc in Vietnam is the real thing. If Thai fish sauce says Phu Quoc on it it is a crock.......In fact Vietnam is trying to get Phu Quoc considered a regional named food such as Champagne is in France. Sa chau is another one to look for from Vietnam.......

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: wineman3

                                                          I read an article about Sa Chau and how its residents are slowly going out to cities and losing their fish sauce heritage...it was heart breaking.

                                                          Apparently Knorr has distributing rights of phu quoc fish sauce now...you can find it in your grocery stores. It has preservatives though, compared to other fish sauces. And honestly I can't taste the difference

                                                          1. re: takadi

                                                            takadi, do you have a link to that article on Sa Chau? I would love to read it. Thank you!!

                                                          2. My favorite fish sauce brand is called "Flying Horse on Earth Brand" and is a Nuoc Mam Nhi (fish sauce from a 1st pressing), and is pictured in the attached photo. To save you some reading here are the key things to look out for when searching for this brand:

                                                            * Nuoc Mam: fish sauce

                                                            * Nhi: the 1st pressing - look for this!

                                                            * Phu Quoc: island in Vietnam famous for the quality for its fish sauce; printed on most fish sauce bottles, but I've yet to see one actually come from Phu Quoc, let alone from Vietnam!

                                                            * Flying This, Flying That: many bottles carries a similar name - to be sure, look for the matching graphics from the attached picture in addition to the words "Flying Horse on Earth Brand"

                                                            * ingredients: avoid additives such as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, artificial colorings, or other additives such as MSG; however this particular bottle does contain sugar

                                                            * product of Thailand: most fish sauces are...

                                                            The text below is copied from my Flickr site for convenience: http://www.flickr.com/photos/akatayam...

                                                            After finding out that my cousin has her own blog and having read her post on the use of fish sauce, I took the attached picture to personally vouch for the one that I use at home. http://yozola-beautify.blogspot.com/2...

                                                            In her post she writes: "Fish sauce is not just for Asian dishes -- it deepens the taste of pretty much any cuisine." So true!

                                                            I use it as a "Kakushi Aji", or hidden taste, to bring out an element of Umami (savoriness) in any dish needing support in that area.

                                                            It would seem on the surface that all fish sauces are alike, and certainly one is forgiven in believing that given that they all seem to be labeled alike. It sometimes seems as if half of them are named "Phu Quoc", the Vietnamese island reknowned for their fish sauce. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phu_Quoc (Even in the VN markets I don't think I ever came across a fish sauce imported from Vietnam. One will find that almost all fish sauce imported into the U.S. invariably comes from Thailand, as is the case with the one pictured here...

                                                            )

                                                            And common advice on the internet says that price should be your guide. But it has been my experience that there's really no such thing as an expensive fish sauce - they all seem to be priced in a very narrow pricing range.

                                                            I stumbled upon this particular fish sauce after studying many ingredient labels, carefully avoiding the ones with the obvious additives, eyeing the depth and quality of color through their bottles, and blindly trying to divine which bottle spoke out to me as being the most true. But honestly it was just dumb luck. It turned out to be fantastic stuff, or at the very least the only fish sauce that actually tasted like how I (a non-VN gringo) thought a good fish sauce should taste like.

                                                            I would later find out that one of the key things to look for in a fish sauce is the word "Nhi", which indicates that it's produced from the very first pressing of salted, fermented fish. In a way it's somewhat akin to the very first pressing of olives that results in an extra virgin olive oil (albeit without the fermented fish part!)...

                                                            Yes, though it may not sound very appetizing, fermented fish is a very good thing, beyond being easy fodder and a "gimme" for a Fear Factor producer. Even the ancient Romans had their own fish sauce called Garum, albeit by the same people who undertook a massive infrastructure project just to deliver lead-tainted water. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garum

                                                            Much closer to home and to our time, who hasn't heard of Worcestershire sauce, which is, essentially, a fermented fish sauce. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worceste...

                                                            And then there's the joys of Edo Mae Nigiri Sushi, the process of its creation requiring the pressing of fish onto a small vinegared ball of rice. It is believed by many that an instant form of fermentation occurs in this contact area between fish and rice, rendering the fish proteins and hence subtly transforming its flavors. (And if one does not subscribe to that belief, at least one can be assured that the earlier forms of Sushi involved well-fermented fish of the non-instant variety!)

                                                             
                                                            12 Replies
                                                            1. re: cgfan

                                                              I love hearing about other people's favorite fish sauces. Based on your thorough research, I have to try this fish sauce of yours. I'll pay a visit to my remote asian warehouse.

                                                              1. re: cgfan

                                                                Hey CGFAN - I tried looking for that Flying Horse on Earth brand you touted here and couldn't find it at my asian warehouse. But BOY were there a LOT of brands. Seems like twice as many as there were just 6 months ago. This is due in no small part to the cultural boom for fish sauce usage here, I am certain. With lots of televesion food chefs using it, there has to be a huge spike in demand. Not only are there twice as many brands available in this warehouse, but the popular brands used to have 5-10 bottles on the shelves normally - I counted not less than 60 bottles of Golden Boy there today. Among the new brands I saw, one actually had MSG as an ingredient - I kid you not. I looked at them all but didn't find any that actually came from Vietnam, as you observed.

                                                                I lived in Thailand for 5 years and have become rather dependent on fish sauce for a great many dishes and frankly can't even fathom living without it. I have never been to Vietnam but I have started enjoying vietnamese cuisine and make nuoc cham from my favorite fish sauce. I imagine I would probably be partial to Thai made fish sauce if I were ever able to make an actual comparision with a true vietnamese veriety but I still wish I could try some.

                                                                I know your brand isn't from Vietnam, but I hope to eventually find that one and try it too. That will probably happen before either of us ever get to try a real vietnamese nuoc mam though.

                                                                Thanks for your recommendations.

                                                                1. re: Cremon

                                                                  cremon. tell us in thai script and phonetics, please sir, about how to order "thai spicy" and -- my pet -- pad kee mao with minced chicken and wok-charred rice noodles. thanks immensely!

                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                    Unfortunately I can't write in Thai - it's a 40 character alphabet that I do not have access to on my keyboard even if I could read and write it (which I can't). Siamese is a five tone language meaning there are some words that mean different things depending on the tone or musical note of the words. But if you want to ask for fish sauce in a Thai restaurant, ask for nam pla or nam pla prik, with the accent over the word nam (pronounced nom) and the word prik. Nam pla prik is fish sauce with lime juice and thai chili peppers. A lot of the time, if you ask for nam pla, you will get nam pla prik as most Thai's will only use it that way on the table.

                                                                    So if you want pad kee mao, you would say "pad kee mao prik Thai" - with the accent over pad and say the word mao starting low and ending high with the "o" and say prik with the same higher note that you ended mao with. Thais really don't say "please" in conversations but often just say the word for yes, which is pi-chi (pronounced "pie chai") Note that if you DO say pi-chi at the end, it almost seems exaggerated. It's standard practice not to say please. Thais are a very polite people as a whole and good manners are a part of every day life. So they have never found a need to create a word for "please" which would be excessive with their already very polite speech. If you hear Thai people talking, almost every statement, because of the tonal inflections, sounds almost like a question.

                                                                    1. re: Cremon

                                                                      pad kee mao prik thai

                                                                      thanks, cremon, that means "noodles stir fried in "always drunk man" style -- thai spicy"

                                                                      ok, now how about the "minced chicken" and "wok-char" parts?

                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                        Gai is the Thai word for chicken - Kra Pow or krapow is how you would ask for it minced, so Gai Kra Pow is chicken - minced or "well chopped". As for wok-char - that is not something I personally have ever ordered so I won't know how to say it. I am sorry. :-(

                                                                        BTW - with all due respect - it looks like you knew what the phrase meant. If that is indeed the case, why are you asking me a question you already knew the answer to?

                                                                        1. re: Cremon

                                                                          i was reiterating what you told me, in the order that it appears. i already knew the pad kee mao part, but my original request was a long one, involving the additional terms "thai spicy" with "minced chicken" and with "wok char" on the noodles. sorry if i put you out.

                                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                                            It's ok. It looked like you knew the answers but I see now how you meant it. Sorry about that - It's all good.

                                                                          2. re: Cremon

                                                                            'Krapow' does not mean minced or chopped. 'Krapow' is the name for the type of basil commonly called 'holy basil.'

                                                                            1. re: ThaiNut

                                                                              You are correct. I assumed it meant minced because it's in almost every minced style meat dish I ever eat but the basil is too, hehe.

                                                                              1. re: ThaiNut

                                                                                hi thai nut! i just was thinking of you and how you helped me with the thai script for ordering my favorite dish http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5000...

                                                                                if i wanted to order (and pronounce it), how would i say:
                                                                                thai spicy (prik thai) pad kee mao with minced chicken ("gai" or "kai") and wok char on the noodles' edges? (or "with high heat wok"?). does "prik thai" go after the dish's name?

                                                                                so far, with cremon's help, i have "kai pad kii maw prik thai".....

                                                                                thanks in advance! i think if i had only one dish available to eat for the rest of my life on a desert island, it would be this dish! maybe made with seafood, too.

                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                  Alkapal,

                                                                                  'Prik Thai' doesn't really mean spicy. It just means 'black pepper' and does not give any indication as to the quantity. Besides, Thais usually use their ground red chili peppers or a chili sauce to spice up a dish and black/white pepper is used more for flavor.

                                                                                  Trying to say 'rather spicy Phad Khii Maw using ground chicken and with charred edges on the noodles' would likely be too much for a non-Thai speaker to have any hope of getting the word pronunciations and tones right. Also, if you were dealing with a non-Thai waitress the Thai wording would probably be useless. So... below is written 'Phad Khii Maw using ground chicken and made rather spicy. And please cook the noodles well done.'

                                                                                  ผัดขี้เมาที่ใช้ไก่บด รสเผ็ด
                                                                                  ขอให้เส้นก๋วยเตียวสุกๆ

                                                                                  Below is the same thing but I changed 'rather spicy' to 'very hot'.

                                                                                  ผัดขี้เมาที่ใช้ไก่บด รสเผ็ดม้าก
                                                                                  ขอให้เส้นก๋วยเตียวสุกๆ

                                                                                  Good luck with it...

                                                                  2. Here is an interesting link. It touts 3 crabs as being a true vietnamese brand, so I have my doubts, but the guy who wrote it is from Vietnam. So who knows:

                                                                    http://wanderingchopsticks.blogspot.c...