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Good fish sauce available in SEA

allisonw Dec 5, 2008 03:24 PM

After buying a bottle of higher end soy sauce at HT (O'long premium black soy sauce) that is crazy good like a good balsamic, I'd like a recommendation for a better fish sauce that's available locally. I live in Seattle and frequent HT, and also visit 99 Ranch, Paldo World and Viet Wah often enough. I love Asian food, but definitely have Western tastes, so a fish sauce that leans in that direction would be great. Thanks in advance for advice.

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    HungWeiLo RE: allisonw Dec 5, 2008 08:14 PM

    Hoisin sauce is often a substitute for fish sauce if placating a western palate is important. To me, it's almost like fish sauce without the pungent taste. But I like the pungent taste (but only to a certain extent).

    3 Replies
    1. re: HungWeiLo
      allisonw RE: HungWeiLo Dec 5, 2008 09:24 PM

      That's a good idea, though I think I can push it a little more than that. am willing to spend 10-15$ for a nice bottle of fish sauce, if that helps.

      1. re: allisonw
        paulj RE: allisonw Dec 6, 2008 08:21 AM

        It is not obvious that more money will buy you a better fish sauce. If anything, the more prized ones, in SE Asia, might be too pungent for your taste.

        The first sauce that I bought, years ago, was LUCKY Brand. Later I bought one of the brands that has been recommended, 3 Crabs if I recall correctly. But I found it to be too pungent, and recently replaced it with a new bottle of LUCKY (which sells for less than $2 for 23oz). Keep in mind that fish sauce, straight out of the bottle is more pungent, than sauce that has been cooked for some time.

        A Thailand episode of Bizarre Foods featured a small street side operation that made a sauce exclusively from fish stomachs. I think the stomach sauce was used exclusively in cooking. I'd be surprised if was exported.

        Another episode from Vietnam (it could have been No Reservations) featured a fish sauce manufacturer on an island off the Vietnamese coast. I believe their best sauce was made from a specific type of seafood (squid?), where as the regular stuff is apparently made from any small fish that turn up in the nets. (There may be a squid brand on the US market, but that isn't the same as one made from squid.)

        1. re: paulj
          HungWeiLo RE: paulj Dec 7, 2008 10:19 AM

          The island you're referring to is Phu Quoc. It's considered the holy grail of fish sauce in Vietnam. So much so that many brands of fish sauce will have the name "Phu Quoc" in it to confuse unknowing consumers. Although I think there may be a movement by the government to eliminate this in order to preserve the name and the brand (a la Champagne).

    2. dagoose RE: allisonw Dec 6, 2008 11:13 AM

      Basically it comes down to the type of fish used to make the sauces and what your palate wants. The top brand for Vietnamese tends to be the 3 Crab brand, while the most popular Thai brand is Squid Brand (not actually made of squid, as mentioned above).

      In terms of high end...well, I think the higher end you get the more fishy it will get as oppose to the less, since that is the goal with fish sauce. Maybe look at QFC or somewhere to see if they sell an American brand that is geared to Western palates?

      1. jayt90 RE: allisonw Dec 6, 2008 12:47 PM

        I look for fish sauce with fish in the ingredient list, rather than fish extracts. My favorite is Golden Boy (Thailand); it is more subtle than many others, and seems to have good Q.C. and consistency. If it is not in your area, it can be purchased at T&T in B.C., for under $4.

        5 Replies
        1. re: jayt90
          forkit RE: jayt90 Dec 6, 2008 01:10 PM

          I'm a regular Three Crabs user and it is certainly my current favorite but now I want to try some Golden Boy. When we were visiting Hoi An in Vietnam. we could smell the fish sauce as our bus appoached. We stayed at a tiny resort where the next door neighbors all fished with surf nets for small fish which they turned into fish sauce in large clay pots in their back yard. This was all hand work from basket boats and the whole family would haul the nets onto the beach. I love the stuff.

          1. re: forkit
            forkit RE: forkit Dec 7, 2008 08:55 AM

            I would like to correct my earlier posting. The place where we saw the top to bottom fish sauce operation was Mui Ne, not Hoi An.

          2. re: jayt90
            paulj RE: jayt90 Dec 6, 2008 02:12 PM

            I just saw bottles, of various sizes, of Golden Boy (baby) brand at the new H Mart (Alderwood, north of Seattle), along with other brands like 3 Crabs and Squid. About 15-20 ft of shelf space for fish sauces.

            1. re: paulj
              allisonw RE: paulj Dec 6, 2008 06:04 PM

              I was looking for Lucky on your recommendation, matter of fact, though I almost bought the Golden Boy just because of the label. Paul, it sounds like we were there at the same time. My SO and I are both tall Westerners if you happened to see some good-looking white people strolling the aisles and trying to read the labels. Small world.

              1. re: allisonw
                paulj RE: allisonw Dec 6, 2008 06:14 PM

                I was the short one with the gray beard, trying to look like he knew what he was doing there :)

          3. paulj RE: allisonw Dec 6, 2008 07:08 PM

            In this eG thread from a fews years back, Squid and Tiparos seem to get the most mention. Tiparos comes in similar plastic bottle to Lucky. Various people mention that Thai sauces are more delicate than Vietnamese ones. They also distinguish quality based on when the sauce is extracted from the fermented mesh. The so called 'first press' is supposed to be best, suitable for table use.


            and an informative newspaper article from a decade ago, that favors Golden Boy. I found this via the Wiki article.

            1 Reply
            1. re: paulj
              allisonw RE: paulj Dec 6, 2008 09:20 PM

              Tiparos is what I have, dammit!!

              I'm pretty sure I saw you a number of times, there were so few Westerners there today that I remember the few I saw.. We were there from about 12-1:30.

            2. paulj RE: allisonw Dec 7, 2008 10:29 AM

              I just watched Simply Ming's episode on fish sauce and lemon (Create TV). He didn't mention brands, but for his fusion cooking he favored Thai style. I think he said it is a bit sweeter, and not as fishy. His guest made a Greek style orozo and seafood dish (in a Chinese sand pot). The fish sauce filled in for Mediterranean anchovies.

              1. seattledebs RE: allisonw Dec 7, 2008 05:14 PM

                I buy fish sauce at Mekong Rainier, which has lots of Thai ingredients. I think I bought Squid brand and I've been happy with the flavor.


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