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what are the finest brands for oyster sauce, fish sauce, soy sauce? and where is one stop shop to buy best brands in manhattan?

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i've been looking for the answer for these items for a long time and hope someone can help me stock the pantry right this time!

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  1. Kam Man on Canal has everything you need-try experimenting w different brands as ones taste is vastly different than others at times when it comes to these items.

    1. There are different styles of soy sauce for different applications. For oyster sauce, Lee Kum Kee Premium makes a very briny oyster sauce that I like as a condiment. For fish sauce I am a Tiparos buyer, but I've heard very good things about Three Crabs.

      The best selection and value are at Hong Kong Supermarket.

      4 Replies
      1. re: JungMann

        I like the Three Crabs one - haven't tried Tiparos. I usually shop at Kam Man - not familiar with Hong Kong Supermarket but will have to check it out.

        To the OP - you might want to check out the General Topics board where I bet there are discussions about brands. I like Pearl River Soy Sauce, which I also buy at Kam Man, or the Vietnamese market on The Bowery.

        1. re: MMRuth

          I've never tried Tiparos but I know for me Squid brand and Golden Boy are both better than Three Crabs. I was a Three Crabs user for years, I switched to Squid Brand and preferred that and have since moved onto Golden Boy as my favorite

          1. re: KTinNYC

            You know what - I did mean Golden Boy - my mistake.

        2. re: JungMann

          In addition to Kam Man and Hong Kong Supermarket (which is too far away from the rest of the places I shop in Chinatown for me to get there very often) there's Asia Market @ 71 Mulberry. Smallish store with a surprisingly large selection at very good prices.

          Regarding fish sauce: I have both Tiparos and Three Crabs. Tiparos seems more intense to me and I use it for marinating and in cooked dishes. Three Crabs seems more refined, and I'll use that in dipping sauces and salad dressings. Another brand that is often highly recommended is Golden Boy, but that's not as easy for me to find.

          Agree with MMRuth that the Pear River brands of soy sauce are excellent, both light and dark, and second the recommendation from JungMann for the Lee Kum Kee Premium oyster sauce.

        3. We're particular with soy suces and have one for marinating (usually just use the regular La Choy brand), but buy the more expensive seasoning and/or dipping soy sauce from Japanese stores usually from Katagiri on 59th Street. There are various kinds of these soy sauces and, yes, it is worth the extra tariff to splurge on them as they taste so much better than the regular ones.

          5 Replies
          1. re: RCC

            Japanese soy sauce tastes very different from Chinese soy sauce, so if you are planning to cook Chinese food, use Chinese soy sauce. For Japanese food, use Japanese soy sauce. Please don't mix and match.

            Also, please do not get La Choy. It's fake soy sauce and absolutely horrible.

            1. re: kobetobiko

              I don't use Chinese soy sauce for Japanese foods that we attempt to cook at home. I was just providing an example.

              Besides, for simple marinating, La Choy works me. However, when I need good dipping or seasoning sauce I go for the good (at least, what I consider to be good) , that are much more expensive, soy sauce.

              It's just like when using wine in cooking. I can only afford to, and will, use drinkable but lower priced Pinot Noir or Burgundy for marinating my Boeuf Bourguignon. But I will open and quaff on my Grand Cru or Premier Cru bottles while enjoying the dish.

              You didn't provide any suggestion, but for the benefit of the OP, what would you suggest that the OP buy and where?

              1. re: RCC

                Hi RCC,

                Sorry if I sounded rude which I absolutely didn't mean to be. The reason that I didn't provide specific examples is because "fine brands" in my household are all artisian products (for both soy sauce and oyster sauce) that are made locally in Hong Kong and Japan. Whenever my mom or myself go back to Hong Kong or Japan we will bring back these products which are produced in small batches and are not exported overseas. The products available in Asian grocery stores are mostly commercialized goods produced in mass and have ingredients like MSG or preservatives. Personally I don't consider them the "finest brands".

                However, that's not going to be helpful to the OP isn't it? I am not saying commercialized products are all back. There are definitely better quality products out there, albeit not so natural ingredients. Assuming OP is looking for Chinese soy sauce (as he /she is also asking oyster sauce and fish sauce), here are some suggestions:
                - Lee Kum Kee Premium oyster sauce is quite good (must be the Premium kind or the Original kind, others are not so good). There is another brand of which the English name I don't recall (in Chinese it is something called Goon Yak Wah Kee) that is also quite good.
                - For Chinese Soy Sauce, Someone mentioned Lee Kum Kee's Double Deluxe which I like. I will use either Double Deluxe Dark and Light Soy Sauce for cooking. For dipping, the First Pressed Premium Soy Sauce for Lee Kum Kee is fine. I do not recommend any of the Lee Kum Kee's ready to use sauces like curry sauce, mapo sauce, etc. They are not so tasty. Other Chinese soy sauces that work well is Kim Lan. I used to like Pearl River but I found their quality to have slipped overtime.
                Oh, and the Lee Kum Kee's Sweet soy sauce is indeed quite good for dim sum.

                I have a whole other lines of Japanese soy sauce for Japanese food.

                For fish sauce, I like 3 crabs. I have a Vietnamese fish sauce (40C) that I bought in Hong Kong but couldn't find here. Another EXTREMELY good fish sauce is one from Japan (surprise!) made entirely from Ayu (a small sweet fish in Japan). The ingredients are just Ayu, water, and salt. Taste like gold! Sweet and delightly and nothing fishy at all. It is pricey ($15 for 100ml) but it is my favorite by far!

                Lastly, I singled out La Choy because it really ISN'T soy sauce. Look at the ingredients. It doesn't even have soy. It has soy protein and caramalized color or something. It's literally flavored water, not soy sauce!

                1. re: kobetobiko

                  No problem here. Thanks for the clarification. Also appreciate the additonal information on soy sauces.

                  1. re: kobetobiko

                    Kobetobiko,

                    I am going to Hong Kong next week and want to bring back some small batch soy sauce and other goodies. Can you recommend a good food shopping market in Hong Kong and particular food things to seek out? Kowloon Soy sauce is on my list allready.

            2. Think about it -- the amount of soy sauce in most Chinese recipes dwarfs much of the others. The LaChoy and Kikkoman and brands like that are crap. In Chinese markets, at least out here in California, there is an inexpensive Soy Superior and Mushroom Soy that are in bottles the size of wine bottles and the shape of reds. The flavor is deeper and richer and not just salt.

              1 Reply
              1. re: nosh

                I disagree on your thoughts of kikkoman. I find their soy goes well with sushi.

              2. I have many different soy sauces in my pantry but these are in my constant rotation:
                Kikkoman soy for sushi.
                Maggi for taste
                Lee Kum Kee sweet soy for dim sum
                Lee Kum kee dark
                Lee Kum kee light
                Golden mountain for taste
                Ponzu for seafood

                Three crab fish sauce

                Lee kum kee oyster sauce

                Lets not get started about hot sauce now...

                3 Replies
                1. re: DarthEater

                  Not that there's anything wrong with it, and I like it for certain seasoning too, but is Maggi a soy sauce?

                  1. re: DarthEater

                    We have the same soy taste! --- Maggi and Golden Moutain are my two favorites for taste as well.

                    1. re: DarthEater

                      Have you tried the Maggi from overseas (specifically France)? I never knew there was a difference but when I went to Paris my girlfriend's aunt asked us to bring back Maggi Arome Saveur back. Little bottle here is like over $10, bigger bottle up to $30. Then my sister's mother in law asked for some, then everyone started asking. We brought back cases of the stuff.

                      Has a lighter fresher taste

                    2. I go for Lee Kum Kee for both oyster sauce and soy. Their Double Deluxe soy sauce is quite delicious. For fish sauce, Three Crabs.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                        I agree with both of you recommendations. See my note above.

                      2. Oyster sauce: I use Lee Kum Kee's too - I like their Premium oyster sauce better than their Panda oyster sauce.

                        Soy sauce: I buy both the light and dark soy sauce from Pearl River Bridge (I like their rice vinegar too).

                        Fish sauce: I like Three Crabs, because that's what my mom uses and what I grew up with, but for my pantry, I prefer Golden Boy or Flying Lion Phú Quốc" (label pic below):

                        http://www.chow.com/photos/218265

                        1. Gotta say I'm in strong disagreement with a lot of the others here. I find Tiparos fish sauce, LKK oyster sauce, and all the common "fake" soy sauces lacking in subtlety and complexity of flavor. To complicate matters, I try to avoid MSG and its analogs, as well as most preservatives.

                          Here's the stuff I like. My kids wish I was less picky (and make their wishes abundantly clear as I waste their Saturday dragging them from Asian market to Asian market in search of the exact ingredients I want). Take it with a grain of salt (or a thimbleful of soy sauce).

                          Oyster sauce: Dragonfly Super Premium. The sweetness is subtle, and you can definitely taste the oysters. It's not too salty, and doesn't mount a full frontal attack on your tastebuds like so many others.

                          Fish sauce: Golden Boy is the best. Briny and salty, without the intense rotten-fish smell that cheap fish sauce has. I used Squid for years, and it was pretty good too, but Golden Boy is better.

                          Soy sauce: assuming you're looking for a Chinese light soy sauce, Pearl River Bridge purple label. I also keep a bottle of Pearl River Bridge dark (w/ mushroom) for things like fried rice. And a bottle of Aloha and some Yamasa super-premium sashimi soy sauce around for Hawai'ian and Japanese dishes, respectively. Avoid anything with the word "hydrolyzed" or caramel coloring in the ingredient list; it's not real (brewed) soy sauce.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: alanbarnes

                            Just curious why you consider LKK's Premium oyster sauce fake - the first ingredient is oysters (one of the reasons I prefer it over LKK's Panda oyster sauce in which the first ingredients are water and salt).

                            Either way, Dragonfly sounds good. I'll have to keep an eye out for that brand the next time I stock up.

                            1. re: Rubee

                              LKK oyster sauce isn't fake (although, as you note, their Panda brand oyster sauce is). IMHO LKK is a little too salty, and the MSG makes it a bit overwhelming, but that's a matter of personal preference.

                              What's fake is the industrially-produced soy sauce that uses hydrolyzed soy protein instead of brewed soy beans and flavor enhancers to make up for the lack of, um, flavor. IMHO the only acceptable ingredients in soy sauce are soy beans, wheat, salt, and water.

                            2. re: alanbarnes

                              Is Squid sauce marketed as Cock sauce outside the US? The pictures of the packaging look similar.

                              1. re: JungMann

                                I don't think so - I've seen both brands on the shelves here, so presumably they're distinct.

                              2. re: alanbarnes

                                Dragonfly is a thai product from my understanding, hence you would use that for your thai dishes as opposed to the LKK premium brand (lady on boat). Both are good, but used for each cuisine.

                                Fish sauce I have to concur w/ the Golden Boy, or Tra Chang. I used to use Squid Brand, but found it to be strong/less refined than the others.

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

                                http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/feat...

                              3. here are the recommendations of a thai cooking teacher: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/598509

                                1. I use Kim Lan for soy sauce and usually Squid brand or Three Crabs if I can find it for fish sauce.

                                  For oyster sauce, I haven't been too picky. I have been using Mamacita's or Mae Krua, the first is Filipino and the other Thai. They both seem good to me. I will try out the Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce when my Mamacita's finishes.

                                  1. I'm a bit of a "condiment geek", and in two particular areas I've systematically sought out to discover the best tasting brands. I did such a search for soy sauce and for fish sauce. Here are my results below.

                                    Soy Sauce: Yuasa Ki-Ippon - very difficult to find, but is always available at my local Nijiya Market - look for the white box with the purple accents. This is one to use sparingly almost as one uses Fleur de Sel - at the table and not for cooking. I personally use it only for my frequent trips to the Sushi bar, and I find it particularly wonderful on Shiromi in lieu of sea salt, and on Akami (Maguro). I decant it into a small inconspicuous bottle and take it with me to the Sushi bar.

                                    It has a deep and very round, smooth flavor, nothing like its more inexpensive cousins.

                                    http://tinyurl.com/npakv2
                                    http://tinyurl.com/m2mx5s

                                    For fish sauce I'd highly recommend "Flying Horse on Earth Brand"'s Nuoc Nam Nhi. Of all the fish sauces that I've tried this one alone stands apart in depth of flavor and complexity. (I have to admit when passing by the refrigerator that I'll often take a little "swig" of this fish sauce, it's so good.) And like an extra virgin olive oil it is the result of the very first pressing. And like the Yuasa soy sauce this one is very hard to find. I usually see it in one out of 10 visits at my local (and large) Vietnamese market, and beware as there are many similar looking bottles. However unlike the Yuasa this bottle is priced very much like all of the other fish sauces.

                                    http://tinyurl.com/neu3ho

                                    Both of these are very special sauces. I'll guarantee that with each you'll notice the difference. To make up for their relative lack of availability I try to keep several bottles of each around in my "backup" pantry.

                                    13 Replies
                                    1. re: cgfan

                                      cgfan, you are hard core to "swig" fish sauce.

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        LOL!

                                        But honestly I think many will react the same with this fine fish sauce. It's just so full of Umami that each swig reminds me just how adaptable and widely applicable it is. It's also a means of reminding myself just how "neutral" the taste is; it's like a swig of pure Umami w/o a taste hint of where it came from. (Of course as we all know it's the smell, though, that gives it away, though it's one that does not bother me in the least...)

                                        In the time since that I've come across this fish sauce I've turned several people onto this brand, and at least one of them has admitted to doing the same thing - to taking swigs of it straight from the bottle. Another one easily goes through each bottle 10 times as fast as I do. Yet another has told me that it has opened his eyes to the use and versatility of fish sauce and it has enlivened his cooking.

                                        1. re: cgfan

                                          Isn't straight fish sauce enormously salty?

                                          1. re: Humbucker

                                            Indeed, they're all quite salty.

                                            However I like to think of it like the tired adage "make your calories count". With a good fish sauce I demand that it "make the salt count".

                                            In other words for it to be useful make sure it delivers a lot of Umami (savoriness) relative to the salt it carries, and certainly have it displace a proportionate amount of added salt in your cooking. Not much different than soy sauce in that respect, really, though I find the fish sauce delivers more Umami per volume and actually does it a bit more discreetly.

                                            (Just reading your post inspired me to take a little swig. Mmmmmmm...)

                                            1. re: cgfan

                                              I wouldn't think taking a straight swig of soy sauce, though, because of how overwhelmingly salty that would be.

                                              1. re: Humbucker

                                                With soy sauce as well I find it's all a matter of how much "punch" you get for the amount of salt delivered. Again, "make your salt count"; make it deliver some real taste. In fact with my favorite soy sauce I find it to be on the low side in terms of salt content.

                                                Note that I'm only talking about a quantity that's tantamount to a tasting sample. And a swig in the context of fish sauce is really just several drops worth given the drip regulator capping the bottles of fish sauce.

                                                That being said I've taken swigs of soy sauce too, (in addition to "field testing" it at the Sushi bar), which is how I arrived at the Yuasa Ki-Ippon soy sauce as being my favorite soy sauce.

                                                And too salty? Well I've also done the same with sea salts as well. And here again one of my favorite salts, a Himalayan pink rock salt, though I'll usually choose a specific salt based upon use and context, is actually not very salty!

                                                I find that doing a direct tasting is one of the best ways of selecting a quality condiment.

                                                1. re: cgfan

                                                  I also enjoy eating condiments straight (and not even only for evaluation purposes). Now that you've clarified your definition of a swig, I can understand the practice as you apply it to fish sauce much better. Initially, I pictured a swig as being an amount equal to an entire mouthful.

                                                  1. re: Humbucker

                                                    "Initially, I pictured a swig as being an amount equal to an entire mouthful."

                                                    Wow, now that would be hard core! :-0 Sorry about the mixup.

                                                    1. re: cgfan

                                                      cgfan, i'm picturing someone reeling down the street, staggering and drinking from a bottle of fish sauce in a wrinkled brown paper bag. ;-)).

                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                        LOL!!! I just got that same mental image.....

                                            2. re: Humbucker

                                              Well, salt is pretty salty too, heh. Treat fish sauce as salt and you'll be fine.

                                              One of the best brands of Chinese soy sauce is by Kowloon Soy Co. Made 100% naturally, but you can only find it in HK.

                                              Gourmet's "Diary of a Foodie" did a feature on it, this is the excerpt.

                                              http://yumyumasia.com/2008/08/20/kowl...

                                              this is the full ep

                                              http://www.gourmet.com/diaryofafoodie...

                                              1. re: aser

                                                I use 'Kikkoman' for cooking...very good..never 'La Chow'.gross !
                                                very much like YAMASA .regular and lite (color) for sushi and to make dumbling dipping sauce........Have jotted down many of the above recommendations..also have many in my own shelves, both frig & pantry. Will check out Hong Kong mkt. next time i'm in NY's Chinatown.. Living upstate ..thats the main thing I miss..the great ethnic choices (eating & shopping)!!... Thanks for the great reminders and hints !

                                                1. re: aser

                                                  Following up, I found another source for naturally made soy sauce. It's in Yuen Long in HK. Supposedly it's available overseas too but I haven't seen it in Toronto. I was kind enough to receive a bottle of chili preserved bean curd from my mom, visiting from HK.

                                                  http://www.punchun.com/index.php?lang=en

                                        2. I know this is an old post, but I found it searching for info. Great info here. I like Pearl River Bridge Soy. And I definitely like Tra Chang Fish Sauce.

                                          However, I'm a bit surprised at how many people like the Three Crabs brand of fish sauce. Is there a premium brand of Three Crabs that I don't know about? I tried it many years ago before finding Golden Boy, but a neighbor gave me a bottle last year when I ran out (it was in the morning, and I needed fish sauce for my scrambled eggs). Sat down and started eating the eggs, and could definitely taste the difference. Upon inspection, fructose and hydrolyzed soy protein are some of the ingredients. It's still sitting on my countertop.

                                          Anyhow, no offense, but I just want to make sure that I'm not missing something.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: rudeboy

                                            Here are a bunch of postings about fish sauce

                                            http://vietworldkitchen.typepad.com/b...

                                            One of the comments in the 3 crab posting says:

                                            "I used to use 3 crabs, but lately switched to "Golden boy" fish sauce, mainly because if you read carefully the lable,you'll find that 3 crabs is not naturally brewed."

                                            So there you have it.