nam pla/fish sauce
I'm hoping to try an 'authentic' Thai recipe later today - does anyone know where I can pick up some good nam pla in Toronto? Preferably downtown. Are there any Thai supermarkets?
I think you can find good quality nam pla at the various markets on Gerrard near Broadview. Many of these are Vietnamese-owned. For using as a condiment, I like the more expensive, lighter-coloured ones. For cooking, the darker ones impart a deeper flavour. I try to read labels and choose one that has pure-sounding ingredients (anchovy, salt, sugar, rather than caramel colour or msg). To me, the cheap ones are really salty and fishy, but two-dimensional in flavour. I won't name one brand because I've had a few that are very good. Ask an employee for advice.
Authentic Thai people use Tiparos brand - it has a yellow label with a red medallion on it. Three Crabs is also very trendy in Thai Kitchens at the moment. Don't get Thai Kitchen Brand, though. Nam pla is readily available at any Asian grocer. I've seen it in the Asian section of many large supermarkets - I think it was the brand with the cuttlefish on the label, which isn't too bad. I think I've even seen some at Magnolia on College, but you'd be nuts to pay what they're asking.
The Thai population here is too small and spread out to support its own supermarket. The closest approximation is Vien Thien, which stocks lots of Thai brands - newspapers and DVDs, too! Usually, though, you can find all the ingredients you'll need to cook Thai at home in any Asian grocery store. T&T and Oriental Harvest are my downtown faves.