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Nov 24, 2010 09:52 AM

Low sodium fish sauce

I love Thai food, and fish sauce is the base of so many Thai dishes. The problem is the incredibly high salt content of fish sauce. I'm trying to keep my daily sodium intake to <2000mg, (USDA rec < 2300mg, AHA rec <1500mg), but most fish sauces are well over 1000mg/tbsp.

So my goal has been to find a low salt fish sauce. I've searched the various Asian groceries in Boston, and here's what I've come up with. If anyone knows of any low sodium fish sauce brands, please let me know.

Ultimately, I've gone with Tiparos at 690mg/tbsp. It tastes great, much better than Squid IMO. And Squid has 1000 more mg of sodium.

It's interesting how many brands are trying to play off the name of the popular Three Crabs brand. There's One Crab, Three Shrimps, Shrimp & Double Crabs, etc.

Tiparos 690mg
Tra Chang 1170mg
Tra Chang Gold Label 1170mg
Shrimp & Double Crabs 1220mg
Cock 1270mg
Crabs & Scallopes 1270mg
Three Shrimps 1320mg
Thai Kitchen 1360mg
Golden Boy 1370mg
Flying Horse on Earth 1400mg
Flying Lion 1420mg
One Crab 1420mg
Two Crabs 1420mg
Five Crabs Super Premium 1420mg
Flying Horse Nuoc Mam Ca Com Phu Quoc 1490mg
Squid 1670mg
Pufina Patis 1710mg
Double Parrot 1730mg
Three Crabs 1800mg

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  1. Thank you for doing my research for me! I have bought Tiparos for years because that's what the Frugal Gourmet recommended, though I don't recall that sodium content was a factor in that endorsement. A bottle lasts me for years and I just finished one; was thinking about trying another of the brands that is lauded on CH but would have compared sodium first. Tiparos is plenty salty enough for me - if I could find one with even less sodium I'd get that instead.

    1. Okay then,
      I'm ready for ya'll to take jabs
      at this fellow who uses Three Crabs.

      For years I enjoyed bite, saltily delivered,
      of Three Crabs, and their concomitant Six pincers.

      How little I knew that each grasping claw
      each delivered a full load of 300 grams to my maw.

      Transported back in time when there sailed Roman galleons
      transporting amphoras of fermented good Garum...
      With same root for "salt" and each foot-soldiers "salary"
      we must wonder the content of that fish sauce's sodium.

      Tongue in cheek I just spake to Oaktree77.
      Thanks for the work. I'll try the Tiparos.

      1. LOL. I love the poem FoodFuser! Three Crabs delivering 300mg/pincer. Referencing Ancient Roman garum. Brilliant!

        Three Crabs is also a bit odd in that it includes fructose and hydrolyzed wheat protein (glutamic acid aka MSG) in its ingredients. I didn't notice any of the others deviating from the standard 4 fish sauce ingredients of water, anchovy extract, salt and sugar.

        Greygarious, it is amazing that the seamingly high-sodium Tiparos is actually the ultra-low, several standard deviations away, low-salt fish sauce option. Like you, 690mg seems plenty high to me.

        Someone's got to come up with a low sodium fish sauce. Aren't there already plenty of options for low-salt soy sauce? I even saw a soy sauce with only 145mg/tbsp of sodium. Of course, who knows what it tastes like. But I'm willing to give it a try.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Oaktree77

          But isn't salt an essential ingredient in the fermentation of the fish? I don't think it is added at the end, just before bottling.
          From the Wiki article:
          ". Anchovies and salt are arranged in wooden boxes to ferment and are slowly pressed, yielding the salty, fishy liquid. (The salt extracts the liquid via osmosis.)"

          I can think of 2 ways of reducing the salt:
          - water it down
          - make a synthetic version (using hyrdrolyzed vegetable protein etc) that bypasses that slow salt extraction method.

          from the wiki soy sauce article:
          " Some higher-quality hydrolyzed vegetable protein products with no added salt, sugar or colorings are sold as low-sodium soy sauce alternatives called "liquid aminos" in health food stores, similar to the way salt substitutes are used."

          1. re: paulj

            I'm no expert on fish sauce fermentation, but I think there are two ways that salt is reduced.
            1) Using a higher ratio of fish to salt in the fermentation
            2) Using fish sauce from the "first draining" of the tanks

            On its website, Tiparos mentions that it uses a fish-to-salt ratio of 2:1. On Kasma Loha-unchit's website, she writes that she thinks Golden Boy uses a ratio of 3:2. Perhaps the relatively higher ratio used by Tiparos contributes to Tiparos' low salt content.

            On two websites discussing the making of fish sauce, the authors write that the first fish sauce drained from the tank is the finest quality and the least salty. They also both write that fish sauce makers usually combine this Grade A fish sauce with lower quality (and saltier) fish sauce later extracted to make the final product that they sell to consumers.

            Here are the links:

        2. That's interesting to see all those different sauces and their declared salt contents. I wouldn't have expected so much variation.

          Color me skeptical, though, in that your query is like asking about low-fat cream. It's called milk, or half-and-half, etc. There are preparations in which you can sub milk for cream, and some that you cannot. I'm sorry that your salt intake is a restriction. But how often do you really need to consume a whole tablespoon of fish sauce? The only time I use multiple tablespoons of fish sauce is when making a dish that serves four or more, or for a dipping sauce in which you won't actually consume all the sauce.

          Admittedly, some Thai preparations will push you to the tablespoon level, but do you eat those very often? And you can simply cut the quantity in half to halve the salt factor.

          It is a tough call, though. Southeast-Asian food is tasty while low in fat, largely because it uses salt and sometimes sugar in higher proportion than do European foods.

          1. Actually, the One Crab, Two Crab, etc. are all made by the same company that makes Three Crabs. Flying Lion is also made by same company.

            More here: