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Colatura and Asian Fish Sauce: what's the dif?

katzzz Jun 18, 2012 07:42 AM

I've read about colatura, Italy's liquid essence of anchovy. It sounds great, but I've never seen it on sale in any of the Italian specialty stores around Boston. I know it's available online, but before I take the plunge and buy it, I have to ask if and how it is different than Asian fish sauce, which is far cheaper and for all I know, may be pretty much the same thing, aside from the country of origin of the anchovies.

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  1. ipsedixit RE: katzzz Jun 18, 2012 10:20 AM

    They are essentially the same, except Thai fish sauce is diluted to about 20% when bottled, which explains the price difference.

    12 Replies
    1. re: ipsedixit
      katzzz RE: ipsedixit Jun 18, 2012 01:28 PM

      So would it work if I were to take an Italian recipe and used 5X the amount of fish sauce instead of the colatura? If so, it would be a great way to use up the big bottle of fish sauce in my cupboard!

      1. re: katzzz
        ipsedixit RE: katzzz Jun 18, 2012 01:47 PM

        Um, no.

        5x the fish sauce = 5x the liquid.

        If, for example, you were making an Italian sauce calling for Colatura and used 5x the fish sauce, you'd end up with .... soup.

        1. re: ipsedixit
          roxlet RE: ipsedixit Jun 18, 2012 02:36 PM

          It seems that SE Asian fish sauce is made from anchovies, like colatura, but colatura has a lower salt content. Other Asian fish sauces -- like Japanese -- are not necessarily made from anchovies.

          1. re: roxlet
            Tripeler RE: roxlet Jun 19, 2012 06:45 AM

            I have never heard of Japanese fish sauce, except for something quite rare called "shottsuru". Is this what you are talking about, Roxlet?

          2. re: ipsedixit
            katzzz RE: ipsedixit Jun 18, 2012 04:34 PM

            The recipe's I've seen using colatura call for small amounts, like a tablespoon. I'm thinking that it would be easy to cook down a larger quantity of Asian fish sauce without getting soup.

            1. re: katzzz
              roxlet RE: katzzz Jun 18, 2012 05:59 PM

              But I think there'd be the salt factor...

              1. re: roxlet
                johnb RE: roxlet Jun 19, 2012 08:30 AM

                Speaking for myself, I use fish sauce in just about everything, including Italian red sauces. Never had any problem with saltiness or excess liquid as a result; I think those things are easily resolved in the normal process of adjusting quantities as the dish is prepared.

                Is Colatura essentially what used to be known as garam, and has been used since the Romans at least?

                1. re: johnb
                  ipsedixit RE: johnb Jun 19, 2012 09:34 AM

                  Yes, I believe so.

                  1. re: ela_tarantella
                    jumpingmonk RE: ela_tarantella Jun 20, 2012 05:22 PM

                    To be technical, Colatura is analagous to ONE TYPE of Garum. The Romans had many differen formulae for Garum, varying in spices, type of fish used and method of preparation. There were fish based ones made like coloratura from the drainage of curing anchovies. There were ones based on seafoods other than fish, In fact, "Garum" is the old Roman word for shrimp, from the Greek (Garides), They didn't start using the word "squilla" or "scillia" till a bit later. Some only used the innards of the fish, or only the heads. All coloratura is garum, but not all garum is coloratura

                    1. re: ela_tarantella
                      katzzz RE: ela_tarantella Jun 29, 2012 12:10 PM

                      As luck would have it, my wife is returning from Italy with a bottle of colatura for me. I'm eager to use it and also to compare it with Vietnamese/Thai fish sauce. I'll report back, but may take a couple of weeks (my wife won't let me cook pasta for dinner every day, as much as I might like to!).

                      1. re: katzzz
                        ela_tarantella RE: katzzz Jul 1, 2012 08:57 AM

                        Def let us know! Where in Italy did she get the colatura?

                        1. re: katzzz
                          ospreycove RE: katzzz Jul 1, 2012 09:02 AM

                          Sveral styles of Asian fish sauces are made from the salted heads, entrails, frames of fish, fermented and pressed to get the flavorful fish oil, then diluted.
                          Colatura is the run off of salted anchovies in the curing process. For my taste, Colatura, Garum, is more pleasing when added to certain seafood pasta dishes, or on its own with a simple Olio e Basilica Spaghetti prep.

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