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Fish Sauce and Religious Beliefs

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Hi Chownders,

Fish sauce, at least the average Thai variant, is it halal or kosher? Never mind the halal bit, as I'm quite certain it is/can be, but can it be made without shellfish? What are the most common recipes for it? I'm not looking for the strictest preparation, but at least enough to see its being sold in predominantly Moslem or Jewish supermarkets.

Thanks,
BuildingMyBento

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  1. Fish sauce is made with fermented fish, not shellfish. You may be thinking of oyster sauce. There are vegetarian oyster sauces available.

    2 Replies
    1. re: boogiebaby

      Most fish sauce that I'm familiar with has dried shrimp as an ingredient. So while not kosher, I don't see a halal issue. Most of the halal issues (to the best of my understanding) involve the kind of 'walks on the ground meat' and how its slaughtered. Shellfish are halal, and neither kashrut or halal is super concerned with how fish are killed.

      I also currently live in Jerusalem - and only see fish sauce in Asian non-kosher markets. However, there are other sorts of "thai sauce" and the like sold at grocery stores that only carry kosher foods - so I'm sure there's a way.

      1. re: cresyd

        Muslim dietary rules are just as diverse as Muslims. There are some sects who consider consumption of shellfish to be classified as religiously "disliked" (as opposed to forbidden) according to their juridical rulings, and members of these sects avoid shellfish. And then you have people who do not belong to these sects who consider shellfish completely permissible.

        There are regions of the Muslim world where fish sauce is used in the local cuisine, like Gulf Arabs have mahyawa.

    2. I'd like to ask why you would like to see this product in "predominantly Moslem or Jewish supermarkets"?

      These seem to me to be two very different specialty marketplace niches within an overall marketplace where the product is already available.

      2 Replies
      1. re: FrankJBN

        I think the perspective is that for kosher audiences who would be interested in preparing "authentic" Thai/southeast Asian food - then being able to get fish sauce without shellfish is important. Kosher Asian food has a long history in Jewish eating because in many varieties of Asian cooking dairy isn't common. Therefore there's a wide range of interesting meals that can be prepared without dealing with milk/butter substitutes.

        Obviously, pork and shellfish are left out - but as someone who lives in a city with many kosher Italian restaurants (but isn't personally kosher) - there's usually something about them that feels like something is missing. That being said there are high quality kosher Japanese/pan-Asian restaurants in Jerusalem that I prefer to some non-kosher ones. There are no kosher Italian restaurants where I have that attitude.

        1. re: cresyd

          I understand that, but I think you miss the thrust of my question (and one of the OP's). Since this product is widely avaialble from non- kosher/non-halal 'general admission' outlets, I wonder why OP wants it avaialble from restricted sources. The OP specifically said he or she wants "to see its being sold in predominantly Moslem or Jewish supermarkets." and that is what I questioned.

          If i want fake grass to decorate a sushi platter I go a a Japanese grocery/specialty store because it is already available there. Here, there would be no particular reason not to buy fish sauce where it is already available.

      2. Most of what I find is super simple in terms of ingredients: anchovies, sugar, salt...you might want to post this on the "Kosher" board for the best results.

        1. There have been kosher-certified brands in the past but I haven't seen any lately. It's not a high-demand item so they likely don't see a compelling need to pay for certification.

          1. "... but can it be made without shellfish?"
            --------
            This implies that your understanding is that fish sauce is generally (i.e. "usually"?) made with shellfish included. Where did you read or hear of this?

            As far as I know fish sauce - at least from the reputable makers - does not contain shellfish.

            There has been discussion of "contamination" or adulteration of fish sauce (including the issue of [inadvertent] inclusion of shrimp) but that seems to apply to cheaper low-quality/"local" stuff (within Vietnam) meant for local consumption. [See, e.g. this travel forum: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree... . Trustworthiness of that discussion is an open question.]

            Here's an old CH thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/309831

            Are you looking for fish sauce that is officially certified as kosher?

            "Red Boat" fish sauce [http://redboatfishsauce.com/index.html] is a brand that includes the specific phrase "Gluten Free - No Shellfish" on their label. You can buy it online too.
            p.s. This brand is an excellent one. Two CH threads (there are others) that mention it: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/834622 ; http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/379200 .

            1. you might also contact kosher-Rabbinical food certification sites
              such as Orthodox Union
              http://www.oukosher.org/

              1 Reply
              1. re: jpr54_1

                They have a search engine on that site but there are no results for fish sauce or garum.

              2. Chowhound has a Kosher board -- would be a good place to pose the question as it pertains to kosher. See http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/28

                edit... Duh: I see pinehurst already said this... sorry.

                1. i did google search for asian kosher fishsauce

                  as stated b4 go to Kosher site on chowhound and search for fish sauce-there r at least 3 sets
                  of responses

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: jpr54_1

                    http://www.kosherdepot.biz/menu.html#

                    this store has many asian products

                    i also sent e-mails to 3 other sites

                    from what i read so far --anchovies r kosher and fish sauce can be made with them-
                    some asian sauces make it withthese

                    1. re: jpr54_1

                      Uh, Thai (the OP's query) and Vietnamese fish sauce is supposed to be made with only anchovies and salt.