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Aug 29, 2013 01:58 PM

How long is too long on the shelf for fish sauce?

While there is so much salt in fish sauce that it probably never really expires, fermentation continues in the bottle and as a result, the flavor can degrade over a long period of time. Yes, high grade fish sauce is made by aging it for 2 years, so it should get better with age right? Not exactly as those were in controlled conditions. Im looking to order several bottles of Megachef fish sauce, but not so much that some are no longer of quality by the time I use them. Unfortunately, I have to have them imported from Australia as the prices for Megachef here are wayyyy too expensive. I can get them for $8 for the big bottle (700 mL) in Australia vs. $45 here.

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  1. Where do you live, and why that specific brand? Here is a thread on relative sodium content:
    and two others on recommended brands:

    I have often had a partially used bottle of Tiparos in my refrigerator for several years before using it up and it's tasted fine, although over time the color can change, and crystals form and sink to the bottom of the bottle.

    2 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      I live in nyc. I grew interested in this brand after noticing David Thompson using it while cooking Mussaman Curry of Chicken. I make an effort to use high quality ingredients in my cooking so I tried to find out what brand it was, hoping that using the same ingredients as him would help me replicate food from a Micehlin star Thai restaurant. This brand isn't widely available but those who've tasted it seem to agree that it is superior. Fun Fact: Its sometimes referred to as Son of Squid as the owner of Megachef is the son of the the person who founded the Squid brand of fish sauce. He created Megachef's fish sauce in an effort to make a fish sauce that was as odorless as possible.

      I also want to compare Megachef to Tra Chang's Gold label fish sauce.

    2. sealed and not oxidizing it should be fine for years.

      too long on the shelf? when it's beyond empty and just taking up space.

      1. I'm still using a bottle which is 7 years old.

        3 Replies
        1. re: klyeoh

          what's taking so long? ya slowpoke (smirk).

            1. re: klyeoh

              oh dang I slather roasts or stuff for the grill with it (but then I grill a lot) smells like death but tastes great.

        2. The typical rule of thumb is that they have about 6 months to 1 year of shelf life. Not very long the moment after you open the seal.

          If you wan to buy several bottles, then I would only open one bottle at one time and recommend storing the other bottles in a refrigerator.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            If it's kept in the fridge, does that extend the life?

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I have to disagree. It's very seldom that I use up a condiment in less than a couple of years, as I have a habit of splurchasing interesting-looking sauces. Unless they become science experiments, I keep them until they are finished. I've cooked with a lot of zombie condiments and am none the worse for it.

              1. re: greygarious

                < It's very seldom that I use up a condiment in less than a couple of years, as I have a habit of splurchasing interesting-looking sauces. >

                Sure thing.

                <I keep them until they are finished.>

                I think a lot of sauces can be kept for a long period of time. But not all sauces are the same, and fish sauce is particular sensitive. There is nothing toxic about keeping the fish sauce for longer period of time, but its favor changes dramatically.

                In fact, even good soy sauce does not last long. la2tokyo (a sushi chef) has this to say recently:

                "Soy sauce oxidizes very quickly. Most people continue to use soy sauce that doesn't taste anything like it's supposed to. I went to a soy sauce lecture in Japan one time and the manufacturer poured us soy sauce into a white dish out of a fresh bottle and told us to examine it. At the end of the lecture he told us to taste it and look at the color was totally different. He said the fresh flavor is what the manufacturer and the chef should try to preserve. Most high end sushi bars do not use soy sauce that has sat out for more than a couple days. If you make a sauce out of it the flavor will stabilize, but generally speaking you shouldn't keep raw soy sauce around very long. Buy smaller bottles, especially if you are not using it for cooking (i.e. sushi or sashimi)."


                I think it all depends where one is coming from. Can a person drink red wine which has been opened for a week? Sure, one can. You don't die from it. Does it taste anywhere the same as when it was first opened? No, it does not. Some people don't mind to drink one-day old wine, while others refuse to. It is a personal choice.

                It is still a good idea to store the unopened fish sauce bottles in a cool dark place, maybe not freezer or refrigerator cold.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Yes, *definitely* refrigerate condiments once the seals are broken.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    Due to a recent thread about condiments, I've moved some out of the fridge but fish sauce is one that remains.

                    1. re: klyeoh

                      Thank you. Of course, this depends how fast the person can finish using it. For a person who uses fish sauce often can easily go through a small bottle (I have a small bottle) in a month. In which case, it may not be as important to keep it in a refrigerator. On the other hand, if a person rarely uses fish sauce, then he/she has a choice to make. The fish sauce can be used for several years with no toxic effect, but the taste would have been altered by then.

                      Is that really important? It is up to the person to decide, I suppose.

              2. I've had my bottle for four years. I suppose that's because I use it sparingly when I'm out of soysauce.