Which Fish Sauce to buy?

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Hey all,

Time to buy some more Fish Sauce. I LOVE the stuff! In France we used to buy "nước mắm", but around my neck of the woods here I seem to find more Thai stores than Vietnamese ones, so I usually buy "nam pla".

I remember reading something here about which one to buy - only I don't remember which one that was... anyone knows a good fish sauce, and what the differences between the different ones are? I think I remember that it's better to buy the lighter colored ones vs the dark colored one?

Also, do you keep it in the fridge, or in the pantry?
 
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I get nuoc mam, cuz that's the style I'm familiar with. Haven't noticed that brand differences seem to matter much.

It's probably against the rules, but I keep in in the pantry, just like soy sauce.
 
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Brands I have used are Squid, Tiparos, and Three Crabs. Three Crabs is lighter and somewhat more delicate in flavor-good for dipping sauces and works fine for cooking. The other two are more heavy duty but also good and you can just dilute a little if too pungent in dipping sauce. I used to refrigerate but have had mine crystallize out the salt in the frig but not always. I think it is just like soy sauce and can be left out indefinitely due to the salt. I use this stuff in so many things, can substitute for anchovies in caesar salad dressing and really wakes up marinara sauce. Of course I use it mostly in SE Asian stuff but it is extremely versatile.
 
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Great, thanks a lot - phatch, I've seen that one at the asian store, so I know I can find it! So far I've always kept mine in the pantry too, but some unknown reason I've gotten into the habit of keeping the soy sauce in the fridge! Not sure why.

What I remember is a discussion not so much about different brands, but different types of fish sauce, like type zzz and type xxx and type xxx was lighter colored and better tasting even though it was just about the same price. This is a bit confused in my mind at the moment and I can't seem to find the thread in question.

Anyway, thanks a lot for your help, I'm already one step closer.
 

phatch

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Yeah, there is a term and I can't think of it now that indicates the first batch of liquid, nhi or something. After the first liquid is collected, salt and water are added agian to ferment a lower grade sauce.
 
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Three Crabs is very good Thai style fish sauce.  Squid brand is very good Vietnamese style.  Three crabs is a little lighter and more delicate (to the extent that fish sauce can be delicate) while Squid brand has a little more body and oomph.   

Nuoc mam means "fish sauce" in Vietnamese, and nam pla means the same thing in Thai.  Any nuoc mam is nam pla.  They are one and the same thing.

BDL
 
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Three Crabs is very good Thai style fish sauce.  Squid brand is very good Vietnamese style.

Just curious how "very good" is defined, in this context.

My current bottle just happens to be Three Crabs brand, and I haven't noticed that it's better nor worse than others I've tried.

Although made in Thailand, it's identified as Nuoc Mam NHI. So I'm wondering if 1. there is a difference between Nuoc Mam and Nam Pla? or 2. This product is designed for the export market (specifically to Viet Nam)? or 3. Some other reason for the labeling?
 
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BDL> Yesreday you mentioned making a Ponzu.  I was in my local oriental grocery and found a Kikomman Ponzu Terriaki. Tried it and it amazed me that it was as good as it was. Taste  like orange , lime, lemon mixed Try it.
 
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Thanks Ed, we'll give it a try.  Linda and her sweet tooth really like teriyaki, so how can we go wrong?

BDL
 
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Yeah, there is a term and I can't think of it now that indicates the first batch of liquid, nhi or something. After the first liquid is collected, salt and water are added agian to ferment a lower grade sauce.
Yeah that's what I was looking for but I can't remember either. Oh well - thanks!!

BDL, thanks for the extra info as well. Good to know nam pla and nuoc mam are one and the same. Always hard to pin down the exact meaning of those exotic names.
 
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I recently acquired a tiny bottle of anchovy syrup (colatura) to prepare Linguine with Colatura , which appeared in the NYT back in 2003.  I have no experience with fish sauces of any kind and minimal experience with anchovies, but I was impressed with this stuff.  The problem is that it is pretty scarce and expensive, about $20 for 3 oz. or so PLUS shipping charges.

I was wondering if anyone has any idea how it compares with basic fish sauces?  I also wonder if anchovy paste could not be used similarly.  OTOH, the food people at the NYT are not fools and you'd hope that they wouldn't publish a recipe with such an exotic ingredient when there are equivalent products ready to hand.

(FWIW, I did not think this was a great dish, depending almost totally on the colatura for the "sauce."  But it is an amazing substance which gives instant -- with just a few drops --depth and richness to almost anything it touches.  But isn't this a general feature of anchovies in various forms?  And isn't this the purpose of fish sauces in general?)
 

phatch

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There is a historic fish sauce of italy, it's name escapes me. Something like aquamen or so. Might be the colatura I don't remember.. It lost popularity shortly after Roman times
 
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Anchovy syrup isn't like any other syrup. From what I gather it is obtained from the runoff liquid when anchovies are being made. S therefore anchovy salt and water. And it is not cheap because it takes 5 months or more to make it. I used it once in a dressing for salad not because it called for it but it was in the storeroom for years and no one knew what to do with it... Look out it is very strong.
 
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Look out it is very strong.

I found that out for sure when I made my Linguine with Colatura.  It especially packs an incredible salt punch.  I knew that going in but did not pull back on the salting (to taste like the sea) of my pasta water.  Big mistake...and I am a believer in well seasoned food.  I've been much more impressed adding a few drops to enrich the flavor of various other dishes than I was trying to use the Colatura as the principle foreground flavor.  I guess I'm going to have to buy some traditional Asian fish sauce to see how it compares.  I think the Colatura has that umami thing going on BIG TIME.
 
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I use Golden Boy from Thailand. Light golden color, not too strong of an odor, a little sweet, a little bitter. Tiparos is also good -- a bit more assertiver flavor and aroma. Having said that, I like most of the fish sauces I've tasted.
 

phatch

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Resurrecting this thread to give a plug to Red Boat 40°N fish sauce. Costs about 2x as much as 3  Crabs, but worth it. 
 

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