The kind I bought at a Chinese grocery (an unknown brand) is just so, so salty. If I add enough to enhance the flavor of a dish, it's oversalted. Your favorites? Thanks so much! ;o)
AJ, I recently heard a segment on Fish sauce on the Splendid Table radio show (Lynn Rosetto Kasper) and seeing your question reminded me of it. I am probably the last person to give advice on fish sauce, but thought this might find this interesting. Here is the link: http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/listings/111008/
And here is one more from the archives that I found when I searched for the link to the above:
The "Three Crabs" brand..easy to remember as it has three crabs on the label.
Thanks so much, both of you. Great information!! ;o)
Ditto Sam on Three Crabs. it's just a tad more expensive but so much better!
Sometimes fish sauce..even the good kind, gets overly salty when stored a long time--we're talking years here. I only buy it every couple of years as the bottle last far longer than could use up.
Look for a place that has high turnover in their market. As it doesn't have a 'best by date'.
Last year I replaced my 'three crabs' brand which had been sitting about 2 years in dark cabinet..way to salty..and I thinned it out with a touch of sherry and water. Still wasn't as good as 'fresh'. (if there is such a thing for fish sauce).
I just wish I could find smaller bottles of the stuff.
I have Golden Boy and Squid. Golden Boy is especially good. Three Crabs tastes good but is not a naturally fermented product. Check out http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/features/fishsauce1.html#threecrabs from Kasma Loha-unchit.
There's a new brand that is reportedly superior to all the others. I say reportedly, because I'm pretty reluctant to try them all. Anyway, Red Boat Fish Sauce is extra virgin salted fish juice, using only anchovies and salt, aged for like a year. I think this may be the identical sauce used by ancient Romans (garum? I think that's what it's called). I've procured a couple of bottles (they're available in the west, so I smuggled them home in my suitcase, using my amazing packing ability), and I use them in many recipes, not just Asian ones. Like the amazing pork roast I made today, with herbs and onion. The distinct and unpleasant fishy smell that I hate in all the other fish sauces is not there, but it certainly lends amazing umami to anything I use it in. I sound like an ad, but I'm not.
Thanks, sarah k. That one wasn't on my radar, but I see it's gotten some amazing press. For those who don't have time to review their website, http://redboatfishsauce.com/ and the reviews, just be warned that it's maybe a bit more intense than what we're used to. Also that it comes in two versions, with different amounts of fish protein. Sounds like we could all learn a whole lot more about fish sauce.
I don't find this sauce overly intense, though, as I admitted above, I haven't been in the habit of using fish sauce. I hated using the regular Asian market brands even when I made Thai dishes that called for it, because I could always smell the fishy smell that is supposed to go away with cooking, and it made me gag. But I seem to have no problem with Red Boat, and I do find it's flavor enhancing ability quite pleasant. I became interested in it after reading some reviews on meat-eater blogs, and also after reading "Salt: A World History" by Mark Kurlansky. The whole history of fish sauce is so fascinating, and it was only then that I realized how fish sauce really fits in every cuisine. A bit nerdy?