Fish Sauce Taste Test, 13 Brands Compared

Fish Sauce Taste Testing

Fish Sauce, the amber-colored umami Uzzi of Southeast Asian cuisine. We know the magic it holds, but which brand is the best? Is the Vietnamese nuoc mam really superior to Thailand’s nam pla? We tasted 13 different brands of fish sauce, all commercially available in the States. The best was clear and the loser stank.

Fish Sauce, A Primer

Fish sauce is simple: Fish (usually anchovies) mixed with sea salt and fermented for a long period. The resulting liquid, fish sauce. It’s the backbone of Eastern Asian cuisine. The Thai call it nam pla, the Vietnamese, nuoc mam. In the Philippines it’s patis, Korea, aek jeot, and so on. According to Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking, fish fermentation “arose several thousand years ago in the freshwaters of Southwest China and the Mekong River region. It then spread to coastal deltas and was applied to ocean fish.”  McGee goes on to cite the origin of Asian fish sauces as garum, an ancient Roman sauce that “consists of the guts of fish and other parts that would otherwise be considered refuse, so the garum is really the liquor from putrefaction.”, according to the Roman historian, Pliny. It was said that the best garum was made only from mackerel and came from Roman outposts in Spain. As a liquid, it’s value was comparable to the finest perfumes. Fish sauce is believed to be the precursor to soy sauce. McGee states that first foods fermented by the Chinese, fish and meats, were eventually replaced by soy beans in the 2nd century BCE.

The Baseline for Best

The goal of this tasting was to find the brand which possessed the best flavor. Our basis for the “best” tasting fish sauce was as follows:

  • It should taste pure, with fish and sea salt being the only perceivable ingredients
  • Fish should be the dominate flavor, with salt to follow
  • It should taste of fish and the ocean, but not be “fishy” or off-putting
  • It should not taste sweetened; if there is perceivable sweetness it should taste natural and be on the finish

While we considered and documented aroma, it did not factor into our scoring of taste. Regardless, we found that in all cases those brands with an off-putting aroma shared the same taste.

A Collaboration with Three Thousand Acre Kitchen

To do so I recruited my good friend, and fellow food blogger, Jaime Vasquez (pronounced high-may) of Three Thousand Acre Kitchen. We  had a full day of taste testing followed by a night of grilled foods incorporating fish sauce. One of the highlights of that dinner was Jaime’s Vietnamese-style Grilled Pork Balls (follow the link for the recipe) sauced with the Vietnamese dipping sauce, Nước chấm.

The Brands Tasted

Fish Sauce Taste Test, 13 Brands Compared to see which is best

The Results:

Red Boat 40°NStarStarStarStarStar
Red Boat 50°NStarStarStarStarStar
New Town 60°NStarStarStarStarHalf Star
TiparosStarStarStarHalf StarNo Star
Shrimp and CrabStarStarStarHalf StarNo Star
Viet Huong Flying LionStarStarStarNo StarNo Star
Flying HorseStarStarStarNo StarNo Star
MegaChef 30°NStarStarStarNo StarNo Star
Huong Vi VietStarStarNo StarNo StarNo Star
Golden BoyStarHalf StarNo StarNo StarNo Star
Three CrabStarNo StarNo StarNo StarNo Star
SquidStarNo StarNo StarNo StarNo Star
Blis (excluded)StarStarStarStarStar

The Methodology

  • All brands were tasted blind
  • 50mL of sauce was poured into identical 100 mL white ramekins, numbered 1 to 13
  • Flavor was scored on a 1 to 5 scale; 1 being worst and 5 being best
  • Perceived sodium level was recorded as Low, Medium or High
  • Color and aroma were observed and recorded
  • Rice crackers, water and coffee bean (aroma) were used between each sampling to cleanse the palette
  • Samples were tasted plain
  • Samples that scored above 3 stars were re-tasted plain, with warm rice and as a paste with hard-boiled eggs
  • The three highest scoring sauces were re-tasted plain for a final, closer comparison

The Winner

Red Boat 40°N

Red Boat 40°N

Red Boat 40°N — Phu Quoc, Vietnam — $6.95  (500 mL)
StarStarStarStarStar

Summary:
Red Boat 40°N just happened to be toward the end of all the different sauces we tasted (blind). We both immediately agreed that this was easily the best so far. The taste is fish and salt, with a slightly sweet finish. It was remarked “Now this is what fish sauce should taste like.” There’s currently a lot of buzz around Red Boat. I’ll admit, I was skeptical. In the end Red Boat was the clear winner.

Red Boat was one of the first brands I’ve known to declare Degrees N. (40°N, 50°N, etc.). This is a standard to measure the number of grams of nitrogen per liter of fish sauce, which directly relates to the protein level. According to Red Boat “The highest quality fish sauces are greater than 30°N, with the flavor becoming more rich and complex with larger N designation.”

Tasting Notes:
Agreed we both “love this”, “Simple, not complex. Just straight forward”, “an oolong tea aroma”, “fish, but not fishy”, “This smells pure”, “like seared fish”, “I’m on the beach”, “fish is the clear leader here”, “caramelized onions”, “salt is at the front, but fish quickly follows”, “a slightly sweet finish, but natural, not added”, “This is easily the best to far”, “I just want to keep tasting this”.
  • Salt Level: Medium-High
  • Ingredients: Anchovy, Sea Salt
  • Protein: 4g Protein per 1 Tbsp

Recommended

Red Boat 50°N Fish Sauce

Red Boat 50°N

Red Boat 50°N — Phu Quoc, Vietnam — $8.00  (80 mL)
StarStarStarStarStar

Summary:
Red Boat 50°N is Red Boat’s premium brand, it’s what they refer to as their “Phamily Reserve.” It’s excellent, no doubt. But the flavor difference between 50°N and 40°N is minimal. When comparing the high-scoring finalists against each other, it was remarked that the most noticeable difference was that 50°N (identified later) was “a bit saltier”. It was easy to taste that these two were the same brand. While price seems to vary greatly, the 50°N is easily 10x the cost of 40°N. Is it worth that difference in price? We didn’t think so.

Tasting Notes:
“Tastes pure and rich”, “mineral flavors”, “this reminds me of excellent capers”, “clearly fish and salt”, “there’s a subtle sweet finish to this”, “love this”, “Smells really pure”, “fresh fish, but not fishy; briny”, “maybe a tiny bit of smoke?”
  • Salt Level: Medium-High
  • Ingredients: Anchovy, Sea Salt
  • Protein: 4g Protein per 1 Tbsp

New Town 60°N Fish Sauce

New Town 60°N

New Town 60°N — Vietnam — $5.95 (500 mL)
StarStarStarStarHalf Star

Summary:
This brand is a mystery. We found it on the shelf of our local Vietnamese super market. It bears the 60°N designation, which is indicative of its nitrogen (protein) level. Is that legitimate? Hard to say. It seems almost all the fish sauce on the market bear claims like “From Phu Quoc” that’s nothing more than deceptive marketing intended to capitalize on the history of high-quality fish sauce from Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island. New Town’s origin is Vietnam; the best fish sauce is arguably from Vietnam. We could not find out anything about the manufacturer or importer. In fact, we couldn’t even find reference to the listed import company in California’s corporation commission. That said, this is really good. A very close second to Red Boat. We felt the umami was most pronounced in this sauce; it had the most round mouth feel. If you can find it, pick it up.

Tasting Notes:
“The most assertive so far”, “very good flavor”, “rich and true”, “a slight acidity to it”, “a round mouth feel”, “almost tastes like it has fish oil”, “tastes like caramel”, “umami for days”, “good, fish, salt, simple”
 
  • Salt Level: Medium
  • Ingredients: Fish, Salt, Water
  • Protein: 1g Protein per 1 Tbsp

Best Buy

Tiparos Brand Fish Sauce

Tiparos

Tiparos — Thailand — $1.49 (725 mL)
StarStarStarHalf StarNo Star

Summary:
At $1.49, Tiparos is easily the best buy. And aside from the addition of sugar, this does not contain the fructose and hydrolysed B.S. that you’ll find in most of the brands we tasted. With water as the first ingredient, it confirms our “not a lot to this, but not bad” perception; it’s certainly no where near as pure as Red Boat. If using as a part of a recipe, such as in a soup where it’s not the feature, you could use more to make up for it’s “weakness.” It’s likely that you will find Tiparos, alongside the other major brands like Golden Boy and Three Crabs, at most any place fish sauce is sold. And if faced with that choice Tiparos is easily the best buy—and the better sauce.

Tasting Notes:
“Not a lot to this, but not bad”, “there’s fish here, but it’s a little flat”, “salt seems the primary flavor, with fish hard to find”, “the flavor is good, it’s just a bit weak”
  • Salt Level: High
  • Ingredients: Water, Anchovy Extract, Salt, Sugar
  • Protein: 2g Protein per 1 Tbsp

Recommended with Reservations

Shrimp and Crab Brand Fish Sauce

Shrimp and Crab Brand

Shrimp & Crab Thailand — $2.99 (725 mL)
StarStarStarHalf StarNo Star

Summary:
The world of fish sauce is filled with small-scale importers trying to capitalize on the success of other major brand names. It would seem that Crab and Shrimp Brand is trying to do just that. Most would mistake this as Viet Huong’s Three Crab brand—I did—due to the intentional similarity in labels. Surprisingly though this scored high in our tasting. Especially surprising as our all of the other brands that contained additive ingredients scored low in our test. It does contain hydrolysed wheat protein, so that should be considered by those avoiding gluten.

Tasting Notes:
“This smells a little flat; not bad, but not complex”, “salt is first, followed by fish”, “I really like this. It makes me want to taste it a few more times”, “salt is high, but flavor seems pure and even”, “certainly a sweet finish”, “most UMAMI of the bunch”, “I taste dried chinese plum”, “makes you pucker, but follows with a sweet finish”
  • Salt Level: High
  • Ingredients: Anchovy Extract, Water, Salt, Fructose, Hydrolysed Wheat Protein
  • Protein: 2g Protein per 1 Tbsp

Viet Huong Flying Lion

Viet Huong Flying Lion

Viet Huong Flying Lion — Hong Kong —$3.89 (750mL)
StarStarStarNo StarNo Star

Summary:
If we could give this a 3 ⅛ stars we would. It just barely creeps into the Recommended with Reservations category. Like the popular Three Crabs brand, Flying Lion is a brand manufactured by the Viet Huong company. They also manufacture 1 Crab, 2 Crab, and 5 Crab brands. But not 4 Crabs? While this is nowhere near as bad as Three Crabs or Squid, we could taste the additives. The flavor is acceptable, but not great. If our recommended brands were not available, Flying Lion would be adequate for dipping sauces, with Tiparos better suited for use as an ingredient.

Tasting Notes:
“Very light smell; a bit of musty cardboard”, “not great, but OK”, “tastes a bit like paper”, “if the price is good on this, it could be acceptable”, “I don’t think this tastes pure”
  • Salt Level: Medium
  • Ingredients: Anchovy Extract, Water, Salt, Fructose, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein
  • Protein: 2g Protein per 1 Tbsp  

Not Recommended

Flying Horse Brand Fish Sauce

Flying Horse

Flying Horse Thailand — $1.29 (750 mL)
StarStarStarNo StarNo Star

Summary:
Flying horses and lions, crabs and shrimp. It seems any animal is fair game for marketing fish sauce—except fish. Go figure. Despite the universal appeal of flying horses, this sauce lacks luster. That’s not to say it’s terrible. If forced to choose between Flying Horse and Flying Lion, I’d put my money on the horse. It’s nearly 1/3 the cost and is void of the additives in Flying Lion. The taste is a tossup, however. 

Tasting Notes:
“Barnyard aroma; earthy and a little poopy”, “fish not at front”, “onion and soy aromas”, “tastes a little metallic”, “searching for the fish”, “multiple fish, maybe even shellfish flavor”, “possible other ingredients”, mutually agreed this is “not pure”
  • Salt Level: Medium
  • Ingredients: Water, Anchovy Extract, Salt, Sugar
  • Protein: 3g Protein per 1 Tbsp

MegaChef 30°N Brand Fish Sauce

MegaChef 30°N

MegaChef (30°N) Thailand — $2.95 (700 mL)
StarStarStarNo StarNo Star

Summary:
MegaChef makes several different sauces with this being billed as their “Premium” offering for the US. While it is free of the hydrolysed proteins and “other” ingredients commonly found among the major brands, it does have added sugar and fructose. That makes for a cloying sweet sauce. It’s a shame, there seems to be the makings of a good fish sauce here, but the sugar just kills it.

Tasting Notes:
“A light aroma, subtle”, “smells of the sea”, “tastes a little flat”, “salt first and very quickly sweet”, “sweetest of bunch”, “tastes a little fake”, “hard to find fish flavor”

  • Salt Level: Medium-High
  • Ingredients: Anchovy, Sea Salt, Sugar, Fructose
  • Protein: 3g Protein per 1 Tbsp

Huong Vi Viet Brand Fish Sauce

Huong Vi Viet

Huong Vi Viet Brand — Vietnam — $2.95 (750 mL)
StarStarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Summary:
The color of Huong Vi Viet brand was significantly different from the other brands. It’s “pinkish” and “looks fake” were some of the remarks. Later upon inspecting the label, “caramel color”confirmed our suspicions. The only reason this scored higher than Golden Boy, Three Crabs or Squid brands, was that the smell and flavor were not horribly offensive. 

Tasting Notes:
“This looks pink and cloudy”, “doesn’t look right”, “smells like paper”, “tastes fake”, “It’s not horrible, but it’s not fish sauce”, “more like vegetables than fish”, “tastes like it has ‘other’ ingredients”
  • Salt Level: Low
  • Ingredients: Anchovy Fish, Salt, Fructose, MSG, Caramel Color, Potassium Sorbate
  • Protein: 1g Protein per 1 Tbsp


Golden Boy Brand Fish Sauce

Golden Boy

Golden Boy — Thailand — $2.49 (725 mL)
StarHalf StarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Summary:
There are four major brands that are pervasive in the world of fish sauce: Tiparos, Three Crabs, Squid, and Golden Boy. Because these brands were so easily obtainable, it was important that they were included in our tasting. There’s not a lot to say about this. It just tastes gross. Not as gross as Three Crabs and Squid brands, mind you, but that’s little consolation.

Tasting Notes:
“Smells like old musty paper”, this smell is off-putting”, “0ff tasting”, “flat, one-dimensional”, “taste bad, then just disappears”, “not good”
  • Salt Level: High
  • Ingredients: Anchovy Fish, Salt, Sugar
  • Protein: 2g Protein per 1 Tbsp

Viet Huong Three Crabs Brand Fish Sauce

Viet Huong Three Crabs

Three Crabs — Hong Kong/Thailand — $2.59 (300 mL)
StarNo StarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Summary:
When asked “What fish sauce would you recommend?” a majority of people will tell you Three Crabs—and a good lot of chefs will tell you Three Crabs, and for the life of me, I cannot tell you why. Maybe because it’s the least salty of the bunch? It’s certainly not as assertive as Golden Boy and Squid, but it simply tastes awful. We’ve also often heard it remarked that “I love fish sauce, but it just smells so terrible.” If a majority of people are basing their impression of fish sauce on Three Crabs, I can understand the sentiment. It smells terrible. One of us remarked “It smells like that stuff between your toes.” Fish sauce shouldn’t smell terrible, Red Boat and a few of the other brands tasted here proved that.

Tasting Notes:
“Smells like that stuff between your toes”, “smells off, not good”, “smells like musty old books that have molded in an attic”, “bad and fishy taste”, “tastes fake, mass-produced”, “very sweet”, “tastes like paper”, “terrible and flat, this is just bad”
  • Salt Level: Low
  • Ingredients: Anchovy Extract, Salt, Water, Fructose, Hydrolysed Vegetable Protein
  • Protein: 2g Protein per 1 Tbsp 

Squid Brand Fish Sauce

Squid Brand

Squid — Thailand — $1.49 (750 mL)
StarNo StarNo StarNo StarNo Star

Summary:
It’s a tossup between which was worst: Three Crabs or Squid brand; we were divided on our interpretation. While Three Crabs easily smelled the worst, it’s possible that Squid tasted worst.

 

Tasting Notes:
“Terrible”, “that same musty old paper smell”, “pungent and off”, “this does not taste good at all”, “tastes like it smells”, “fake, musty old newspapers”, “Ick”, “easily the worst yet”
  • Salt Level: High
  • Ingredients: Fish, Salt, Water
  • Protein: 2g Protein per 1 Tbsp

A Whole Different League

BLiS Barrel-Aged Fish Sauce

Blis Barrel-Aged Fish Sauce

Blis — Phu Quoc, Vietnam / United States — $17.95 (200 mL)
StarStarStarStarStar

It was agreed that this should not be considered among our tasting as it’s a whole different animal. The flavor is something totally different.
Blis (I refuse to type “BLiS”) is a collaboration between Blis and Red Boat. They’ve simply taken Red Boat 40°N and aged it in charred barrels for 7 months. The result is pretty extraordinary. It’s rich, smoky and peaty—and when I say smoky, I mean smoke for days. Like drinking Laphroaig around a campfire while smoking a brisket. I’d use this like you would use Worcestershire sauce. I can see a barrel-aged fish sauce experiment of my own in the future.

Salt Level: Medium — Ingredients: Anchovy, Sea Salt — Protein: 3g Protein per 1 Tbsp

What We Learned

Fish Sauce Taste Test Color Comparrison

Color comparison: New Town 60°N, Red Boat 40°N, Three Crabs

Good fish sauce should be fish and salt, nothing more. While it will smell like fish, it should not stink or smell foul. All of the brands we tasted that smelled off, tasted off. The color should be a dark amber. Our top 4 had nearly identical colors, while the lower scoring were often a pale tea color. It’s widely believed that the best fish sauce comes from Vietnam, and while our sampling is hardly enough to confirm conclusively, our top two do represent this sentiment. Quality fish sauce degrades with time. Much like wine, fish sauce is subject to oxidation. It’s best to refrigerate your fish sauce and use within a year of opening.

There are countless manufactures and importers of fish sauce. Many of the importers are small operations importing what they can get from different family and regional producers. It would be impossible to taste them all. We’ve tried to cover the major brands as well as some of smaller imports.

Next time you’re shopping I’d urge you to read the labels. Check the country of origin, it’s often not what’s represented in the design. But most importantly, check the ingredients. Ideally, you want: fish and salt.

You may be interested in this recipe: Nuoc Cham, Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Tags: , ,

87 Responses to “Fish Sauce Taste Test, 13 Brands Compared”

  1. Kyle Hildebrant February 17, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

    If anyone has a favorite brand a fish sauce they use, I’d love to hear what that is. Let me know here in the comments.

    • Tham Vu February 24, 2014 at 7:46 pm #

      Try Hai Yen 40N. This brand does have added sugar but goes down smooth ($4.79). Eagle brand 40N is an excellent fish sauce, no added sugar and similar taste to Red Boat @ $4.79, a bargain. I tries Tropics (Philippines), too salty.

    • Minnie March 2, 2014 at 10:20 am #

      This is a really misleading taste test and is down right stupid. There is a really good reason why three crabs is recommended and by many people and chefs alike. Your taste test is based on plain tested samples, then samples that scored above 3 stars were re-tasted plain, with warm rice and as a paste with hard-boiled eggs. Did you cook with any of your samples? It is true that the best fish sauces are considered to be aromatic and light not have an obtrusive smell. But you don’t use a $1000 bottle of wine to cook with do you? Three crabs is considered one of the best fishes sauces to cook with. It is not meant to be poured over rice and eaten with eggs. People use it to cook with. It is obvious that you don’t regularly cook with fish sauce or understand how they are used to make your food taste better.

      • Kyle Hildebrant March 2, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

        Minnie — There’s a lot of wrong assumptions here, and it sounds like you didn’t read the full post.

        I can appreciate your allegiance to the Three Crabs brand. It’s what I started cooking with about 15 years ago. I do have pretty extensive experience cooking with Three Crabs, Golden Boy and Flying Lion brands. Simply because those have been the most widely available brands at the different cities in which I have lived.

        I understand that you shouldn’t cook with a $1,000 bottle of wine. But on the other hand, you should not cook with bad wine either. Any professional chef will tell you this. A boeuf à la Bourguignonne made with cheap wine is going to taste bad, plain and simple. Your point also implies that I suggested you should cook with a more expensive fish sauce. That’s simply not the case. If you read the entire post, you should see that. The difference in price between Three Crabs and Red Boat brands is about a dollar; around $5.95 for Three Crabs and $6.95 for Red Boat. Moreover, we did specify a brand we thought provided the best value and best taste, which was noted to be the best to cook with. That was Tiparos, which is about 1/3 the cost of Three Crabs.

        There’s certainly no accounting for personal taste. It’s an exercise in subjectivity. There are many people, professional and non-professional alike, that will tell you “Three Crabs is the best!”. It’s hard for me to argue with subjective preference—especially when fueled by nostalgic bias. There are also a good amount of people claiming that “Red Boat is the superior brand!”. Our goal was to do our best to eliminate bias and preference by tasting blind. Could the test have been more thorough? Certainly. There’s always opportunity to do things better. However, It was unrealistic for use to cook dozens of different dishes to test 13 different brands. It would have taken an inordinate amount of time. In the end, we did our best to approach this scientifically, thoroughly and without personal bias.

    • Nguoi Viet To The Viet Nam Me Se March 3, 2014 at 9:42 am #

      Flying lion is the best !! This survey is pure BS , and it must be sponsored by Red Boat ( a company owned by the communist government) , The most expensive price does not mean it is the best, it only means they’ve spent more money on marketing and propaganda like this dumb taste survey !!! I have taste Red Boat nuoc man, and seriously, it tastes like S…quid !! Ha ha ha !!!

      • Kyle Hildebrant March 3, 2014 at 10:09 am #

        I can assure you that there was no sponsorship of any kind, from any brand.

      • Minh March 3, 2014 at 10:46 am #

        I just want to mention that Red Boat isn’t that much more expensive. Especially when you consider that it’s first press (nuoc nhi). It’s a higher concentrate liquid (even compare the protein amounts), and you wouldn’t need as much to season. Also, price isn’t a factor when doing a blind taste. It’s blind for a reason!

        Of course, everyone has their own taste and opinion.

      • John July 22, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

        In agreement.

        Fish Sauce is not to be sipped like red wine….Red Boat is way too salty and will lead to high blood pressure and ultimately heart attacks

    • Bill Foonman May 9, 2014 at 9:27 am #

      Tra Chang is my favorite Thai brand for cooking and is not reviewed at all. It is an excellent, quality fish sauce.

      While I use Tra Chang in my recipes, my choice for Thai salads and dishes that do not require cooking is always Red Boat 40°N.

    • Kortez (@Korteztk) July 28, 2014 at 10:46 am #

      I wonder if you had a bad bottle of Golden Boy because the ones I’ve used were very good, and not off at all. I agree completely about Squid and 3 Crabs. I do not understand why so many use those brands. Red Boat 40 degrees is the standard, but in the U.S. it is up to $10 a bottle (still worth it).

      • Kyle Hildebrant July 28, 2014 at 11:23 am #

        We actually happen to have 3 bottles of Golden Boy (I used to buy it primarily before the test). One had been open for a week or so, the other unopened, and the last opened for about 6 months. There was certainly oxidation in the one opened for a long time, but no detectable difference in the other two, which were bought from different stores. I can’t rule that out, but it seems unlikely. Maybe try a blind taste test of your own to confirm? Prices for Red Boat seem to vary.

  2. jamie February 17, 2014 at 3:04 pm #

    Mmmm…Thanks for the blind tasting! Glad I already have Red Boat in my cupboard!

  3. peter @feedyoursoultoo February 18, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Did you find any kosher fish sauces?

    • Kyle Hildebrant February 18, 2014 at 9:18 am #

      Peter, Great question. We did not, but not out of lack of trying. The only brand we could find that was kosher was Imo, who produces various kosher Asian staples. They don’t, however, import to the US. If you know of any brands available in the US, I’d love to know.

  4. Laura@Silkroadgourmet February 19, 2014 at 6:58 am #

    Great and well-done exercise! I would like to see you compare Red Boat to homemade garum or its last living relative in the west: colatura di alici. In my experience, the use of mackerel (or other fish) in the garum makes for a much more powerful sauce than either of the two produced by anchovies (colatura or nuoc Mam). http://www.silkroadgourmet.com/garum-is-umami-in-a-bottle/

    BTW: Garum was originally produced by the Carthaginians. The Romans took over the lucrative production and trade from Carthage after winning the 2nd Punic War.

    • Kyle Hildebrant February 19, 2014 at 9:09 am #

      Laura — Thank you for that info. Do you have any sources you could point to for historical confirmation? I’d love to read a bit more on the subject. Your story looks excellent. I’ll be digging into that this weekend. Regarding the comparison, the goal was to taste sauces that are commercially available in effort of help others to make more informed decisions. I’ve been experimenting with creating my own fish sauce as well. And I’ve been working on recreating a Worcestershire recipe (which is fish sauce/garum at it’s core). I’m planning to do something on the topic soon. I’ll likely be comparing that to Red Boat as well. Though I hardly expect to be able to replicate the same flavor your can find in Phu Quoc fish sauce; most of those well-know producers are using huge vats made from a specific type of wood found only on that island. It’s said that a majority of that flavor profile is imparted by the wood. I’m also planning to do a few experiments around barrel aging commercial and home-made fish sauces as well. So much to do, but so little time. Moreover, and as you well know, these are the type of experiments that can take a year to see results.

  5. Laura@Silkroadgourmet February 19, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Sure: Its included in the west-to-east flow of technology essay: The earliest mention of garum fish sauce is to be found in the agricultural writings of the Carthaginian Mago which was translated into Latin after the Third Punic War, but composed probably in the 6th or 5th Century BCE around the time of the rule of Magon (550-530 BCE). Cato the Elder mentions the trade of “Carthaginian fish sauce” in the 2nd Century BCE, and later descriptions can be found in The Deipnosophistae (The Philosopher’s Dining Table) by Athenaeus (3rd Century ACE). Athenaeus also mentions the remains of garum or liquamen production called allec which is not unlike the anchovy paste still used in Mediterranean cooking today.

    • Kyle Hildebrant February 19, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

      Excellent! Thank you for taking the time to document and point this out. I’ll update the post to reflect it.

      • Laura@Silkroadgourmet February 19, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

        Thanks! Also cool that you are working on an early Worcestershire sauce. You probably know that it was part of a much larger trend in fish-based sauces that began in the late 18th C. Do you have the amounts of ingredients in the early Worcestershire? There may be less fish in it than you think. I came across a mention of Dr. Kitchener’s fish sauce (1828 mention) the other day and it had only 4 ounces of pounded anchovies to pints of claret and mushroom catsup along with LOTS of spices.

        • Kyle Hildebrant February 19, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

          I do. My focus will be on a the Lea and Perrins style sauce. The precursor for Lea and Perrins sauce was actually the Sauce for Lampreys. The first known publication of ‘Sauce for Lampreys’ (which I was able to find) was in ‘The Cooks & Confectioners Dictionary: Or, the Accomplish’d Housewife’s Companion.’ by John Nott (1723). At the time of Lea and Perrins there were a LOT of Worcestershire-style sauces.

          • Laura@Silkroadgourmet February 20, 2014 at 5:23 am #

            Which recipe in Nott are you referencing? I couldn’t find one that jumped out and bit me as some sort of eel might. Also how do you know this is the precursor of Worcestershire? Just curious. Thanks

          • Kyle Hildebrant February 20, 2014 at 6:27 am #

            If you have the Google digitized book, it’s page 256:
            “…Or you may serve it with this Sauce. Take Oil, Vinegar, Salt, Pepper, and a little Mustard, shred Parsley, an Anchovy, and a few Capers, and beat them all well together in an earthen Vessel or Porringer; then put it in to a Saucer, place it in the middle of the Dish, and lay the Lampreys round it.”
            The city of Worcester was known as a city of lampreys. This type of lamprey sauce would be known as Worcester sauce. But I’ll leave the rest for the post. ;)

  6. Theminh D. February 19, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    Nice work Kyle! Just so you know, blind testing is just the tip of the iceberg. Asians do great things with fish sauces and in so many ways. I have four different bottles to pair with my cooking, like wines pairing with special dishes. Some of them might finish bottom but works great in sauté, dippings or soup. Though I do agree with you on the Squid and Three Crabs, wouldn’t touch it. Mom told me to try the MegaChef (30°N) for the taste and the sanitized process in the making. I noticed that mom has aged and her taste buds are a bit off. I do have a favorite bottle, here in Montreal, but can’t seem to find a picture on the web to show you. In coming pic later. Next stop, test on soya sauce and oyster sauce for us? Keep up the good work,

    • Kyle Hildebrant February 19, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

      Theminh — Thank you. I certainly understand the reality of using as ingredients; some of the flavors change and/or dissipate. We tried to test for some of this with the egg mixture. I would have been just way to time consuming for us to test all of these brands in different cooking applications. We felt Tiparos would be best in these scenarios. It was the cheapest and only contained fish, salt and sugar. I have done some extensive cooking, outside of this particular test, with Golden Boy, Flying Lion Three Crabs and Squid. I always felt that Squid and Three crabs were very poor examples of what fish sauce should be. I think ingredients are an excellent indicator of quality, regardless of the application.

      On the topic of soya/shoyu, we’ve actually begun to plan for that. I fear it’s going to be very difficult to pick which brands to taste. There’s an insane amount of manufactures out there. if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

  7. Kyle Hildebrant February 19, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

    What brands did we miss?

    • nkhuong February 24, 2014 at 11:17 am #

      One recent bottle that I bought was the Double Golden Fish brand. The label says it’s from Vietnam and they actually has the address in the Phu Quoc island. I was looking really carefully to find fish sauce from Vietnam since I am Vietnamese. Sadly, most of the fish sauce I see in my local market (in Virgina) are from Thailand. Another type of sauce that I’d love for you to do research on is soy sauce, which I think can be a lot more diverse.

      • Kyle Hildebrant February 24, 2014 at 11:30 am #

        NKHuong — We tried to our hands on Double Golden Fish brand. I had heard that is was also one of the few brands from Phu Quoc island. Sadly, it’s not available at any of the markets here, we couldn’t find any type of contact information from the supplier, and weren’t able to find it online. I would have loved to had it in our taste test. Any sources?

        Regarding soy sauce, we are indeed considering this for our next taste test. It’s going to be a more difficult thing to taste, as there are so many different styles employed by different countries. It’s going to take a little thought to consider what categories would be most meaningful. It may have to be a comparison by country (e.g. Japanese shoyu)

        • nkhuong February 24, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

          I bought my Double Golden Fish Brand bottle from Grand Mart, my local Asian super market here in VA. I tried to search on Amazon but didn’t see it being sold there so getting this brand online is not very likely to be possible. Here is also a forum thread I found that has some more info and comparison with Red Boat: http://lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=34030. Glad to know that you’re planning to test soy sauce as well. Make sure to get some soy sauce from Vietnam if you can. I am very interested in reading the result of your taste testing.

          • Kyle Hildebrant February 25, 2014 at 7:31 am #

            Do you have a Vietnamese soy sauce brand we should consider?

          • nkhuong March 2, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

            The Double Golden Fish also has a line of soy sauce as well. I found one or two brands of soy sauce made in Vietnam at my local grand mart and all of them has the name “Lá bồ đề” in front. The Double Golden Fish doesn’t have preservative listed in the ingredient so that’s what I use. Back when I was in Vietnam, I used to like the brand Chinsu a lot but they’re not available here in the US. Also, you’re probably already aware of it but there is soy sauce made by Bluegrass in Kentucky http://bourbonbarrelfoods.com/shop/soy-sauce/bluegrass-soy-sauce-32-fl-oz. I am curious about how it would taste like but the price is quite expensive for me.

      • Nga March 2, 2014 at 11:09 am #

        Red Boat is available at Eden center now.

  8. Tracey lister February 20, 2014 at 12:59 am #

    Great article. Phu Quoc fish sauce rocks.

  9. Pedro Penduko February 20, 2014 at 5:19 am #

    Hmmmm. In the Philippines, we know our Patis (fish sauce)! Some of the best we’ve ever had was straight from the fermentation clay pot, no brand, no fuss. Patis factory right by the sea, up in Lingayen Gulf, Pangasinan province, NW Luzon, the Philippines. Mmmmmmmmmmm…

    • Kyle Hildebrant February 22, 2014 at 3:22 am #

      That sounds perfect, Pedro. It’s the small batch family producers that usually have the best. For the record, we tried to get ahold of Patis for the tasting. We weren’t able to purchase in our city and the brands didn’t respond to our requests.

  10. LeAnn Do February 23, 2014 at 7:09 pm #

    nước mắm Việt Hương three cua is the best .And I know what I am talking about because was born and raised to eat nước mắm

    • Be Anh February 24, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

      yuck … you must be stinky all over. Poor you.

  11. Tixin February 25, 2014 at 6:37 am #

    There are very few Vietnamese dishes that require straight raw fish sauce for dipping. That being said, I have been using Squid brand for over 35 years for marinating, cooking, and making dipping sauce and see no reason to change to a more expensive brand. Just for kicks, I will try a bottle of Red Boat for raw dipping and will report back.

    • Kyle Hildebrant February 25, 2014 at 7:30 am #

      Tixin, you need not buy something more expensive. In fact Tiparos was significantly less expensive and scored a lot higher. And there’s certainly no accounting for personal preference. If you’re nostalgically tied to Squid, it’s going to be pretty difficult to convince you otherwise. ;)

  12. Ana Stacy March 2, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Whoa whoa whoa, what is this? A tasting of Southeast Asian sauces by 2 non-Asian guys, who have been raised with completely different palates? Sorry but this effort has gone to waste. Not to mention the claim about our beloved fish sauces originating from Gamur … I’d like to know more about where this claim came from btw. Until then, love the methodology but that’s about it. Please do again, but with palates from expertise. :-)

    • Kyle Hildebrant March 2, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

      Ana — While I can certainly appreciate your skepticism, to ascertain my “expertise”, or how I was “raised”, based solely on my appearance is not only unfounded, it’s a bit unfair. While I may be a “round eye” I can assure you I am no stranger to Asian cooking or tastes. I’ve been deeply entrenched in Asian cuisine my whole life. My expertise lies more in Japanese and Korean cooking, specifically. Moreover, I have also fermented my own fish sauce on several occasions; which I’d venture to say is likely more than most “asian palates” can claim. :)

      As far as history is concerned, it’s a widely accepted fact that the ancient Roman fish sauces called Garum/Liquamen are the precursor to modern Asian fish sauces. As Laura pointed out in an early comment, it is also believed that the Romans took over production of Garum from the Corinthians in Corinth (Greece). There are written references to this in literature going back to the 3rd Century B.C.. The Italian archeologist Claudio Giardino was cited in a piece on the topic at NPR. The food historian Sally Grainger wrote in depth about its origin along with recreating the recipes in her book The Classical Cookbook. There are countless more literary studies I can point you to, if interested in the topic.

      • Ana Stacy March 7, 2014 at 8:03 am #

        I’m sure your love of Japanese and Korean cooking is legit, but unfortunately it does not replace the fact that your palate is not from the region these fish sauces are from. Judging your lack of expertise from an assumption of where you are from is absolutely not unfounded, and not unfair – it’s quite valid. By not being from the area, your tastes and senses can not be comparable to those that grew up eating its foods; people who from an embryo were exposed. Your “round eyes” response is trite and tasteless as there are many within the Asian race, especially southeast Asians, who have round eyes.

        Furthermore “Asian cooking” should not never, ever be lumped together – anyone would agree that techniques and flavors vary greatly from different regions & cultures. Perfect example of how vastly different they can be, are Japanese/Korean cooking and Southeast Asian cooking.

        Attempting to “make fish sauce”, your prized attribute for this test, absolutely does not qualify your palate to surpass any ethnic southeast Asian tastebuds. By this you’re saying anyone can judge Italian sauces after making spaghetti, especially a person of Asian descent who is an expert in “European cooking” – the Swedish and German kind.

        • Kyle Hildebrant March 7, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

          Oh, Ana. The “round eye” comment was a David Chang reference; one in which he discuss the “round eye’s” lack of appreciation for fish sauce. While undoubtedly topical, it is admittedly obscure. Forgive my oversight in the omission of that citation. I did, however, appreciate your “tasteless” pun, intentional or not.

          All of this aside, I have my eye toward the future. I’ll be eagerly awaiting your own taste test results. If your trolling schedule permits, I assume you’d do us the favor of posting those results here, for our collective edification?

          Until then, keep fighting the good fight. Your contribution to society is inspiring.

  13. Minh March 2, 2014 at 10:22 pm #

    I have to shamefully agree that I too use to tout 3 Crabs brand as the best. It was what my mom and grandma used forever. Looking at the current label, it has a ton of unnecessary ingredients (which didn’t use to be in the original formulation from what I’ve read). So it could have been the best then, but not now with all that added junk. I recently made the switch to Red Boat 40N last year and it’s been amazing! It’s delicious made as a dipping sauce as well as braising meat. And surprisingly, I’ve found it in my grandma’s cupboard too (I didn’t even say anything). Good taste runs in the family I guess lol. I love the fact that it’s just anchovies and salt. Really want to get my hands on that Blis bottle though!

    Great post! Thanks for conducting this blind taste test :)

  14. Halr75 March 17, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    Fantastic post, picked up some Red boat on Saturday and did Pad Krapow Moo, a huge improvement over the last batch i did with Squid brand!

    • Kyle Hildebrant March 17, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

      Thanks for your feedback. I love Pad Krapow Moo. Pork and basil are such a perfect paring.

      • Halr75 March 18, 2014 at 6:23 am #

        It is indeed, although it is somewhat of a painful treat for me as my love of the hot is not tempered by the inevitable pain the next day!

  15. Lakshmi March 17, 2014 at 7:27 pm #

    Hi Kyle, I am new to Fish sauces. So when I bought the ‘squid’ brand to try out South east cuisine, salt was all I could taste in the final product. I assumed fish sauces are alike. Thanks to you, I will be looking for Red Boat 40 N next time… very informative post.

    • Kyle Hildebrant March 17, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

      Lakshmi —— That makes me very happy to hear. It true that they are all going to be very salty, but Squid is probably toward to top of that salty list. Come back and let us know your thoughts.

  16. kim April 2, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    Great article, I am a Vietnamese and have been having fish sauce my whole life. Since i was a kid in Vietnam, I had fish sauce daily, traveled to different areas and tasted the best fish sauce of each city. I moved to US with my family i have to say Red Boat is the closest match to the pure fish sauce i had back in Vietnam. It tastes and smell right plain and great with cooking. If you want to try the real fish sauce, heat it up in a stove and the smell will tell, i cook every day with fish sauce and the good quality give a sweet finish to the dish, (especially with the slow cook soup, the smell totally disappear but the sweet round taste remain) while others branch i tried can mostly replace salt and smell. (Viet huong, 3 crabs, shrimp and crabs , squid, megachef).
    I am not saying this in favor of Red Boat, but in favor of the user, the good quality fish sauce is not only great for taste and cook, but also for health if you use fish sauce for cooking daily like me.

    You should also try the fish sauce made from mackerel, for dipping because the taste is light and pure, the sauce is clear like water for the first press. I have tried as a kid but can’t find any it would be interesting to find one here.

    It’s hard to fully explain this with my limited English but simply said, after trying different kind of fish sauce, Red Boat is to me the real fish sauce among those brands and if there is any other brand that bring the pure fish sauce to the table, I am willing to try and welcome.

    • Kyle Hildebrant April 4, 2014 at 10:38 am #

      Kim — That really make me happy to hear. Thank you for sharing that experience.

  17. Sarah April 4, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Thank you for this article. The first time I tried fish sauce it was Squid brand and it was so terrible I though I would never use fish sauce again, thinking there couldn’t be that much difference in other brands. Now that I see it is low on your list too, I have renewed hope that I can find a good fish sauce (hopefully your recommended ones).

    • Kyle Hildebrant April 4, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      Sarah — You’re welcome. Some of my first experience were on the “whoah, that stinks!” side as well. But I really believe it doesn’t have to “stink” or taste bad. It’s always going to smell fishy, and that’s something Americans are much less accustomed to. If you can get over that hurdle, you will fall in love. :)

  18. rl reeves jr April 9, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    Brilliant article and yes, Red Boat is the king. If you haven’t tried it you should order some of their anchovy salt. It’s like granulated essence of fish sauce. Put it on cabbage. How To Make Vietnamese Soul Food Cabbage With Red Boat Anchovy Salt http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2014/2/10/How-To-Make-Vietnamese-Soul-Food-Cabbage-With-Red-Boat-Anchovy-Salt

    • Kyle Hildebrant April 9, 2014 at 9:41 am #

      Thanks for the kind words. We did happen to get our hands on some of that salt as well. Red Boat was kind enough to send us a few bags a while back. I’ve been trying to figure out how best to use it. I was considering a sauerkraut or sorts. Your take sounds tasty.

  19. rl reeves jr April 9, 2014 at 9:44 am #

    We cooked 25lbs of Brussels sprouts Sat night for a pop up, tossed them with olive oil, coated them with the anchovy salt and roasted them in a 400 degree oven, turned the crowd into a pack of maniacs.

    • Kyle Hildebrant April 9, 2014 at 10:02 am #

      Sounds money. Those are flavors I know well. We do roasted brussels with tangerine segments (added after roasting), topped with chopped cilantro and popped rice (rice crispies) and smothered in nuoc cham. Give that a go sometime.

      • rl reeves jr April 9, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

        You’re a fiend sir, a fiend. Yes, we will be heisting that recipe soon.

        • Kyle Hildebrant April 9, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

          The magic of that is in the lime juice of the nuoc cham. The acidity brings everything into balance.

  20. Mark April 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    Great article Kyle. I just recently started playing around with fish sauce and based on the article look forward to trying a few of the varieties mentioned. Keep you the good work.

    • Kyle Hildebrant April 9, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

      Thanks, Mark. Next time you make a pasta sauce, try adding a couple tablespoons of fish sauce. The Romans use a version of fish sauce in this same manner. It brings a real roundness to the sauce, without a trace of “fish.”

      • Minh April 9, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

        I add fish sauce to my pasta sauce as well! Contributes an amazing dimension of flavor. Really interesting that this is seen in cooking in other cultures.

      • Mark April 10, 2014 at 2:39 pm #

        I agree. I’ve used crushed anchovies in the past but the fish sauce would be much easier “no bones about it”. :-)

  21. TeaseMeGirl April 9, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

    Hi Kyle!

    Great article – I was just curious: do the ingredients in fish sauce differ in US vs. Canadian versions of the same brands??

    I grew up on Squid brand and just recently received a small sampler botle of RedBoat 40°N and I am actually quite surprised that the ingredients you listed for Squid brand in your test are NOT the same as what I have listed on my own bottle here at home.

    I just did my own mini taste test of the 3 brands I have at home and found that Red Boat 40°N is quite amazing, but I’m quite surprised that people consider 3 Crabs Brand “better”/more palatable than Squid. The flavours are completely different! Personal taste preferences being pretty important, obviously, but I can taste all sorts of weird chemicals in 3Crabs compared to the lovely fishiness of Squid Brand like in RedBoat.

    I had purchased a bottle of 3 Crabs Brand awhile back after reading all over the place that it is considered one of the best brands and was absolutely shocked at how horrible it tasted and then read the ingredients (after the fact) and was supremely disappointed.

    …now I just have to figure out where to actually BUY RedBoat 40°N in Canada since I am going to be so unhappy when this tiny 80ml sampler runs out :/

    • Kyle Hildebrant April 10, 2014 at 10:18 am #

      Thanks! I do know that a lot of ingredients can differ from one product to the next in different markets. I’m curious what the ingredients of Squid brand are for you? If you click the image of the Squid bottle, you can see those ingredients plainly on the bottle as well. I’d certainly have to agree with your assessment of 3 Crabs. As far as purchasing Red Boat, you can do that directly on their site. I’m pretty sure they ship to CA. Looks like they have a big bottle available now too.

  22. Danoz April 26, 2014 at 3:03 am #

    Thanks very much for this extremely informative and eye-opening review.
    Funnily enough I found my way here by searching for a comparison between Squid Brand and 3 Crabs (to settle a family dispute – we’re Vietnamese).
    Haha. Seems like you’ve barely resolved that one; which is least worse??

    In your estimation, should anything be read into the ingredients list listing “Anchovy” (or “Fish”) vs “Anchovy EXTRACT). Is this just due to the translation of ingredients, since surely fish sauce is just an extract of fish/anchovy, no? Or is it that “Anchovy Extract” as an ingredient could indicate a second or later pressing or some other further processing, whereas “Anchovy” would indicate a more pure first press.

    I’m interested in your educated guess.

    Thanks.

    • Kyle Hildebrant April 28, 2014 at 8:15 am #

      Danoz, as much as I’d love to be the deciding factor in a family dispute, it was pretty much a toss-up between the two. If pressed to chose one over the over, I may take Squid. The reason being is that 3 Crabs smelled the worst to us. That’s something that didn’t go away with cooking; yet the flavor can blend in, somewhat.

      The other point you raise is a very interesting one. Its something we discussed as well. If I was to guess, I’d say it’s a matter of translation. Although those that don’t specify the type of fish are probably using multiple types of fish, because that’s cheaper. If it is first press it will often say “nuoc mam nhi”, where “nhi” indicates first press—thing you probably know.

  23. Frasier Linde May 15, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

    Have you considered the freshness of each bottle may play a role in the results?

    • Kyle Hildebrant May 17, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

      Frasier — A very valid question. We did. In fact, we also compared a freshly-opened bottle of Golden Boy to a bottle that had been opened six months earlier. There’s a marked difference in taste, due to oxidation. Not unlike you would encounter with a bottle of wine, opened for some time—yet not as pronounced. This is one of the reasons we suggest storing the fish sauce in the refrigerator. I touched on this in the summary of the post above.

      • Frasier Linde May 17, 2014 at 5:59 pm #

        I meant in regards to bottling date.

        • Kyle Hildebrant May 24, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

          There’s really no way to take something like that into consideration. There’s so many factors at play there. Most don’t even provide a bottling date. That aside, there shouldn’t be any perceptible degradation of quality when bottled and before opened, because there is not oxidation happening in the bottle.

  24. rl reeves jr May 18, 2014 at 7:30 am #

    And another use for that magical Red Boat Anchovy Salt: Recipe: Charred Vietnamese Zucchini With Red Boat Anchovy Salt http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/index.cfm/2014/5/12/Recipe-Charred-Vietnamese-Zucchini-With-Red-Boat-Anchovy-Salt

  25. Timothy Regan June 8, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Greetings:

    8 June 2014

    Why is it the case (does it appear to be the case?) that there are no North American producers of fish sauce? I have been a student of the various realms of fermentation for a good, long time and, in fact, am in my ninth and tenth months of procession of last season’s tuna-trimmings fish sauce (I personally catch or obtain from local fisherman ALL of my starting product) and in my second and third month of procession of this year’s night smelt fish sauce. All of my fish sauces are targeted for full-year aging/maturation and I’d love to enter my wares into a challenge of sorts.

    Don’t worry about dangerous outcomes, as I’m a formally-trained and educated chemist. I use only fish product and sea salt and I keep the salt concentration at a level that is lethal to all non-beneficial (and/or dangerous) organisms.

    There are lots of aspects associated with my product that are standout. For example, my fish sauce is made in relatively small batches and is aged in the relatively cool climate of Eureka, California.

    Sincerely,

    Timothy Regan, Eureka, California, USA

  26. The Monk June 10, 2014 at 7:58 pm #

    You just cost me $1.89. I just bought a bottle of Squid brand and opened it. Pretty potent stuff. I bought a bottle of Mam Viet Hai Yen today since I could not find the Red Boat here. A lot better..threw out the Squid. Thanks.

  27. Nhung June 25, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

    Thanks for the info. I’m quite outraged as I’m going on one year of being gluten-free, only to find out the “vegetable” protein is wheat product in fish sauce. We recently switched to Red Boat, but had some Viet Huong 3 Crabs left. Then my husband brought home a bottle of Megachef, which boasted gluten-free. I thought, why would fish sauce have wheat product? (I thought the vegetable protein referred to soy bean products. I was WRONG!) Now I really have to reconsider eating at Asian restaurants…I know most will not use gluten-free fish sauce. Can’t wait for your experiment with soy sauce. I’m currently using 3 brands that are g-f.
    Thanks.

    • Kyle Hildebrant July 1, 2014 at 10:47 am #

      It’s true that vegetable protein can be a labeling for hydrolyzed wheat protein, it is also often a labeling for soy protein. The US government requires that one disclose the source, but many of the overseas producers not have those same guidelines. I too have a mild celiac, so I feel your pain. I’m not bothered by the small amounts of grains found in soy sauces and such, but I do have to avoid bread and beer and the like.

  28. Loren July 8, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    Great information brotha! I used Tiparos as a quick marinade for steak and it came out pretty awesome. I wanted to get your opinion and see if there is a better fish sauce to use as a marinade for beef and pork? Thanks

    • Kyle Hildebrant July 8, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

      Thank you. I appreciate it. As far as marinating meat, I’d probably reach for Tiparos myself. If it was a special dinner, maybe Red Boat. In fact, I’ve got a couple pork chops in a sous vide bath with a bit of butter and Tiparos right now. :)

  29. lgs315 July 12, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    Thank you for the excellent tasting review. I will be trying Red Boat as soon as possible and will be walking the isles of my Asian grocery store with more confidence!

  30. Padaek July 23, 2014 at 5:10 am #

    Hi!

    I just posted a similar review of fish sauce and light soy sauce on my blog but not as comprehensive/detailed as this. I found the Three Crabs fish sauce to be very delicious, although I can only really compare it to Squid brand and Tiparos brand. I’ve also been recommended that the Red boat is an excellent quality/tasting fish sauce. Your blog is awesome by the way. Will be following. :)

    • Kyle Hildebrant July 25, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate the feedback.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Recipe: Nuoc Cham, Vietnamese Dipping Sauce — Our Daily Brine - February 20, 2014

    […] Fish Sauce Taste Test, 13 Brands Compared […]

  2. Linkage | An Ergodic Walk - February 24, 2014

    […] A taste test for fish sauces. […]

  3. Best of the island: Phu Quoc fish sauce - March 11, 2014

    […] Fish Sauce Taste Test, 13 Brands Compared — Our Daily Brine […]

Share Your Thoughts: