Fish Sauce Redux

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Fish Sauce Redux

Postby Kim Adams » Wed Apr 12, 2006 7:28 pm

I'm getting old and the brain fails but I don't remember on which site we discussed favorite fish sauces but I think Bob Henrick asked the question on which fish sauce was recommended and I do remember that Jenise, I and maybe one or two others really liked the Three Crabs brand - the one with the pink label that has three crabs on it. Well, on one of my recent research forays on Thai cusine, I stumbled across this most excellent site http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/index.html which delves quite deeply (without monotony) into the Thai experience based on Kasma Loha-unchit's writings. Kasma grew up in Thailand and has been teaching the craft of Thai cusine in San Fran since 1985. A cookbook author to boot, her books are: It Rains Fishes: Legends, Traditions and the Joys of Thai Cooking and Dancing Shrimp: Favorite Thai Recipes for Seafood, the latter published by Simon & Schuster.

One of the sections in the site goes into length about her favorite Thai ingredient brands and why she chooses them. http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/brands.html
She talks about fish sauce, again at length, and here's what she says about Three Crabs:

"I do not personally recommend Three Crabs Brand, which several Asian cookbook authors recommend, mainly because it does not appear to be a naturally fermented fish sauce but is, rather, a flavor-enhanced, processed food product. According to the label, hydrolyzed wheat protein and fructose are among the ingredients – both are additives that have not been adequately time-tested for their potential long-term effects on health. Their inclusion suggests that the sauce is made through the process of hydrolysis, whereby a catalyst (sometimes from chemical sources) is added to hasten fermentation, allowing the company to produce large quantities of the product in shorter periods of time than would be required in natural fermentation.

It also appears suspicious that the label states that the fish sauce is a product of Thailand but is "processed in Hong Kong," further indicating that it is more highly processed than naturally fermented fish sauce. When compared with high-quality, naturally fermented fish sauces, the additives in Three Crabs Brand, to the discerning palate, gives this fish sauce a somewhat metallic, artificial after-taste. Since there are a number of excellent natural fish sauces, produced as has been traditionally done for generations, on the market, my preference is to stay with the traditionally made and time-tested products."(cited from http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/featur ... tml#3crabs)

Processed food product !?! Ugh! I'm going to seek out the Golden Boy brand she touts and taste the difference. I'll bet she's right on!!

Anyone tried the Golden Boy brand?
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Re: Fish Sauce Redux

Postby Randy Buckner » Wed Apr 12, 2006 8:52 pm

... hydrolyzed wheat protein and fructose are among the ingredients – both are additives that have not been adequately time-tested for their potential long-term effects on health.


I think we have had enough time on fructose -- ever since Eve gave Adam a bite of the apple. :wink:
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Re: Fish Sauce Redux

Postby Paul Winalski » Wed Apr 12, 2006 10:19 pm

I recommend checking out the reviews at http://importfood.com/gourmet_fish_sauce.html.

Importfood.com is a good source for Thai cooking ingredients and utensils. I particularly recommend their Thai mortar and pestle sets for those who seriously want to get into traditional Thai food preparation.

Regarding Thai fish sauce, I'm a fan of Tiparos brand. Traditional fish sauce should contain fish extract (such as anchovies), salt, sugar, and water, and nothing else. I shied away from Three Crabs brand when I saw the hydrolized wheat protein and fructose on the label. The page whose URL I gave above has some reviews of a few premium fish sauce brands. Tiparos is a not classed among the "premium" brands, but it is traditionally made.

I confess I haven't tried Golden Boy brand, but clearly it is made traditionally.

One caveat regarding Thai fish sauces--beware of imitations. There are a lot of inferior mimics out there who try to get as close as they can to famous brands to lure in the unwary consumer. For example, in addition to the famous Three Crabs brand, there is "Crab and Shrimp" brand, which has the same label except for a one of the crabs being replaced by a shrimp. And mimicking Tiparos is the knock-off "Tip Brand", which has the same "target-style" label but with the legend "Tip" instead of "Tiparos".

So look carefully at the label before you buy.

-Paul W.
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Re: Fish Sauce Redux

Postby Randy Buckner » Thu Apr 13, 2006 12:21 am

Regarding Thai fish sauce, I'm a fan of Tiparos brand.


Same here, Paul. We were introduced to Tiparos by a Thai chef when we lived in Hawaii. We have used it ever since.

Kim, give this one a try. It is pretty potent. Some of our Thai recipes call for 3 Tbs of fish sauce -- we cut it down to 2 Tbs and it works out fine for our preferences.
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Re: Fish Sauce Redux

Postby Kim Adams » Thu Apr 13, 2006 8:25 am

Paul Winalski wrote:Regarding Thai fish sauce, I'm a fan of Tiparos brand.


Tiparos was the first fish sauce I bought. I found it very intense and off-putting. But that was years ago and I can handle it now. I'll try it again.
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Re: Fish Sauce Redux

Postby Jenise » Fri Apr 14, 2006 3:54 pm

Great post, Kim, thanks. I have to admit, I never looked at the ingredients list. Barbara Tropp recommended it and that was good enough for me. Oops!
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Fish Sauce Redux

Postby Niki (Dayton OH) » Fri Apr 14, 2006 4:08 pm

I think I remember David Rosengarten, or was it Ming Tsai, recommending Three Crabs as well, and I have a huge bottle, half empty...none-the-less, I'll replace it with either Golden Boy or Tiparos next trip to the Thai market in Columbus. I routinely read the ingredients on most things but must have just assumed Three Crabs was good since I'd read that recommendation. Thanks, Kim! And thank, Randy, too, for the tip on using a bit less, as I bet the "real"stuff is more pungent than what I've been using.
Cheers,

Niki
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