Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is made from the fermentation of anchovies in salt and water. Does not sound too appetizing, huh? Fish sauce stinks like toe fungus from the bottle but a few drops can turn a so-so broth into a wow-what-is-this. It is packed with “umami” due to its glutamate content and is used as a staple ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking. Other variations of the same theme are Indonesia’s terasi, Cambodia’s prahok and Malaysia’s belachan. The Italians use salt packed anchovies for the same purpose of delivering extra ooophm to a dish! Some say that fish sauce can increase one’s risk of esophagael or gastric cancer. But bacon ups one risk of being fat so pick your vice. It is important to check the labels and avoid any brands that contain sodium benzoate. My favorite is Viet Huong 3 crab brand and that can be easily found in most Asian grocery stores. The ingredients include anchovy extract, salt, water, frutose, & hydrolysed vegetable protein. The last may mean wheat protein so for gluten-free folks stay clear. The luxury brand is Red Boat fish sauce but it comes at the premium price of $8-24 dollars a bottle. Red boat promises premium quality anchovies aged in wooden barrels without added water, preservatives, msg, wheat protein. Alas the Bentley of fish sauces has arrived! And I just found out that it is Whole Foods approved.


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