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We gathered five products from grocery stores and Asian markets and sampled them over white rice, mixed into a simple Thai dipping sauce, and in our recipe for Vietnamese Caramel Chicken.
Red Boat 40°N Fish Sauce
What You Need To Know
What is Fish Sauce?
Fish sauce—which is full of glutamates that enhance flavor in food—is both a condiment and an ingredient. It gets its signature flavor from a potent source: fermented anchovies. Manufacturing methods vary among producers, but the basic process is the same: Fresh, whole anchovies are layered with sea salt and left to ferment in vats for at least 12 months. Over tim...
Everything We Tested
Thanks to its abundance of protein, which far outstripped the other products, this fish sauce tasted intensely rich and flavorful. Despite having the most sodium in the lineup, it never tasted overly salty. Our panel detected earthy, slightly “sweet” notes for a flavor that was “complex, not just fishy.”
This product earned solid marks in every tasting. It was slightly more mild than our winner, and many tasters thought that it provided a “good base flavor” that allowed other more subtle ingredients in the dipping sauce and chicken to shine.
With slightly less sodium than the rest of our lineup, this product tasted more strongly of fish than some other products. But it still possessed “savory depth” and made a “rich,” “bright” caramel sauce for the chicken.
This fish sauce started strong and salty and became more “fishy” on the finish. Still, it was acceptable overall, especially in dips and sauces.
Recommended with reservations
With not much protein compared with our winner, this fish sauce tasted especially salty and overwhelmed many on our panel. But it also brought out the “citrusy” flavors in the dipping sauce and the pepper in the chicken.