What is Fish Sauce?
Fish Sauce is a staple of Thai cooking. Opening a bottle of fish sauce and sniffing the inside is not as pleasant as enjoying it prepared in your dinner. Stinky! The unique production process of the sauce is often a mystery to those in the west. You probably wouldn’t want the daily job of making fish sauce in Thailand. Do you remember the scene in “The Beach” movie where the guy with the fish responsibility complains about not being able to get the smell of fish off him? This would be 100 times worse!
Producers buy large quantities of smaller and less desirable fish that can’t be sold individually at the market. The fish are then mixed with salt which is used as a natural preservative and starts the fermentation process. With a 2 to 1 ratio (2X Salt to Fish) the mixture is then placed in barrels for at least nine months. Ever wondered why the sauce is so salty? This is exactly the reason. During this delightful process the containers sit in the sun to allow the fish to break down eventually into a brown liquid. Finally the sauce is drained into plastic or glass bottles. Like many food products there are different levels of quality. The same goes for fish sauce. You will generally find the higher quality brands in glass bottles.
There are many brands of Fish sauce sold around the world. A few well know brands are “Fish Sauce Squid”, “Fish Sauce Golden Bay”, “Fish Sauce Tiparos“, “Fish Sauce Golden Boy”, “Fish Sauce Cock”, “Fish Sauce Tra Chang” and “Thai Kitchen” is popular in the US. Asian supermarkets have a much larger selection compared to the “brand or 2″ found in a Whole Foods.
Wonder how often it is actually used in Thai cooking? If you have ever had curry, Pad Thai, coconut soup, spicy beef salad or prik nam pla as a dipping sauce then you have experienced this delicious cooking sauce.