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Red Boat Fish Sauce

Updated: May 10

Your first impression of using fermented foods and condiments might be a little off-putting, but think of the many ways we use ingredients like wine, yogurt, soy sauce or vinegar to add complex flavors, and with healthy benefits. One of those complex flavors is umami, the smooth, meaty, mouth-filling sensation that makes good food taste better by adding glutamates and proteins. In Korea, China, and Southeast Asia, the preferred seasoning to add salty, rich umami to meats, soups and sauces is fish sauce. It substitutes for soy sauce, especially in Thai, Vietnamese and Korean cuisine, but with a lighter, briny flavor.

The ”virgin olive oil” of fish sauces is Red Boat Fish Sauce 40°N, produced in Vietnam from the most basic ingredients imaginable. Nothing but wild-caught black anchovies and sea salt are aged and extracted to produce this grade-A enhancement for so many dishes. It’s first-press, with all its natural flavor and complexity undiluted or thinned out by salt water. The color is golden, and the flavor is intense and smooth.

Don’t get me wrong, this sauce tastes strongly of salt and fish. But the rich glutamates produced in the aging process makes Red Boat a little bit of magic that will give your Asian dishes and even more Western soups, dips and salad dressings an indescribable balance of flavors. Use a dash or two at first– you won’t need to overpower your recipe to give it a kick up to the next level.

The Good:

  1. Rich smooth flavor

  2. Versatile

  3. All natural, no additions or preservatives

  4. Readily available

  5. Long shelf life (More than a year in refrigerator, 3 years in unopened bottle)

The Bad:

  1. Relatively high price

  2. Salt bomb

  3. Fishy odor (at first impression)

  4. The bottle opening is a bit large, so carefully pour a little into a spoon to avoid using too much in your recipe

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