Taste of the week: Red Boat Fish Sauce

I consider Red Boat Fish Sauce a favorite ingredient and one of my kitchen pantry essentials. Nuoc mam nhi (meaning salted fish water) is a staple of south-east Asian cooking, but I find endless ways of using this umami-rich sauce to deepen the flavors of many of my recipes, both Asian and non-Asian.

This brand in particular is my favorite because, unlike many other store-bought varieties that use additives and sugar, Red Boat fish sauce uses just two ingredients: wild caught black achovies and sea salt. The anchovies are the freshest possible, fished from the clear waters off Phu Quoc island in Vietnam. Using artisanal techniques, the fish is slowly fermented with sea salt for a year in tropical wooden barrels. They bottle only the first pressing, so what you get is a deeply rich, amber liquid, with no additives or preservatives.

Of course fish sauce is a requisite ingredient in Vietnamese dipping sauce, that perfectly balanced accompaniment to so many classic Vietnamese dishes. While the composite components are almost always the same, it is the balance of quantities and quality of ingredients that makes for the perfect dipping sauce recipe. Make sure you use fresh, moist garlic, with the green germ removed, to avoid any bitterness, and a good quality dipping sauce like Red Boat.

I've tested many different variations, and this recipe I think has the best balance of flavors:


Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Equipment: A mini food processor or a standard food processor fitted with a small bowl; a small jar with a lid.

2 plump, moist garlic cloves, peeled, halved, green germ removed
1 fresh or dried red bird’s eye chile
3 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce, preferably Red Boat brand
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup (125 ml) water

In the food processor mince the garlic and chile. Add the fish sauce, citrus juice, sugar, and the water. Pulse to blend. Taste for seasoning. Transfer to the jar and tighten the lid. (Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.)

Makes 3/4 cup (185 ml)

Buy Red Boat Fish Sauce here from My Amazon Store.


This recipe was first published in The French Kitchen Cookbook. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.