I love Thai cuisine and love to cook Thai dishes. One essential ingredient in Thai cooking is fish sauce. Fish sauce is made by salting anchovies and putting them in a earthenware jar and placing the jar out in the sun for up to a year. The fish will ferment. At the end of the fermentation time the sauce is filtered and bottled. Fish sauce has been in use for thousands of years. Even the Romans used fish sauce calling it garum or liquamen. Fish sauce is used where we would use salt and the Chinese would use soy sauce.

Anyway I was running low on fish sauce so we made a trip to the Thai grocery in Columbus yesterday. After considerable research on-line I found that there seems to be two camps that dispute the best fish sauce on the market. The favorites seem to be “Three Crab” brand and “Golden Boy” brand. The type that I had been using was the Three Crab so I decided to go with the Golden Boy and put them in a side-by-side comparison. We tasted the sauce straight out a teaspoon.

Three Crabs – excellent taste – has a smoother taste than Golden Boy.

Golden Boy – excellent taste – very complex – a bit sweeter than Three Crabs

Factors other than taste:

Golden Boy is a naturally brewed sauce in Thailand with a label showing a baby sitting on a globe holding a bottle of fish sauce.  It’s half the price of Three Crabs brand – only $1.95/24 oz bottle – a real bargain.

Three Crabs is more processed.  this brand uses hydrolyzed wheat protein – not usually found in fish sauce.  This probably gives the sauce it’s smoother taste.  The bottle says that you should refrigerate after opening.  Ummm… the sauce is made from rotten fish… is it going to spoil?

Given the slight taste advantage of Golden Boy, it’s natural brewing method, and the endearing baby label I declare the winner to be….

When you buy fish sauce look for fish sauce in a glass bottle rather than plastic – an indicator of quality.  Also look for liquid that is reddish in color – about the color of whiskey.