Do you need to add that special umami taste to your dishes? That savory, fifth taste sensation usually gets overlooked in our cooking as we tend to focus on the sweet, sour, salty and bitter tastes that we’re more familiar with.
As Asian-style cuisine becomes more popular, however, we see that umami is what has been missing from our dishes all along. We just didn’t realize it! One great way to add that special flavor to your meals is to use the best fish sauce.
We’ve compared numerous brands to come up with the top 10 fish sauces. They’ll set you on the right path to creating pleasing, savory, gastronomical delights every time you cook. So, read on!
How Do You Put the Tastiest Fish Sauce to Use?
Here’s how you can ensure you are making the best use of the fish sauce you have bought.
- Fish Sauce Is Not Salt. It is not meant to be used simply as a salt replacement but will add a range of savory flavors to the dish.
- Add a Little at a Time. Fish sauce can be very strong, and once it’s in your dish, you can’t get it out. So, just add dashes until the taste is where you want it.
- Refrigerate the Bottle. Fish sauce will last you quite a long time if, once opened, you store it in your fridge. If, however, you plan on using it up quickly, a dark, cool cupboard will work just fine.
- Experiment with It. Try it over vegetables (it goes well with steamed broccoli). Also, add it into pasta sauces and in soups. Set a little on the table with each meal so diners can add it to whatever they wish. You can also offer it as a dipping sauce with or in place of, ketchup and barbecue sauce.
Top 10 Fish Sauces Comparison Chart
How Do You Know You Have a Bottle of the Best Sauce?
How can you tell a really good fish sauce from the ones that are undeserving of a second glance? Here’s how:
- Ingredients. Ideally, the only two ingredients you want in your fish sauce are fish (usually anchovies) and salt. Additives and preservatives aren’t necessary when the fish sauce is allowed to age naturally.
- Smell. True to the name, each of the best fish sauce brands will smell like fish (and the ocean) but NOT smell like stinky fish. Keep in mind though that, fish sauces made on a smaller scale tend to smell stronger than those mass-produced with additives. Stronger – not stinky!
- Taste. Your fish sauce should be salty first and then sweet when you taste it, but definitely not bitter. With a top-quality fish sauce, you won’t go “Eww, fish sauce!” but rather you’ll be hearing your taste buds squeal with delight.
- Look. Fish sauces range in color from light to dark. A deep, dark amber-colored fish sauce will have more layers of flavor than one that is lightly colored.
- Nitrogen Content. The higher the nitrogen (and protein) content, the better the fish sauce. Think of 30 °N as the standard and aim for at least that. Going higher will mean paying more, but your taste buds will surely know the difference!
Top 3 Best Fish Sauce Reviews
When we took the plunge into comparing a wide cross-section of the fish sauces on the market, we were pleasantly surprised to find this Italian colatura di alici (juice of anchovies) topping our list. It not hard to understand why, though.
Located in Cetara, a small village south of Naples, IASA uses premium anchovies harvested from the Mediterranean Sea. This fish sauce is made from just anchovies, salt, and water. It is, however, so aromatic that you’ll find it hard to believe that’s all that’s in it!
Its deep brown color is achieved through a 12-month production process. That color is a good indicator of the rich umami flavor you will find in your bottle of IASA Anchovy Syrup Colatura di Alici di Cetara.
The actual bottle looks as artisan as its contents taste. It’s a round, flat-bottomed glass flask with a slim neck to give you a good grip. We liked the included wooden stopper as a nice, authentic-feeling touch to the presentation.
IASA Anchovy Syrup Colatura di Alici di Cetara is definitely on the pricier end of the fish sauce scale. Well worth it, though, we think, for the quality you get.
This brand turns up in nearly every search for the best fish sauce. Why? It’s REALLY good! The 40 °N sitting proudly on its label told us straightaway that it has more than the average concentration of nitrogen and proteins.
That not only increases its quality and “umaminess” but also adds favorably to its nutrient profile. Red Boat Premium Fish Sauce is a source of minerals, B vitamins and, of course, protein (4 grams in every serving). Just a little goes a mighty long way, though, so we recommend using it very sparingly.
What we were thankful that it doesn’t have are added ingredients, like monosodium glutamate, preservatives or even water. It’s just anchovies and sea salt. This first press, extra virgin, Vietnamese fish sauce is 100% all-natural, and the best thing is, that’s how it tastes.
Korean anchovies and salt are the only two things in Chung-jung-one Premium Anchovy Fish Sauce Gold. Knowing that, makes it even more of a pleasure to enjoy the rich, complex flavors this fish sauce brings.
Without additives and flavor enhancers, all you get is what top-quality fish sauce should taste like – salty, sweet and flavorful umami. The manufacturer suggests it’s a good choice if you’re making any kimchi. We found that it pairs well with stir-frys, as well as, stews and is a must-have for your next braised dish.
Like most other good quality fish sauces, it also makes an excellent substitute for soy sauce, whether you are out of that particular condiment or just feel in the mood for a brand new (awesome) taste!