First a friend told me about it, then I stumbled upon it in an aisle at Whole Foods. Red Boat Fish Sauce ($6) is a fish sauce that will rock your umami world.
In case you didn’t know –and really, who could blame you if you didn’t — most fish sauce, or nước mắm, is pretty disgusting stuff. The amber colored condiment used in so many Asian cuisines is too often a nasty, salty, fishy, fermented bottle of yuck. Made from salt and fermented fish (and often whatever else is dredged up in the net), the bottled liquid is frequently used to season food with a big pop of umami. But when I see nước mắm in a recipe, I run. If you like to cook with it, please don’t tell me.
Unless you’re popping the top on a bottle of Red Boat fish sauce, which is unlike any condiment you’ll find on a supermarket shelf.
Red Boat is a new brand of an all-natural, “first press, extra virgin” Vietnamese fish sauce made from two things: wild black anchovies caught in the clear waters off Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island , and salt. That’s it. No hydrolyzed wheat or soybean proteins, no gluten, no fructose. The anchovy/salt combo is fermented then aged for a year in wooden barrels,which softens the astringency and enhances the color.
Start small: try a drop on your finger. A little salty, a little savory, then that mysterious umami pops in and makes you thing about a big, juicy, dry-aged steak.
Now drizzle it on a steak or a Caesar salad. The kick of umami will light you up. You’ll definitely taste the difference.