The products, taken for the fish sauce preparation, can be raw fish or dried fish, single species or everything caught, including shellfish, the whole fish or only fish blood or viscera. Therefore, as many fish species exist, so many fish sauces there are. You can experience a squid sauce, a lobster sauce, a crab sauce or whatever you want in respect to your seafood taste. The fish sauce bears various names in different countries. For instance, the Chinese people call it yulu, the Koreans yeotgall, the Philippines patis and in Thai cuisine it is named bplah.
Some fish sauces contain only fish and salt, the others comprise spices and herbs. However, there is the only method of preparation, considered the most efficient for natural fish sauce extraction. It includes the following preparation steps.
The very fresh fish is salted with the sea salt, put into the large jars, covered and left in a sunny location for nine months to a year. During this period, the jars are periodically uncovered to air out and to let the fish "absorb" direct hot sunshine. This periodic "sun shining" allows to produce the fish sauce of superior quality with a distinct flagrant aroma (not fish smell) and a clear, reddish brown color.
After enough time has passed, the liquid is removed from the jars and filtered. The filtered fish sauce is filled into the other clean jars and allowed to air out in the sun for a couple of weeks to dissipate the strong fish smell. Then, the fish sauce is ready for bottling. This is how hundred percent, top-grade, genuine fish sauce is made.
Since a natural fish sauce demands much time and very fresh high quality fish for its preparation and it is not profitable for the manufacturers, they tend to offer lower grade fish sauces to the customers. Some manufacturers use the methods of hydralization in the fish sauce production, when they add some kind of enzyme or acid to hasten the process of fermentation, while the others resort to the usage of natural and artificial flavorings to produce the product, only resembling the fish sauce.
How to distinguish the natural and high quality fish sauce? First, examine the labels. Second, look for the fish sauce with a clear, reddish brown color like that of good whisky or sherry. Finally, the natural fish sauce has a flagrant aroma of the sea, and not of a too much smelling fish. The most recommended brands are Tra Chang and Golden Boy. Both are excellent, but not easy to find. Among other fish sauces, the Squid and King Crab brands are worth experiencing as well.
What to do the with fish sauce at home? Actually, it can entirely stand for salt and pepper at your dinner table. Another way of its usage is adding it as a flavoring to vegetable and seafood dishes, which will obtain a superb taste and flavor.
Additionally, a high quality fish sauce is high in protein (as much as ten percent for top grade), and this protein is a complete one, containing all the essential amino acids that the human body requires for work, growth and regeneration. The fish sauce is a rich source of B vitamins, especially B12, and pantothenic acid, riboflavin and niacin. It also contains such vital minerals as calcium, iodine, phosphorous, and iron.