A new nuoc mam: Red Boat 'first press extra virgin' fish sauce
In a Vietnamese fish sauce market dominated by low-priced blends, will a new artisanal nuoc mam (the magical brine of salted anchovies) win shelf space in your kitchen?
Red Boat "first press extra virgin" fish sauce is made on the island of Phu Quoc (known as a fish-sauce-producing region) and not mixed with added water, wheat protein or fish sauce from other parts of Vietnam or Thailand, owner Cuong Pham says. Its only ingredients are ca com -- black anchovies native to the waters around Phu Quoc -- and salt. "I wanted an authentic sauce that we used to enjoy when we were kids from my uncle's fish sauce factory" on the island, Pham says.
According to Pham, Red Boat is made from a 200-year-old process in which fresh anchovies are salted within minutes of leaving the ocean water then aged for more than a year in wooden barrels. It comes in two versions, labeled 40°N and 35°N. Degrees on fish sauce labels indicate levels of fish protein content, and traditionally, the higher the degree, the higher the price.
Red Boat is a rich reddish amber color, salty and more intense than many brands (we tasted several in the Test Kitchen). Use accordingly.
Pham expects the fish sauce to be available for purchase on its website, www.redboatfishsauce.com, within a few days. $10 for a 500ml bottle of 40°N, and $8 for 700ml of 35°N.
-- Betty Hallock
Photo credit: Betty Hallock