Gift for Asian Cooks: Red Boat Fish Sauce
When Diep Tran, owner of Good Girl Dinette, mentioned her obsession with Red Boat Fish Sauce in a question and answer session, I remembered that I’d meant to search out the first-ever first-press fish sauce months ago.
When I went onto Red Boat’s website, I found the only place selling it in L.A. is Broome St. General Store in Silver Lake. And I never pass up an excuse to head over there for a coffee (from Gimme! Coffee in New York) and a pastry from CakeMonkey Bakery or Valerie Confections.
Sure enough, I found the Red Boat Fish Sauce, on a shelf with a handful of other Asian basics. Wow, what a difference from conventional fish sauce. Not exactly subtle, it packs a wallop of anchovy. It tastes alive.
The nước mắm nhi is produced at a small family factory on the island of Phu Quoc in Vietnam. Made from fresh, wild-caught anchovy caught off the coast, the fish is salted and then slowly fermented in wood barrels. Only the first press is bottled. The only ingredients: anchovy and sea salt. No added water, MSG or preservatives.
I’m giving a bottle to all my friends who cook Asian. But its use isn’t just limited to Asian dishes. I can see adding a splash to a Caesar dressing, or making a dipping sauce for Dungeness crab. Maybe even using it to flavor meatballs or to rev up a braised meat dish.
Red Boat Fish Sauce, available at Broome St. General Store, 2912 Rowena Avenue, Los Angeles (Silver Lake); (323) 570-0405.
-- S. Irene Virbila
Photos: Red Boat Fish Sauce. Credit: S. Irene Virbila/Los Angeles Times