Apr 2011

Red Boat Fish Sauce

Red Boat Fish Sauce

When shopping for Vietnamese groceries, I always purchase the brands that my mother and grandmother use in their kitchens. From rice noodles to curry powder to fish sauce, every ingredient found in my pantry has earned my family’s trust for its dependable quality and most satisfactory flavor.

For years I’ve been using the Flying Lion and Squid brands of fish sauce. Both are readily available in Asian supermarkets and are competitively priced. I didn’t think much about the origin of either bottle, or their ingredients for that matter, until I received a sample of artisanal Red Boat Fish Sauce. It turns out there’s a lot more to nước mắm than packing a mean umami punch.

Red Boat Fish Sauce

Founded in 2006 by Vietnamese-American Cuong Pham, Red Boat strives to produce the purest fish sauce available on the market. Every bottle is made on the island of Phu Quoc using wild-caught black anchovies (ca com). The fishes are salted within minutes of leaving the ocean water, then aged for more than a year in wooden barrels to achieve the smoothest, richest, and sweetest flavor. Red Boat bottles the first press “extra virgin” fish sauce, so the only ingredients are anchovies and sea salt.

Red Boat Fish Sauce

On paper, Red Boat Fish Sauce sounded just about perfect. However, only a blind taste test could convince me that the product was actually different and better than its competitors. In a thoroughly scientific tasting conducted in my kitchen, I pitted “extra-virgin fish sauce” against the standard stuff. Both bottles in my cupboard were produced in Thailand and contained anchovy extract, fructose, and MSG.

After tasting the fish sauces on plain white rice and straight up, the differences between the products were very clear. Whereas standard fish sauce tasted assertive, pungent, and well, fishy, Red Boat’s brew was well-rounded and nuanced. I’ll still reach for Squid and Flying Lion’s fish sauces for noodle soups and braising meats, but for fresh salads and nuoc cham, I’m going with Red Boat.

UPDATE: I’ve transitioned completely to Red Boat. It’s hard to reach for inferior fish sauces when this product works so beautifully in all of my cooking.

Red Boat Fish Sauce

Fish sauce is the backbone of Vietnamese cuisine and I am thrilled that such a high-quality product is available on the market. To learn more about Red Boat Fish Sauce and to purchase a bottle, please check out their website. Grandma’s totally getting a bottle of fish sauce for Christmas!

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31 thoughts on “Red Boat Fish Sauce

  1. Sharon – Red Boat Fish Sauce 35°N (700 ML) goes for $8. Red Boat Fish Sauce 40°N – Chef’s Grade (500 ML) goes for $10. Degrees on fish sauce labels indicate levels of fish protein content, and traditionally, the higher the degree, the higher the price.

  2. it’s great to support the fishermans and fish sauce made in Vietnam…it’s sad to say but of the many brands that have the label of Phu Quoc or Phan Thiet on it, they are all made in Thailand, with the exception of Red Boat

  3. it’s like olive oil, but fishy 🙂 never did think about how a “first press” nuoc mam would taste like. i’m officially intrigued.

  4. I use the same brands of fish sauce although we’ve recently tried 3 Crabs brand. Definitely have to check out Red Boat

  5. Thanks for the tip. I’m going to try it, but that’s expensive for fish sauce!

  6. Cathy, so cute that you did a nuoc mam side-by-side comparison! My mom told me Red Boat wouldn’t be good for cooking, just in fresh preparations because it’s not as strong. 😉 Can’t wait to try it. My usual fish sauce is Three Crabs annnnnnddddd Lucky/Tiparos ghetto fish sauce for one dolla!!!

  7. Kat – Although I haven’t sampled it, Red Boat Fish Sauce 35°N is supposed to be comparable to the everyday fish sauce that we use. I’ll let you know once I get my hands on a bottle!

  8. I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed Red Boat fish sauce. The Red Boat team loves our fish sauce in classic Vietnamese cooked dishes like Cá Kho (caramelized claypot fish), Bò lúc lắc (trembling beef), and Can chua cá (hot and sour fish soup) and we find it offers a smooth, refined, and deep and rich flavor that distinguishes us from other popular fish sauces that rely on MSG, hydrolyzed proteins, and second and third pressings for flavor. It has really transformed my own Cá Kho recipe!

    Red Boat will start rolling out sales at Asian markets and specialty grocery locations in LA, the SF Bay Area, and New York City over the next month or two and we will continue to expand into new markets over the next year. I hope you all will be able to find it at your favorite location soon.

    Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] if you have any other questions about Red Boat.

    Happy Cooking!

    Robert Bergstrom
    Director of Sales and Marketing, Red Boat Fish Sauce

  9. Wow, didn’t know there was such a thing, but now I am on the prowl. thanks as always for the excellent point!

  10. oh how interesting! i was *just* at Hmart today to pick up a bottle of fish sauce and i immediately reached for the squid bottle, because it’s exactly what my mom and grandmother uses. a random person actually asked for my opinion on the different brands and i told her that the squid brand was what gma used so therefore, it had to be the best… i hope this brand makes it to the DC/MD/VA markets.

  11. Hi Lan!

    We will actually have a booth at this years Asian Fiesta in May in DC, so you can try it then! It’s going to be on May 21st right off the Eastern Market metro stop if I’m not mistaken. Come check us out!


  12. Great news for anyone in Southern California, Red Boat is now being sold at Nam Hoa Market in Garden Grove!

    Nam Hoa
    14380 Brookhurst Street
    Garden Grove, CA 92843-4608
    (714) 531-5063

  13. So, my bottle of 35 degree fish sauce came in the mail today! I was so excited to give it to my mother. We did a test taste, and the taste is still very and distinctively different than the three crabs brand that we had at home. My mom was totally convinced that this was the best fish sauce ever and called her best friend to tell her about it. Thanks to Mike Pham for the advice I can get the bottle within minutes now. YAY for fish sauce!!!

  14. Hi,
    Do you have in in Dallas, Texas markets yet?
    If not, when since S/H cost quite a bit.

  15. Pingback: Fish Sauce Taste Test: Red Boat Vs. Cock Brand | Passing White Daisies
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  17. just got back from Vietnam and brought back Chin-Su Nam Ngu if you have contacts in Vietnam have them send you some it’s really amazing

  18. Happy to announce that Trader Joe’s now sales it for like $4.99! The just started carrying it!

  19. I love Red Boat Fish sauce. I put a teaspoon in a cup of Dr Kellyann’s bone broth at least once a day to insure my iodine intake since I use iodine free sea salt. It makes my bone broth very tasty.

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