When you cook international recipes, at first it may be difficult to figure out which brand is the best for certain ingredients required in a recipe. The same can be said about unfamiliar produce. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to the Asian grocery store to stare at seven kinds of leafy herbs with foreign names only to buy the wrong one! This column is meant to help you figure out a reliable brand for a particular ingredient, and show you the multiple ways to use said product to make it a true pantry staple.
And fish sauce is a true pantry staple, in Thai and Vietnamese cooking as well as other Asian recipes. It is also an eye-openingly wonderful flavor to apply to recipes beyond the usual suspects. I go to Fubonn Supermarket on SE 82nd Ave. to get most of my Asian cooking products, and there are at least 25 different brands of fish sauce there. Red Boat is superior to most of those brands on the shelf, and worth the premium price. I think I paid about $7.99 for this bottle.
The recipe application I’m sharing today is Vietnamese bun noodle salad. I used this New York Times recipe, which turned out great. I definitely did not use the right noodle–vermicelli noodle. Instead I was lazy and used glass noodles that I had on hand. You should really use vermicelli noodle because the rice composition of the noodle allows it to soak up the fish sauce dressing. Don’t compromise like I did!
Bun noodle salad is a great canvas for fish sauce. The fresh texture of shredded lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, crunchy peanuts, along with the al dente vermicelli noodles provide the right texture and tenderness for the bright, umami flavor of the sauce. Beed, or in my case, rare steak, makes a great protein for it. Try it and you’ll have a dish to repeat and consume all summer.
If you’re interested in other uses, the Red Boat fish sauce website has lots of other recipes!