As my interest in food and cooking grows, I’m also trying to expand my knowledge on and experience with different ingredients. The diversity of Asian ingredients for example, is both mind-boggling and fascinating, and sometimes, I feel quite overwhelmed by the available selection when I walk into a large Asian supermarket. Asian sauces are some of my favourite ingredients to work with – along with spices and herbs. Packed full of deliciousness, sauces often add that essential element to a dish that gives it it’s distinctive/signature savoury/ambrosial character/personality.
Fish sauce and soy sauce are two ancient and popular concoctions that are often found in many Asian (and multi-cultured) kitchens across the world. These two sauces, although different in make up and essence, both possess an amalgam of key/mouth-watering flavours, including salty, savoury/umami and sweet. A splash of fish sauce and/or soy sauce, some chopped chilies and herbs, a dash of citrus/vinegar can create a simple yet magnificent dipping sauce/dressing that can suitably complement many dishes/meals.
Not so long ago, I didn’t take too much notice on the difference in flavours between the different brands of fish sauce and soy sauce. As much as I endeavour to not be a brand snob – for someone who wants to study food and cooking on a deeper level, I can’t help but not take note on the differences in these brands. 1
When it came to buying fish sauce and soy sauce, I used to base my decision purely on which brand was available and/or which brand was the cheapest. Not having been too fussy with the taste of my own home cooking, I was content with my choice of sauces. Recently though, besides the myriad of other interesting ingredients in an Asian supermarket, I’ve noticed these different brands and have decided to investigate them a little further to see if there’s anything to fuss about. 2
For this post, I’ve taste-tested and provided my humble opinion on one ‘ground preserved fish sauce’, two ‘fish sauces’, and three ‘light soy sauces’. I know that I’ve barely scratched the surface in tasting the different types of Asian sauces and the brands that make them, but these are my stepping stones. In my kitchen, fish sauce and light soy sauce are two of my favourite and regularly used sauces. Other sauces that I can’t live without are oyster sauce and chili sauce, and I plan to write a similar post for these on a later date.
It is true that different sauce brands make sauces that differ in taste, and these subtle differences can play a big part in recipes. However, without sounding like I’m preaching – at the end of the day, it’s not really about the brand but more about how you use the ingredient/sauce. I know many cooks, including my mum who can use humble/inexpensive ingredients and turn them into extraordinary creations. After saying that, let’s see how some of these sauces taste.
So dear readers, what are some of your favourite Asian sauces? Do you have a favourite brand of fish sauce or soy sauce, or doesn’t it really matter for you?
- I am using the term brand to refer to the product by that brand as exemplified in this post. From my brief research, I noticed that a lot of these brands have just one product in either the fish sauce or soy sauce category, although some brands such as LKK have several variations of soy sauce on the market. Reference: http://au-nz.lkk.com/en/Products/ConsumerProduct/Soy%20Sauce. ↩
- Please note that there’s a huge variety of soy sauces available, and different countries/cuisines have a spectrum of types (and names) of soy sauces. The couple of soy sauce examples compared in this post are light soy sauces. I hope to compare other types of soy sauces, and other sauces (oyster sauce, chili sauce, etc.) in future posts. For more info on soy sauce, go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soy_sauce. ↩