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MattituckMike

Thai Fish Sauce........The REAL DEAL

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Fish sauce is the salt of Thai cooking.  There are many types of fish sauces, the most well known is the fermented, filtered and bottled sauce from Thailand or Viet Nam, some of which is then exported to our store shelves.  Cuisine from the North and Northeastern (Issan)  areas of Thailand like to use a less "processed" version of fermented fish.  It adds flavor and texture to the dishes.  I took the following photos recently at my in-laws house in Northeastern Thailand (Issan).  My dear Mother-in-law is quite the fisherwoman. After she returns with her catch, the grandmothers help to prep the fish to be fermented.



 



 



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.This is the fish basket that my father-in-law made to hold the catch of the day....fish can be put in but can't get out!!!  Nifty handiwork.



 



 



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    Here is the afternoon's catch in the fish basket.                           



 



 



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 This is a better shot of the days catch...quite the variety of species!!!!!



 



 



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 The fish are then cleaned and sorted.....the larger ones used for fresh consumption and the small ones for fermentation.



 



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 The fish are then mixed with salt and roasted sticky rice (used as a fermentation aid and for flavor) and some of the mature fish sauce from a previous batch.  The white specks may look like maggots but they are actually grains of roasted sticky rice!!!!!



 



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 The crock is then sealed with plastic wrap and covered with a plate/bowl, so the fermentation can begin.................



 



 



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The crocks are then left in the outside kitchen, in the heat, to ferment.  After a few months, the chunky sauce can be used, but at this stage it is usually cooked to prevent any issues.  The chunks of fish can be eaten at this stage also... "delicious" is how they describe the flavor.  Most of the time the fish is left to ferment for a minimum of 12 months for good flavors to develop, but even better would be a 2 or even a 3 year old ferment. At this stage, most of the fish has dissolved.  The household here currently has 6 full crocks fermenting for 3 people ....that gives you an idea of how much is consumed.   EVERY household in the village have these crocks fermenting with family recipes which have been passed down - ratio of fish species used, amt. of sticky rice etc....  



 



Now that stuff is the REAL FISH SAUCE!!!!!!!!!!!


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I used to work with a bunch of people from Thailand and the lunchroom always smelled horrible because of this "Fish Sauce" they all used. Now I know why.  upck.gif

 

 

TJ.....I used to work with a lot of people from Cambodia, which is right next door, and yes, the lunchroom would always have a "distinctive aroma" to it when they cooked their lunch......but it wasn't really from the fish sauce, it was from all the other dried/cured fish and other ingredients they would use in their dishes.

 

And despite what may be called an offensive aroma to our American noses, I have tried the food they ate, and it was really good.

 

As to fish sauce, even before the above experiences, have always loved it, when used properly....:)

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Originally Posted by Steve in Mass View Post

......but it wasn't really from the fish sauce



 



The god awful smell was from the fish sauce. I had to find out what they were eating that smelled so bad and some of the other stuff they were eating smelled bad but it wasn't until they broke out the fish sauce that things went from bad to gag inducing. 



 



And how can leaving fish in a covered pot in the hot sun for 2 years not result in a rancid bacterial ridden toxic sludge that kills anyone that so much as thinks about eating it? Heck, you leave potato salad out for a few hours and everyone that eats it has to get rushed to the hospital do to food poisoning.  headscratch.gif


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Originally Posted by Surf Hunter View Post

Awesome! Is that a snakehead in the fish catch picture top left? Ate one when we were in thailand and it was amazing.



Wow!!!!   You sure have a good eye....that sure is a snakehead fish.  This one was made into a hot and sour soup (Dtom Yum) for one of the dishes that we had for dinner that night.  They are one of the few fresh water fish that have some flavor.....and the ways that they are cooked are numerous....BBQ, steamed with some SPICY dipping sauces, deep fried whole, boiled and pounded with spices  into a dip (Nahm Prik), made into curries and soups.  Snakehead fish and catfish are raised in our fish pond (photo below) but all the fish caught that day were from the river. The fish pond is stocked with a couple of thousand bought catfish fry each year, but the snakehead fish fry are caught in the wild and moved to the pond - no one sells the fry locally.  



 



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 By the way.......that is where we sleep, over the fish pond .......it is cooler than in the house and offers more privacy....and it is waterfront!!!!  The family calls it "Mike's Resort"   LOL.


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Originally Posted by TACKLE JUNKIE View Post

 


 



And how can leaving fish in a covered pot in the hot sun for 2 years not result in a rancid bacterial ridden toxic sludge that kills anyone that so much as thinks about eating it? Heck, you leave potato salad out for a few hours and everyone that eats it has to get rushed to the hospital do to food poisoning.  headscratch.gif





 



After countless generations, I think they have figured out the proper salt to fish ratio for proper a fermentation to occur.  After the fish have fermented for a certain period of time (usually 1 year) , the best flavor comes from the unheated, uncooked ferment.  It is very surprising how different it tastes compared to the smell, which can be offensive to untrained nostrils.  If you ever are in Thailand and go to a street vender selling papaya salad (Som Tam), be sure to order Som Tam Thai if you want the filtered fish sauce, if you order Som Tam Lao ( or just Som Tam) the chunky ferment above will be used. ..........DELISH!!!!!!!!

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Quote:

Originally Posted by TACKLE JUNKIE View Post


I used to work with a bunch of people from Thailand and the lunchroom always smelled horrible because of this "Fish Sauce" they all used. Now I know why.  upck.gif





You like pad thai?


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Wow!!!!   You sure have a good eye....that sure is a snakehead fish.  This one was made into a hot and sour soup (Dtom Yum) for one of the dishes that we had for dinner that night.  They are one of the few fresh water fish that have some flavor.....and the ways that they are cooked are numerous....BBQ, steamed with some SPICY dipping sauces, deep fried whole, boiled and pounded with spices  into a dip (Nahm Prik), made into curries and soups.  Snakehead fish and catfish are raised in our fish pond (photo below) but all the fish caught that day were from the river. The fish pond is stocked with a couple of thousand bought catfish fry each year, but the snakehead fish fry are caught in the wild and moved to the pond - no one sells the fry locally.  

 

1000

 

 

 By the way.......that is where we sleep, over the fish pond .......it is cooler than in the house and offers more privacy....and it is waterfront!!!!  The family calls it "Mike's Resort"   LOL.

 

That's really cool. Here is the snakhead we had,it was really good.

1000

 

I want to know how to make this one. It was called dry curry prawns or prawns in dry curry forget the exact but it was damn good. Any clue on a recipe?

 

1000

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Another thing they always had was to the best of my googling knowledge fermented shrimp paste. They would lay out a bunch of stuff and all dig in at break and lunch. Always had a big container of sticky rice that they would all reach into with their hands and then dip it into the horrible smelling sauces.



 



1000



 



 



 



I used to give them fish since they weren't paid that well and absolutely none of the fish went to waste. They even asked that I didn't clean it, just bring it in fully intact because the parts we threw away were considered delicacies by them. I brought them a striper and it had a few herring in it's belly and the guys uncle was thrilled to find them when they cut the fish open.  A few of them worked in Thai restaurants as a second job and would offer me food but I could never bring myself to eat any of it due to the smell and the fact they didn't refrigerate any of it. They would bring food in and let it sit at room temperature until they ate it. I figured they had digestive systems that had developed to handle that type of thing but thought it would make me sick if I ate any of it. 


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