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For hundreds of years, fish sauce was a simple concoction extracted from the salting, fermenting and aging of fresh anchovies. As time passed and commercial interest expanded, fish sauce became an industrial brew of hydrolyzed wheat proteins, soy, MSG and any number of other ingredients that could mimic the umami flavors of fish sauce. These practices are why Red Boat calls their fish sauce "extra virgin" - it is only the first pressing, pure and simple, with nothing added. The number 40 stands for 40 degrees which is the nitrogen content which shows how high the quality of this fish sauce is. No other companies have such pride in their fish sauce that will tell you their nitrogen content.
The production of quality fish sauce relies on a few basic principles - get the best fish (the tiny black anchovy is known as cá com), salt them as soon after catching as possible and then be patient. Red Boat ferments and ages their fish sauce for at least one year. Once the aging is complete, the bottom of the barrels are tapped and the pure fish sauce is filtered and bottled. What you get is an incredibly versatile and intoxicating elixir with the fresh, pungent flavor of the sea and the irrepressible umami flavor that makes fish sauce so unique.
One of the many advantages to having an item like fish sauce is your pantry is that you'll find uses for it in some of the least expected dishes. Even if you only dabble in Asian cookery, you'll find yourself reaching for this bottle when you're making Caesar dressing, BBQ sauces, marinades, mayonnaise and even pasta sauces like Puttanesca. This also makes beef stews really shine.
And of course, it really shines if you're cooking Vietnamese or Thai food. A 5 ingredient quick and impossible-to-forget recipe for a dipping sauce, marinade or dressing for a stir-fry or noodle dish. Simply whisk together equal parts fish sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, honey and sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce). Dip spring rolls or poached shrimp into a pool of sauce. Add to stir-fried pork loin with veggies. Dress charred eggplant with the sauce and chopped mint.