Adventures With Fish Sauce

by Anne Maxfield on February 26, 2018

Accidental Locavore Fish Sauce Do you use fish sauce?

If you think about what goes into it, you might never use it, but you’d be missing out on an important ingredient in a lot of Thai and Vietnamese dishes to name a few. It’s that umami flavor you get that you can never quite figure out.

It’s made from fish, left out in the hot tropical sun to ferment—sounds yummy right? FYI, it smells pretty much like it tastes, so you don’t want to be inhaling a lot of it. Just sprinkle on whatever you’re making and enjoy (it’s surprisingly good on Brussels sprouts).

There are lots of different types, Red Boat being one of my favorites, but it’s hard to find in this area, so I ordered it from Amazon. No big deal.


I got a notice in my post office box that there was a package and some damage. Since it was before the holidays, I was terrified that my cousin’s box of incredible homemade jams had broken.

But this was worse.

Much worse.

Suddenly all the really terrific ladies at the post office, were not looking happy.

And I was beginning to feel like Public Enemy #1.

One of them, went to get my “damaged” package. Coming back, she was trying to hold it as far from her face as she could. As she approached, I immediately understood why. This package was wet and dripping into a plastic bag. And it stank!

Really stank. Like fish left out in a tropical sun.

Oops. My fish sauce. Oh s**t.

Somehow, somewhere, someone thought the best way to ship a glass bottle of fish sauce was to put it in a cardboard Priority Mail envelope and (literally) toss it in the mail.

I gathered up my courage, (and the future of all my mail) apologized profusely and asked if I could refuse the package.  I also promised never to order any more fish sauce by mail, so she reluctantly took it to the back room—as far from patrons as possible and said it would go back.

They said it took most of the day to get the stink out of their office once the package had been sent back. I went on Amazon and complained and got my money back, but the damage was done.

I’ve promised June and Pattie no more stinky stuff by mail and we’re back to being friends again.

Oh, and the bottle of Red Boat? I bought it at Kalustyan’s and took it home on the train.





{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Maxfield March 2, 2018 at 11:46 am

I can understand that. The stuff is not the best smelling thing in my kitchen.

Richard March 1, 2018 at 10:24 pm

When we came back from Phú Quốc we weren’t even allowed to bring bottled fish sauce on the plane. The airline had obviously had similar issues to yours…

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