Bottled Umami: Blis Barrel-Aged Fish Sauce
© Wendell T. Webber
F&W Executive Food Editor Tina Ujlaki applies her incredible cooking knowledge to explaining what to do with a variety of interesting ingredients.
For centuries, Southeast Asian cooks have relied on deeply savory fish sauce as a primary seasoning in many of their dishes. Here, in the past couple of years, fish sauce, like so many other uniquely ethnic ingredients, has wandered into the universal pantry and is now used as a seasoning in non-Asian dishes as well. Red Boat has been my favorite brand of fish sauce because it’s fresh tasting, vibrant and light, and unlike some brands, there’s actually nothing fishy about it. Now, Red Boat has teamed up with the artisans at Michigan-based Blis Foods: They start with Red Boat’s finest 40*N fish sauce, which has already spent a year aging in wooden barrels, and age it for another 17 months or so in proprietary bourbon barrels previously used to age Blis maple syrup. Between the smoke from bourbon and wood and the mellow sweetness from the maple, the fish sauce becomes a rich-tasting, deeply nuanced condiment that’s as delicious in aioli and vinaigrette as it is in the classic Vietnamese condiment called nuoc cham.
Here are some great ways to use it: