Thursday, January 03, 2008


It is called Nước mắm in Vietnam, Teu trei in Cambodia and Patis in the Philippines. In Thailand we call it Nam Pla (น้ำปลา) and it’s called the same in Laos. Ngan byar yay is how they call it in Burma. These are liquid ambers from the gods of the sea.

I couldn’t imagine a Southeast Asian table without itcan you? It doesn’t matter how it smells but the taste is so dang good! I was told that the smell used to be really intense in the olden days but nowadays, it’s not that bad. Producers of this tasty liquid gold somehow turned it into a subtle fishy aroma.

For people who don’t know (or pretending not to know) what it is well, it is a dipping condiment with fish flavor in it. It is also used to flavor our cooking. Why do you think Southeast Asian dishes is so effin’ delectable? Well, you got the friggin’ answer here. So shut up.

Our brothers in Malaysia and Indonesia have their own versions – Trasi and Belacan. It’s more of a mushy fish paste (not clear liquid) similar to Prahok of Cambodia and Bagoong of the Philippines. How is it made? You don’t wanna know. Trust me -- you don't.

We Thais like our Nam Pla with chopped chilies in it. If you’ve been to Thailand, you probably have seen it from food stalls in the streets to our fine dining restaurants. They are practically everywhere! Our fish sauce knows no social status. There. Take that.

The Vietnamese like their Nước mắm a little sweeter. They even have a “sweet and sour” version of it. AND get a load of this -- they have a whole island dedicated to making fish sauce only!

Filipinos like to put a small hole on the plastic caps of Patis bottles; this is so not to waste any drop of it and each drop lands precisely where they want it. Awesome, isn’t it? They are even known to eat apples with fish sauce! Woohoo!

I just can’t simply describe our love affair with our fish sauce. It is the one thing that defines us in the culinary category, not to mention its cultural importance as well. One thing’s for sure… they are worthy to be called – our treasures.



Jake Tornado said...

Patis...can't live without eat.

curbside_puppet said...

i put patis and chicken broth for my chicken soup. Patis is the secret ingredient there. Although i really seldom use it since it can really be very salty. just a teaspoon will do me good.

dhawell said...

pisanu, i really love your posts. its verry informative and worth reading. its like having an encyclopedia about south east asia.bisean clearly is a guide to the asean world. hehehe. but i was just wondering, where did you get all this information? do u hire researchers from asean's ten member states? hehehe.

Pisanu for BISEAN said...

=) No, Dhawell...we do our own research. With a little help of government agencies, of course.

I'm proud to say that BISEAN has become a household name in "interrupting" government offices in the region! Haha.

An exmaple that we show, "if there's a will and interest, there's always a way..." =)

Hello Curb, hello Jake. Did you both get the million pesos prize?

savante said...

Ah always thai fish sauce for me! My mom's half thai after all.

재미 said...

Well, I know that fish sauce is a commodity in SEA, but I'm not sure if i've ever smelled or tasted it before. We dont seem to use it in my household.
Is it really that good??? I've heard that the smell is kinda..pungent.

curbside_puppet said...

PISANU: I don't know if Jake did already but I'll be willing to help him out find that ONE DARN ONE!

Lawrence said...

My dad loves Patis with lime juice (from the kalamansi fruit) and some chopped chilis...

My dad's meals aren't complete without those! haha

moris@putrajaya said...

tell me more about the "nam pla"
how do they produce the liquid..
and if it is halal..will u get me a bottle of it
would love to try..plssssssssssss


Pisanu for BISEAN said...

Yes, Moris. Most nam pla brand is halal. =) I'll bring a bottle when I get the chance =)

Term Papers said...

O that great, i love to eat souse with the fish, and you had a treasure of sauces, and your brand is looking very nice.
Term papers

ryne said...

my vietnam neighbour always buy this.. is it really important for vietnam dish??

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