Fish sauce gives a savory boost – some people call it ‘umami’ – to a lot of foods. Squid Brand is a bold-flavored Thai-style fish sauce that has become our go-to for most recipes (excluding dipping sauces) that call for fish sauce. I’m also prone to drizzle some into recipes in lieu of salt when experience says the flavors match.
Unlike some other brands of fish sauce, Squid Brand only contains three ingredients: anchovy extract, salt, sugar, and water. It doesn’t have any additional MSG or preservatives. And – even more importantly – in our experience it is safe for our little Sprout (i.e. it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and sesame-free).
We use it for Vietnamese and Thai recipes that call for fish sauce – naturally. We also like to substitute fish sauce in place of salt in many dishes that need an extra oomph. I often drizzle a bit into stir fry recipes, and have used it 50/50 with tamari (a gluten-free soy sauce) in a modified 3-2-1 marinade (3 parts sake, 1 part tamari, 1 part fish sauce, and 1 part sugar).
We also put Squid Brand in any recipe that calls for Worcestershire sauce, which is actually a British version of fish sauce. As an aside, we found out about this substitution while trying to find a Sprout-safe Worcestershire sauce in 2009. At the time, Heinz – owner of Lea & Perrins – refused to tell us anything about its products beyond saying it would only disclose whether the product includes the top 8 allergens. In fact, Heinz is by far the most frustrating company to deal with in our quest to find safe foods. Unlike other companies Heinz (a) wouldn’t tell us if Lea & Perrins or its other products contains sesame (despite it being required to make such disclosure in other countries where those products are sold); (b) tell us if the product is produced in a facility that processes other allergens on our list; or (c) disclose any detail about its hygiene practices when switching a line between products. Forget even getting them to rule out sesame or gluten from ‘natural flavorings.’ Needless to say we avoid Heinz products and use Squid Brand Fish Sauce instead of Worcestershire sauce.
Where to buy
Squid Brand is generally available in Chinese markets in Los Angeles. In the San Gabriel Valley I’ve also seen it a few Ralph’s supermarkets.
If you’re outside Los Angeles, check with a local Asian market close to where you live. It’s one of the most common brands sold, so may be available. You can also buy online at some online Asian markets such as ImportFoods.com.