A couple years ago, I set out on a quest to learn what makes Phu Quoc fish sauce so legendary. I also realized in the process how difficult it is to find authentic fish sauce made in Phu Quoc here. Since then, an exciting new fish sauce brand has come onto the market.

Red Boat Fish Sauce is based out of a family-owned factory in Phu Quoc and uses the traditional fermentation process to make its product. The company contacted me several months ago about trying out a free sample, and I’m happy to have great things to report here.

Upon receiving my free sample, I immediately noticed a few differences between Red Boat and my regular fish sauce brand (Flying Lion) that’s more readily available at grocery stores. First, Red Boat fish sauce is noticeably redder in color and clearer, which suggests a purer product. Next, I was pleased to see that the only ingredients in this fish sauce are anchovies and salt. And finally, it is nice to know that this stuff actually comes from Phu Quoc, as opposed to the brands that loudly proclaim the Phu Quoc name but are actually manufactured elsewhere.

Red Boat is noticeably different in taste as well. The fish sauce is definitely sweeter and rounder in flavor, and it’s not as aggressively salty as some of the other fish sauce brands. [Edit: I should clarify that by "sweet" I don't mean sugar-sweet; more like umami-sweet.]

Red Boat on left; Flying Lion on right. The left was redder in person; the right, more amber.

What I love about Red Boat is that it is an artisanal product. The makers have taken care to follow traditional methods of fish sauce making — only ca com, the black anchovy found in Phu Quoc’s surrounding waters, is used; the fish are salted immediately after they are caught at sea; the fish are fermented for a year; and only wooden barrels are used. All of this contributes to Red Boat’s refined taste.

Red Boat impressively offers fish sauce available at 50°N — the highest number I’ve ever seen. (N refers to nitrogen, and the higher number indicates a higher amount of protein in the content, which means it’s more concentrated.)

I also like the packaging. It’s clean, fun, modern, and looks like they put some time and thought into how to present the product.

Red Boat fish sauce is pricier than other brands. A 500-ml bottle of fish sauce at 40°N costs $10. (Flying Lion costs $2.90 on Amazon.) But this isn’t unreasonable for an artisanal item. I reserve Red Boat for dipping and use other brands for cooking.

I’ve seen Red Boat Fish Sauce available at the Vietnamese grocery store at the Eden Center in Falls Church, VA, so you might be able to find it at your local Asian grocery store too. It can also be ordered at the Red Boat online shop.

Disclaimer: I received 2 free samples of Red Boat fish sauce without any obligations to review or promote. Opinions in this post are my own.