Best Korean Anchovy Sauce for Kimchi

Korean ingredients and flavors are now going global as more people are introduced to the Korean pantry. Kimchi is a common name for any vegetable fermented in the classical Korean style of lactic-acid fermentation. The most common vegetable combination being napa cabbage with daikon radish as well as green onions seasoned with fish sauce, Korean red pepper powder, garlic, ginger, and salted shrimp. Also, it is used in Korean side dishes and stew/soup to give extra umami. Often, umami is referred to as the fifth taste, joining bitter, sour, salty, and sweet. For those who are new to Korean flavors or those who want to create their own Korean pantry, we have compiled a list of the best Korean anchovy sauce for Kimchi.

What is Korean Anchovy Sauce?

Korean anchovy sauce is an essential condiment in making different types of kimchi. The condiment is made from coarse sea salt and raw anchovies through fermentation. Some people (especially from South Korea) use it to season blanched soup or vegetables. Also, it’s used as a staple seasoning in Southeast and East Asia cuisines, especially Vietnamese, Lao, Thai, Filipino, Cambodian, Burmese, and Indonesian. Anchovy sauce is a light brown liquid.

How is Korean Anchovy Sauce Made?

Small and fresh whole fish, typically anchovies are coated in coarse sea salt and packed in wooden barrels and left to ferment for 9 to 12 months. The natural bacteria breakdown the anchovy over time and the savory, fishy liquid that forms is collected and filtered before bottling. This method has been adopted by the Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai people.

What to Look for?

There are many varieties of Korean anchovy sauce on the market, and you will have lots of options to choose from if you visit an Asian market. The difficulty is in finding the one that contains just salt and anchovies. You will discover that many of the lower-priced options add extra flavorings like spices and sugar to cover up a more noticeable aroma. Here are some factors to consider when shopping for the best Korean anchovy sauce for kimchi.

Ingredients

The best Korean anchovy sauce for kimchi should contain just anchovies and salt, nothing more. It should be free from MSG, preservatives, hydrolyzed protein, fructose, or added water. Most of the good brands are made with anchovies with black anchovy (ca com) being more popular for fish sauce production. The anchovy sauce made from the black anchovies is usually less salty and more aromatic than those from belt fish or mackerel. If the only anchovy sauce you can find contains sugar, you can use that until you find a better choice.

Protein Content

The degrees on the label of the anchovy sauce represent the protein content. The higher the value, the higher the umami, and the protein content. The degrees of the best anchovy sauce varies from 20°N - 60°N. However, higher protein content doesn’t mean better anchovy sauce as anything higher than 43°N protein content can only come from a mechanical machine enhanced process or a bigger anchovy.

Smell/Taste

Anchovy sauce should smell like anchovy, but it shouldn’t stink or smell foul. Anchovy sauce that smells off will definitely taste off. Also, good anchovy sauce tastes salty, and then sweet. It should not taste bitter.

Color

The color of the best anchovy sauce should be dark amber. As you lightly shake it, you would see an air bubble emerging. This shows it has a lot of umami and protein inside. Also, quality anchovy sauce is thicker and will stick to the fingers.

For those who want to stay gluten-free, but love Asian foods, this Korean anchovy sauce for kimchi is great. The Chung Jung One Premium Anchovy Sauce is made from 100 percent natural anchovy and sea salt with no additives through a natural fermentation process. The anchovies are exclusively sourced from Korea’s South Sea. Additionally, carefully selected sun-dried sea salt is used to preserve the authentic aroma and taste of naturally fermented anchovy sauce. This anchovy sauce has a delicious, slightly smoky flavor. It will help add that perfect Asian cooking flavor that other anchovy sauce just can’t match. It is important to note that sediments from salt crystals and protein may be formed, but this is caused by natural reaction and is safe to eat. The Chung Jung One Premium Anchovy Sauce is great for making different types of Kimchi. It is also a good substitute for soy sauce or sauce in making stews, stir-frying, and braising.

The Red Boat Premium Fish Sauce is made from sea salt and wild-caught black anchovy. It is barrel-aged using traditional chemical-free fermentation tradition – a unique century-old artisanal process. This anchovy sauce is salted just minutes after leaving the sea, then aged for more than a year in traditional wooden barrels. They are exclusively sourced from the crystal clear waters off the Phu Quoc island archipelago. It is free from preservatives, MSG, and added water. With a protein level of 40°N, no other fish sauce has more natural protein content higher than this product. Packed with minerals and vitamins B, the extra-rich protein content gives this sauce a unique savory flavor and character that is delicious and healthy. The Red Boat Premium Fish Sauce gives your favorite recipes that elusive umami. It tastes incredibly fresh and not super fishy.

Refined, subtle, and delicate, Haku Iwashi Whiskey Barrel Aged Fish Sauce is crafted following ancestral methods. It is made using Iwashi sardine from the Japan Sea, which is bigger than its Mediterranean counterparts. This sauce is first aged two years before it’s further refined and aged for an additional 12 months in Japanese whiskey barrels, yielding a more delicate and mellow flavor and texture with an understated sweetness. The subtle, sublime flavors of vanilla and barrel balance perfectly with the earthy fermented soy and add beautiful umami to your dish. The Haku Iwashi Whiskey Barrel Aged Fish Sauce is a very fatty anchovy sauce, quite different from the Thai and Mediterranean options.

The Megachef Premium Anchovy Fish Sauce is made from fresh anchovies mixed with pure sea salt. The sauce is left to brew for 2 years, during which it slowly mellows, ferments, and develops a beautifully rich and deep flavor. This anchovy sauce is perfect for marinating, stir-frying, and also seasoning different Southeast Asia dishes. It is not too salty and not too pungent; it is mellow and rich. Its strong flavor works to enhance a wide variety of dishes. Full flavored and very aromatic, the Megachef Premium Anchovy Fish Sauce is great for fermenting high-quality Kimchi. It is free from preservative, MSG, gluten, and artificial colors.

Made using only anchovies and salt, Hao Hang 39°N Premium Fish Sauce has a well-balanced and incredibly fresh taste because of its slower fermentation process. It is full of vital minerals and nutrients which are enhanced by fermentation. This 100% pure first press sauce contains 39% protein, as well as vitamins A, B, and D which has many health benefits. It contains zero artificial sweeteners or sugar, MSG, and preservatives. The Hao Hang Premium Fish Sauce has a refreshing savory taste with lots of dynamic flavors without all the sugar. As well as Asian dishes, it can also be used for non-Asian dishes such as marinating and stir-frying since it is versatile and can be used for a wide range of cooking styles.

This extra-large plastic bottle contains 100% first press pure anchovy sauce. This sweet, savory, and umami-laden sauce give your dishes a satisfying, rich, and unique taste. Made from a 200-year-old, chemical-free, artisanal process, Red Boat uses the freshest black anchovy salted minutes after leaving the sea. It is then slowly aged for more than a year in traditional barrels. It doesn’t contain MSG, preservatives, or added water. Red Boat anchovies are usually sourced from the clear waters off the Phu Quoc Island archipelago. So whether you are an enthusiastic home cook or a master chef, this high-quality anchovy sauce guarantees you the best results. Although it is pricier than most anchovy sauce on the market, it is definitely worth it. The taste is very intense, so a little goes a long way.

The Ma Mi Original Fish Sauce is made from the freshest anchovies that are fermented in minutes right after leaving the sea to maintain the quality of fish. This sauce will help to add salty umami, caramel sweetness, and savory flavor that will rocket your favorite dishes to another level. This makes things like chicken breast, beef, eggs, broccoli, potato, and salmon so crave-able and textured. It is not only the delicious and rich flavor of the sauce that makes it very popular but also the high levels of protein and other beneficial health supplements. The Ma Mi Original Fish Sauce is very versatile and can be used in a wide range of cooking styles, including Asian and non-Asian dishes.

The Three Crabs Brand Fish Sauce is nicely balanced between sweet and savory (umami). This sauce contains anchovy extract, salt, water, fructose, and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. It is one of the few anchovy sauces that contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein and fructose. This gives the sauce a sweet flavor. It has the best balance of herbs, salt, and herbs. It will amaze you how this sauce adds flavor to all your favorite Asian dishes, including kimchi. The Three Crabs Brand Fish Sauce is an ideal option for those looking for a less salty option. It has a more flavorable taste and not as smelly as cheaper brands on the market. Also, it is free from MSG.

Four Elephants prides itself as being a natural “extra virgin” fish sauce. What stands out about this product is that it is a Non-GMO Project certified. There are no MSG, preservatives, or artificial colors and flavors in this sauce. The only ingredient used is anchovy, salt, and sugar. This makes it both a sweet and savory fish sauce. It’s packed with lots of flavors, but it does not have a strong aroma. The glass jar this sauce comes in is visually appealing, especially to those who are environment-conscious and trying to minimize their overall plastic consumption. The Four Elephants Premium Fish Sauce is great for adding a unique flavor to your favorite kimchi recipe.

The Lucky Brand Thai Fish Sauce is a favorite among many lovers of Asian cuisines because of its affordable price and great taste. The ingredients of this sauce are anchovy extract, sugar, salt, and water. The flavor is not as strong because it contains anchovy extract instead of actual anchovies. If you like strong anchovy sauce flavors, you can add more. However, it is important to note that this sauce is a bit salty as a tablespoon contains 1060mg of sodium. The Lucky Brand Thai Fish Sauce does not contain MSG, and it is gluten-free.

Hopefully, our list of the best Korean anchovy sauce for kimchi gives you an insight into the world of anchovy sauces. Enjoy experimenting with different anchovy sauces; chances are you will have more than one favorite.


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