At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Friday, July 25, 2014


One of my correspondents asks, pursuant recent mentions of fish sauce and shrimp paste, what one should use in lieu thereof, if one lives in deepest Arkansas or Kentucky. "What", he asks, "can one do?"
One can move, is what. Why are you still there?

A place without Chinese, Vietnamese, or Philippinos is unlivable.

Any one of those three is the canary in the coalmine.

Consider it an acid test.

Case in point: Siberia. Drunken yobbos stumbling around the tundra as far as the eye can see, nothing but wilted cabbage, and freezing cold.
Not a single Chinese person, Vietnamese, or Philippino.
Because it's uninhabitable, is why.
Even Texas is better.

The second thing one can do is make your own fermented seafood products. In the same way that hairy hippy Oregonians started brewing their own beer -- because the big four are undrinkable, and kill plants when spilled on the lawn -- exquisite fish sauce and shrimp paste can be produced nearly everywhere near a coast, and as you experiment you will gain further knowledge and valuable experience.
Plus a potent addition to your larder.


The process is rather like making saurkraut. Use small fish, rather than large. Gut them, and layer them in a barrel with salt. The proportion of salt to fish is between one to two and one to three. Place a perforated cover on top of the last layer, and weigh it down with rocks. The salt will cause the fish to release liquid, they will float in consequence, and the perforated cover prevents that. Cover the top of the barrel with gauze to keep out insects.

After about ten days the fish should have released their liquids and broken down considerably. At this point you can uncover the top and expose it to the warm sun to promote fermentative processes. Occasionally skim the top to remove bugs that stray.

Eighteen months later you can strain off the liquid, which will be a clear darkish amber, and have a robust fragrance. The remaining sludge can be mixed with salt water and toasted grains to make a secondary ferment. It is kind of pointless, as this results in an inferior fish sauce.

Far better to dry it spread out in the sun, and press it into gooey bricks. This can be used as a flavouring when sauteeing food.
The Filipinos call it bagoong.

The first culling can be used for both cooking and as a table condiment.

The secondary extract is acceptable if that is all there is.

Ignore what your neighbors think.


Whether you use crustaceans or scaled creatures, mince them to a granular state without any large chunks. Mix in one and a half cups of sea salt to each kilo of fish. Press this into a tun overnight. The next day, spread it thinly on a bamboo mat or tarpaulin, and let it dry in the sun.
At nightfall scrap it back into the tun and cover.

Repeat this until it is dense and purply and the fish material has broken down, which takes about five days. After the first three days you may grind the sludge for uniformity, which will also speeds up the drying process, and produce a superior paste.

For Indonesian or Malay Trasi, repeat the sun-drying process until it becomes stiff and clay-like. It will eventually turn deep brown, and can be easily pressed into a brick shape. If dried till crumbly, it keeps for a very long time.


Small shrimp or anchovies, chopped up and mixed with vegetable matter such as tomato, onion, chilies, and garlic, with enough salt to let it ferment. The proportions are one part salt to three or four parts everything else, the everything else being at least two parts non-vegetable in origin. After a few weeks it should be nicely pungent, and ginger can be added plus a little more salt.
Mix it with a squeeze of lime juice.
Serve as a condiment.


This blogger lives in San Francisco, fifteen minutes walk from either Little Saigon or Chinatown. Consequently I need not worry about finding all the fragrant seafood products my heart desires.

鹹魚 、鹹蝦醬 、魚露 、馬拉盞。

But if I ever move to New Jersey, heaven forefend, I will undoubtedly start manufacturing my own pastes and sauces again, out on the concrete covered back lot. I understand it's hot there, yes?
Perfect for eighteen months of fermentation.
Plus I hear the place smells already.
So no-one gonna notice.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


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