The Indonesian semisolid fish paste trasi, the Cambodian prahok and the Malay fermented krill brick belacan or budu from liquid anchovies are other popular variations of the same theme. The similar Filipino version common to Indochina is called patis. Patis is in fact the by-product of the making of a fish paste called bagoong, and is not generally consumed on its own. Rather, it is nearly always cooked prior to consumption (even if used as an accent to salads or other raw dishes), or used as a cooking ingredient. It is also used in place of table salt in meals to enhance the flavor of the food but instead of being poured on the food, it is often used as a dipping sauce.
Southeast Asians generally use fish sauce as a cooking sauce, although it is sometimes used as a dipping sauce as well. However, there is a sweet and sour version of this sauce which is used more commonly as a dipping sauce (see nước chấm). In Thailand, fish sauce is used in cooking and is also kept in a jar at the table for use as a condiment. This jar often contains a mixture of fish sauce and chopped hot chilies, called nam pla prik.
In Korea, it is called aek jeot, and is used as a crucial ingredient in Kimchi (usually from myul chi, or kanari, meaning anchovies), both for taste and fermentation. Sae woo jeot (shrimp) is also popular as side sauce.
A similar fish sauce was ubiquitous in Classical Roman cooking, where in Latin it is known as garum or liquamen, and also existed in many varieties such as oxygarum (mixed with vinegar) and meligarum (mixed with honey). It was one of the trade specialties in Hispania Baetica.
Garum is frequently maligned as being bad smelling or rotten. For example, it has been described as an "evil-smelling fish sauce" made of fish ranging from tuna, mackerel, and moray eel to anchovies (Introduction to Paul Wilkinson, Pompeii: The Last Day, London BBC Productions 2003). This attitude derives in part from ancient authors who satirized the condiment, but mostly from the fact that fish sauce was generally unknown in the Western world until very recently. The truth is quite different, and in fact garum only smelled when it was being made. Once the process was complete it had a pleasant aroma for as long as it was usable.
According to Merriam-Webster, the English word "ketchup" is derived from the Malay word for fish sauce, "kĕchap."
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