3 Crabs Fish Sauce Is Not Quite The Condiment It Claims To Be

Let's get something straight right from the outset: Three Crabs, a brand of fish sauce with a cult-like following, is not making any false claims. The statement of what it is — fish sauce — is right there in the name and the label discloses that the sauce is made of fermented anchovies, as is typical of a fish sauce. No, there are no crabs in this condiment, but then again, neither are there any chickens in rooster sauce, which is the nickname for Huy Fong sriracha. Nor, for that matter, are there any "guys" in Five Guys burgers, nor are 17th-century armed infantrymen included in the ingredients of 3 Musketeers bars.

If there's any mystery about Three Crabs, it's not what goes into it, but rather, how a product from Thailand became so popular among Korean-American cooks. It may be because the flavor is similar to that of Korean fish sauce, although it could also have something to do with the fact that Three Crabs has been distributed in the U.S. since 1984 and at that time Korean goods were less widely available here. Still, it seems as if Three Crabs has long been aware of its Korean fan base as the label does bear a Korean inscription even though the sauce is made in Thailand, bottled in Hong Kong, and produced under the auspices of a company with a Vietnamese name that is based out of San Francisco.

The company that makes Three Crabs has an entire lineup of numerically-named fish sauces

If you're out fish sauce shopping, you may see several different brands with names that reflect a certain number of crustaceans. Could they all be Three Crabs copycats trading on its popularity? Well, no, not exactly. While Two Crabs and Four Crabs do seem to be knockoffs, One and Five Crabs are more likely to be spinoffs as the packaging indicates that they're produced by the same Viet Huong Fish Sauce Company that makes Three Crabs. Yet another Viet Huong fish sauce brand, one that even gets a shout-out on the company website, is called Flying Lion or Phú Quốc.

Despite being produced by the same company, these fish sauces aren't identical. The odd-numbered ones' fishy intensity seems to increase as the numbers go up, with one being the lightest in flavor, three in the middle, and five being very fishy indeed and better suited as a dip than for use in cooking. Flying Lion is pretty close in flavor to Three Crabs, although maybe just a touch stronger — if it had a numeric name, it would probably be 3.5 Crabs.