Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

Tracking down exotic ingredients

I need nuoc mam.

Also known as nam pla, patis and Asian fish sauce, since I've been doing my Dinner & a Movie project every month, it has become one of my favorite ingredients. I use it in all my Asian sauces, marinades and stir-fry dishes now, and it is especially delicious on Asian vegetables. So it's no wonder that I've gone through two large bottles of it in less than a year.

I ordered those first two bottles from, along with a huge shipment of other Asian ingredients, so shipping was free. But I'm pretty well stocked with everything else, so it hardly makes sense to order so few items when I can buy them locally. I've already located a source for nuoc mam at a grocer uptown, although I will probably have to pay double for it since it is considered a gourmet item in my provincial little corner of the world. I also need lemongrass, coconut milk and jasmine rice, all of which are readily available locally as well. Everything else I need for my 'Swimming to Cambodia' dinner is pretty standard fare.