FISH SAUCE IN VIETNAM FOOD CULTURE


08 Jan 2021

Fish sauce in Vietnam is considered as the spirit of food and cuisine. By fermenting fish and salt, fish sauce is made after 18 - 24 months. In Vietnam, fish sauce can be used directly as a sauce or mix with chillies, lime, garlic...to make dipping and dressing sauces.

Table Contents
  • I - Overview of the Vietnamese fish sauce 
  • 1 - Introduction
  • 2 - Classification of fish sauce in Vietnam
  • Traditional or authentic fish sauce
  • 3 - How to Differentiate between real and fake fish sauce
  • 4 - Fish sauce in cuisine, culture, and life of Vietnamese people
  • II - Use of fish sauce from Vietnam 
  • III - How to make Vietnamese fish sauce
  • 1 - Select the ingredient
  • 2 - Mix and marinate the fish
  • 3 - Marinated 
  • 4 - Expose, stir and extract the marinated fish
  • 5 - Draw the sauce and filter the sauce
  • 6 - Accreditation
  • IV - Authentic Vietnamese fish sauce recipe 
  • V -  Some well-known Vietnamese fish sauce brands
  • VI - FAQs
  • 1 - Should you eat fish sauce when you are allergic to fish
  • 2 - How to buy pure fish sauce
  • 3 - Can you bring fish sauce onto the plane 
  • 4 - How long does fish sauce last once it is poured out?
  • 5 - Will fish sauce cause weight gain?
Best fish sauce in Vietnam

I - Overview of the Vietnamese fish sauce 

1 - Introduction

In Eastern countries in history, people have known how to make the fish sauce by extracting the liquids from fish, shrimp, and other sea creatures.
For Vietnamese people, fish sauce is a mildly spicy dish that has become a symbol of the country's unique cuisine and diverse culture. The main ingredients are salt and sea fish (anchovies, mackerel, scad, etc.). Vietnamese fish sauce brands that should be known are Phu Quoc fish sauce, Phan Thiet fish sauce, 584 Nha Trang fish sauce, and many other local brands coming from factories or local homemade along the coastline and island villages in Vietnam. 

2 - Classification of fish sauce in Vietnam

Traditional or authentic fish sauce


Tranditional fish sauce in Vietnam

Hanh Phuc fish sauce in Vietnam (Source: HanhPhucFishsauce)

Traditional fish sauce is made by ancient methods. This method mixes salt and sea fish into a big barrel, after a long time (from 18 to 24 months) of fermenting, the fish sauce liquid is extracted.
Traditional fish sauce has a strong and salty taste due to its high protein content. But when you eat it, you can taste a little bit of sweetness lingering at the tip of the tongue. Traditional fish sauce has a yellow tint like the wing of a cockroach. If it is left out for a long time, it will turn into dark
Industrial fish sauce 
The difference between this kind and the traditional one is that it is mass-produced 
The main ingredients of this mass product are water, salt, sugar, monosodium glutamate, fish flavor, CMC,
This kind of fish sauce has a lighter color than the traditional one, and it doesn’t change the color when it is left out in the air. The taste is also sweet and less salty
What is the best Vietnamese fish sauce?
The traditional fish sauce or the industrial fish sauce market are available. However, depending on the taste and your appetite, you can choose the traditional fish sauce or industrial one for your meal. 

3 - How to Differentiate between real and fake fish sauce

To distinguish between these two kinds, you can rely on its color, purity, protein, or taste of the fish sauce.
Real fish sauce often has bright, fresh colors and there is no sediment. The protein is from 30 to 40 degrees, the smell is light, the saltiness and sweetness are in harmony. The taste of the real fish sauce is very pleasant.

4 - Fish sauce in cuisine, culture, and life of Vietnamese people

Invented hundreds of years ago, Vietnamese fish sauce has become not only simple and spicy but also its taste bears the history and culture of the country. It has become an indispensable addition to the daily meal. 

II - Use of fish sauce from Vietnam 


Vietnamese fish sauce recipe

Vietnamese fish sauce recipe (Source: Thao Le)

In Vietnamese cuisine, fish sauce is both a seasoning flavor and a  unique sauce for different kinds of meals. Almost all famous Vietnamese dishes such as bun cha, broken rice, spring rolls,... use fish sauce as an essential part that makes the flavor unique and delicious.
People also use fish sauce to marinate or deodorize some foods such as poultry, fish, seafood ... before cooking to enhance their delicious taste  
In addition to being used as a sauce, and adding special spices to the cuisine, fish sauce can also be used as medicine to treat diseases and boost vitality.

III - How to make Vietnamese fish sauce

We have learned about the overview as well as the uses of fish sauce, let’s now find out how it is produced.

1 - Select the ingredient

The two main ingredients for making fish sauce are fish and salt. To make the best fish sauce, you have to choose the fish carefully. The fish has to be in the right season and it shouldn't be mixed with other fishes. The salt used to marinate the fish has to be large-grained and not too dense. 

2 - Mix and marinate the fish

Fish and salt are mixed with a ratio of 3 fish to 1 salt, mixed well, and stored to enhance the process.

3 - Marinated 

Fish can be marinated in a wooden container, cement, or clay pot depending on the family method. 
The marination process ranges from 6 to 24 months depending on the weather in each region. But often, the longer the marination process, the better the quality of the fish sauce. It will be more fluid and delicious and have an eye-catching look.

4 - Expose, stir and extract the marinated fish

In the process of marinating, when it is sunny, the lid is opened to catch the sun which makes the fish break down faster. They use a stick to stir it to let the sun soak every fish. After some time, when the fish is almost ready, the liquid is extracted out and then put into again. This process is used to add flavor.

5 - Draw the sauce and filter the sauce

After the fish has been marinated well, it is considered to be “ripe” and is ready to eat. The maker will extract the liquid, 50-70% of the first fish sauce is called “mam nhi.” This “mam nhi” has the best quality but is also expensive. It will be then filtered through charcoal, white sand, stone ... to remove impurities.

6 - Accreditation

After the fish sauce has been made, it has to go through accreditation to meet a certain standard in terms of hygiene and safety. Then it will be bottled for the market

IV - Authentic Vietnamese fish sauce recipe 


Authentic Vietnamese fish sauce recipe

Fish sauce in family meal (Source: Genvita)

Fish sauce is an indispensable Vietnamese spice and condiment for every meal. Each region has different ways of preparing and using it. Here are some ways to make sauce from the fish sauce that you can do easily
For boiled meat, you can make a sour-sweet sauce and add some lime, chili, and garlic. First, fry the garlic until it gets brown and has a good smell, then add the fish sauce, sugar, and water. Boil the mixture until it gets steamy then pour it into a cup, add garlic, lemon as much as it suits your taste.
For boiled and steamed snails, people usually eat it with ginger fish sauce. First, crush the garlic, chili, lemongrass, ginger then mix it with fish sauce, sugar, vinegar. You have got now a great bowl of mixed herbs and fish sauce that would make everybody's mouth water. 
As for Vietnamese specialty pancakes, you must have a special sauce made from delicious fish sauce, water, sugar, lemon with chili, and minced garlic.
Also, you can make sauce depending on your taste, your family’s appetite, and according to different kinds of dishes. Regardless of the style, the fish sauce will always bring you a special distinctive meal.  

V -  Some well-known Vietnamese fish sauce brands

In Vietnam, many famous brands follow both traditional and industrial ways of making fish sauce.
In the North: Ba Lang - Tinh Gia - Thanh Hoa, Cat Hai ... 
In the central region: Phan Thiet - Mui Ne, Phan Rang, Hai Non Ca Na ... 
In the South: Phu Quoc, Kien Giang, Lien Thanh ...
The industrial fish sauce, which currently holds a large marketshare is Chinsu, Nam Ngu, which is quite popular from the North to the South.

VI - FAQs

1 - Should you eat fish sauce when you are allergic to fish

The organic substance in the fish sauce that might cause allergies is histamine. 
Therefore, if you are allergic to fish, you should not eat fish sauce much because it may cause irritation. If it is more severe it can cause dizziness or give you a headache. 

2 - How to buy pure fish sauce

If you want to buy a good fish sauce, you should go to traditional villages or a place where they traditionally make fish sauce, or you can ask your friend who knows about it.

3 - Can you bring fish sauce onto the plane 

According to the rules of the airlines and international airports currently, you can bring fish sauce onto the plane. However, you need to comply with the rules and requirements of each airline to ensure hygiene and safety.
You need to store the fish sauce in plastic bottles, seal the container tightly so as not to cause unpleasant odors for the passenger.

4 - How long does fish sauce last once it is poured out?

Fish sauce is made from organic compounds, that’s why after pouring out it cannot last long. you should eat the leftover, especially if it has lime juice or garlic in it.

5 - Will fish sauce cause weight gain?

Most of the fish sauce in Vietnam is made from organic ingredients with a lot of nutrients such as vitamins A, D, B12, iron, protein, Omega 3, amino acids... Therefore, pure fish sauce will not cause harm to health, or weight gain.

Fish sauce is considered as the soul of all Vietnamese food that make the taste and flovor of dishes are much more enhanced. Fish sauce is not only a kind of unique condiment, it is about Vietnamese's culture. 

U want to share?
Hi, my name is Quan, and you can call me “Kun”. Having a big passion for travel, I spent 6 months traveling to most of the regions & provinces in Vietnam. I find Vietnam's landscapes are so beautiful, Vietnamese people are so friendly.

Quan Nguyen — Quan Nguyen

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