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Vietnamese fish sauce, Nước Mắm, is one of the most important aspect in traditional Vietnamese cuisine. No matter what region are you in, Nước Mắm will definitely be used in almost every dishes. It’s in the culture, it’s cannot be omitted or replaced.

But, have you ever wondered, how do they make Nước Mắm? What is the process needed for the sauce to be so flavorful? Is there any difference between fish sauce from Phu Quoc island and from Phan Thiet?
Let’s find out together, shall we?
The process of making Nước Mắm is not much different through time. The traditional recipe passed down from generation to generation is 1 kg of fish mixed with 3kg of salt. That composite will also be contained in a large tank for approximately 9 months. Afterward, they will extract all the liquid from the tank, mix the remained compound of fish and salt, then pour the liquid in again. The tank is kept until two more months and there comes the final product: Nước Mắm.

It may sound easy but to produce the high-quality Nước Mắm, there are so many requests in the process. Firstly, fishes have to be caught in the sea and washed, then marinated with salt and stored, waiting for the next step. After going back to land, they will estimate how much salt should be added in to the fish. Hence, each family will have their own secret recipe which make their Nước Mắm unique and can’t be duplicated.
To fully understand said process, we have a look at Ba Làng, a Nước Mắm manufacture factory with five generations in the job.
Nước Mắm is often made from anchovies, salt and water. Instead of using big clay jars like the traditional ways of making fish sauce to contain the ingredient, Ba Làng has built a system of two-level tanks for the process. The first level is used to hold the fish, salt and water, pressing all together for fermentation, the second level will play the role of a container. Nước Mắm after being pressed and fermented will constantly move from the first level tank to the second level and that way, help the sauce’s protein concentration remains at its highest and most balance without any additives like sugar, hydrolyzed protein, or preservatives.
It is said, one tank of Nước Mắm needs at least 2 years of waiting for the final product to be ready. During that time, especially when it needs to be sun bathed, the factory has to ensure that employees are always around. The sanitary of the working ground is also much needed and under strict observation of the authorities with 2 rounds of checking for each ground. Moreover, the factory has to present all the records and paper works to demonstrate the ingredients authenticity for future background check.

The most important aspect of the finished product regarding the fish sauce when brought out to the market is the first launch’s quality. With that being said, Nước Mắm protein levels and salinity are two main factors that will be checked by the authorities. Also, before the products are sold at markets, all Nước Mắm manufacture factories have to give their Nước Mắm samples to the Quality Control Departments of Agriculture and Forestry-Fisheries and have the sauce’s indicators of food safety thoroughly checked. All the shipment that passes the tests, the Quality Control Departments will stamp their certifying stamp in each bottle cap.

So next time you enjoy a dish with fish sauce in or on it, make sure to check the bottle, maybe you will find a new appreciation for Nước Mắm
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Vit nuong muoi ot.

- 1.5 kg duck
- 1 cup of rice wine
- 1 ginger
- 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tbs of chicken powder
- 2 tbs of chopped shallots
- 2 tbs of chopped garlic
- 2 tbs of chopped chili
- 2 tbs of fried garlic
- 1 tbs sesame oil
- 1 tbs of oyster sauce
- 1 tbs of cha xiu sauce ( BBQ sauce)
- 3-4 finger chili
- 2 tbs of cooking oil ( veggy oil or extra virgin oil)

- Ginger : chop finely and get the juice only.
- Duck : clean up with half cup of rice wine and ginger juice.
- Blanch the duck in boiling water with lime juice. ( ½ of the lime ).
- Mix the rest of rice wine and another juice from ½ lime. Coat on the duck’s skin and leave it dry.
- Put all the finger chili, chopped chili, oyster sauce, sesame oil, chopped garlic, shallots, fried garlic, cooking oil, chicken powder, fish sauce, cha xiu sauce into the blender to make the very smooth paste.
- Grill the duck over charcoal- brush the BBQ sauce on top of the duck constantly until it turns into golden brown color.
- To be served with vegetables, herbs and lettuce.


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Coi diep xào sa ot

­ 200- 300g scallop
­ 40 g dried shrimps
­ 100g tofu
­ Chopped lemongrass
­ Chopped chilli
­ 3 teaspoons of sugar
­ 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
­ 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic
­ Some slice of finger chilli
­ Salt
­ Chicken powder
­ Sugar
­ Pepper
­ Fish sauce.
­ Annatto oil/ turmeric powder
­ Sliced galangal
­ Onion, spring onion

- Scallop: wash and rinse with cold water and 1 pinch of sea salt. Marinate with 1 teaspoon of chicken powder, 2 teaspoons of sugar and some pepper. Leave them absorb about 10- 15 minutes.
- Dried shrimps : soak into warm water, dry and grind.
- Tofu : cube
- Onion : cut in wedge.
- Spring onion : cut in length

Practice :
- Heat some oil, add chopped lemon grass and garlic to stir till fragrant.
- Add chili and annatto oil with a pinch of salt and keep stiring till the chili get dry.
- Pan fry the scallop to get the golden brown color.
- Heat another pan with oil, some chopped garlic and galangal to fragrant, add ground shrimps. Season with 1 ts of sugar, ½ ts chicken powder, ½ tbs fish sauce and the spicy mixture of chili oil . add the scallop and tofu in to stir for 5 minutes.
- Add onion- spring onion last and turn the heat off.
- Served with a pinch of pepper on top with coriander or herbs.

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Gỏi cu hu dua

- 1 bell pepper
- 1 cucumber
- 1 carrot
- Sliced onion
- 100 gr jelly fish
- 100 gr squids
- Finger chili
- Shallots
- Sesame seeds
- Chili sauce/ tomato paste or ketchup
- Fried shallots, peanut, celery and rau ram (can replace by sweet basil)

Dressing: in a bowl mix 3 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of chili sauce and 1 teaspoon salt together until the sugar is dissolved completely.
Cucumber, carrot and bell pepper: cut in julienne.
Squids: Thinly slice it. Boil over medium heat about 8 minutes with ginger or rice wine. Remove from heat, soak in cool water until cool enough to handle.
Jelly fish: Boil over medium heat with water and a little vinegar or rice wine about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse quickly under running water.

1. Marinate boiled shrimps and squids with 2 tablespoon of marinated sauce a. Let it stand about 1 - 3 minutes.
2. carrot, onion, bell pepper, finger chili, celery, rau ram or any kind of mint : marinated with rice vinegar, sugar, salt and cooking oil.
3. Then add marinated jelly fish and squids. Toss them together until well combined. Let it stand about 1 - 3 minutes.
4. Transfer to a serving plate, sprinkle with fried peanuts, fried-shallots for garnish. Then put a chilli flower on the top of the salad. To be served with shrimps crackers.

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Lau ca thac lac kho qua

- 200g of knife fish meat
- 100g of pork paste
- ½ kg of bitter melon
- ½ kg of shank
- 100g of sugar
- 4 table spoons of chicken powder
- 1 table spoon of salt
- 2 teaspoon of pepper
- Chopped shallot
- Fried shallot
- Spring onion
- Coriander
- Steamed rice noodles

- Soak the pork bone in boiled water and 2 tablespoons of salt about 10 – 15 minutes and wash again by fresh water
- Mix fish meat and pork paste with sugar, chicken powder, pepper, shallot and spring onion. Then shape as small balls
- Cut bitter melon into small pieces
- Stew the pork bone low heat for 4-6 hours and sometimes skim the scum off
- Season the pork stock with salt, chicken powder, sugar
- Add fish balls in boiled soup
- Parboil bitter melon in hot pot
- Add spring onion, fried shallot coriander in the soup to serve
- Serving: with steamed rice noodles and fish sauce

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Cuốn diếp


- 5-10 mustard leaves
- 10g rice noodles
- A chicken egg
- 100g pork meat (fresh, unsalted)
- 150g fresh shrimp
- Spring onion
- Corn starch
- Annatto oil

- Shrimps: boil shrimps in water with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Shell them and then cut in half- lengthways. Take out and clean up the black vein.
- Pork : boil with water for 5 10 minutes. Soak into cold water to cool down and keep the bright color then thinly slice.
- Egg: mix 1 teaspoon of annatto oil + corn flours (mix with water). Then coat a thin layer on the non-stick pan- fry for 1 minute. Take it out and cut in julienne
- Spring onion: Discard the white bottom and blanch into the water with a pinch of sugar.

- Place the mustard leave on flat basket with dark side down.
- Place pork first, then egg and noodles and shrimps, then roll tightly until the edge. Use 1 onion string to tight it up after place 1 other shrimps on top to decorate. Serve with the dipping fish sauce.

Nước mắm chấm

­ 1 tablespoon of sugar
­ 1 tablespoon of lemon/ lime juice
­ 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
­ 1 teaspoon of garlic
­ ½ teaspoon of chopped chili

­ In a bowl, add lemon juice, sugar and fish sauce. Whisk until the sugar dissolved completely.
­ Then add chopped chilies and chopped garlic. Stir again and taste it.

• Dipping fish sauce can use for fresh spring roll and any kind of salad.
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Cá kho tộ

- 100g fish, sliced 1 cm thickness
- 1 teaspoon of chopped shallot
- 1 teaspoon of chopped spring onion
- A baby chilli
- 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of chicken powder - ½ teaspoon of ground pepper
- ½ tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 - 2 teaspoons of caramel syrup

- Caramel syrup: heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a pan. Stir until golden brown. Remove from the heat.
- Marinade: in a pan, marinate sliced fish with 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, ½ tablespoon of sugar, ½ tablespoon of cooking oil, ½ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of spring onion and shallot, chilies and the caramel syrup. Leave it to absorb within 15 -30 minutes.

1. Stir occasionally until the sauce is dried up.
2. Then pour fresh water into the pot. Leave it to simmer until the sauce is reduced by half or thickens and the meat is cooked.
3. Garnish with a little ground pepper and chopped spring onions (green part) on the top.
4. To be served with the fresh or boiled vegetables and steamed rice.

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Gỏi cuốn

- 10 rice paper (medium size)
- 50g chives
- 50 g rice noodles
- A chicken egg
- 2 tablespoons of fresh water
- Herbs, beansprouts, lettuces
- 100g pork meat (fresh, unsalted)
- ½ teaspoon of chopped chilli
- 150g fresh shrimp
- 1 teaspoon of chicken powder
- 50g mung bean
- 1 teaspoons of sugar
- 15g fried shallot
- 1 tablespoon of cooking oil
- 5g cracked peanut
- 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce
- 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic/ chili

- Shrimps: boil shrimps in water with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. Shell them and then cut in half, length ways.
- Pork meat: boil until cooked and soak in fresh water for 5 10 minutes to make the pork soft and white in colour; then thinly slice.
- Mung bean: soak in water for 10 minutes – then boil well and mash into the paste.
- Egg: mix 1 teaspoon of annatto oil + corn flours (mix with water) - thinly fry it then cut in julienne
- Chives: cut into 3 inch long pieces.
- Mung bean: boil until cooked and mash it well combined

1. Yellow soy bean sauce:
Heat oil in a pan and stir-fry the chopped garlic. Then, add pestle yellow bean sauce, fresh water, mung bean, pork powder, and sugar with low heat. Stir it until well combine. Taste, then sprinkle fried shallots, chopped chilli and cracked peanuts on top.
2. Rolling:
- Spread a little fresh water evenly on the rice paper (don’t make it too wet). Fold the edge of the rice paper about 2 inches in towards the centre.
- Then place length-wise and neatly the shrimps, pork, fried egg, chives, lettuce, Vietnamese herbs, rice noodles and sprinkle a pinch of fried shallot at the folded part.
- Start folding the left and right side of the rice paper into the centre, then roll up tightly from the bottom edge away to the far end.

The chives should be placed half inside and half outside the salad rolls.
Place on a dish and garnish with coriander and chilli flowers (chilli cut in the middle lengthwise). Then soak in fresh water to create a “flower “impression. Serve with soya bean sauce for dipping.

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Phở cuốn

1. Fresh rice flour wrappers:
- 200g of rice flour
- 300ml water
- 4 tablespoons of corn starch
- 2 tablespoons of wheat flour
- ½ teaspoon of salt

2. Stuffing:

- 200g beef fillet
- Pineapple
- ½ teaspoon of pepper
- 1 teaspoon of shallots
- 2 teaspoons of fried garlic
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of chicken powder
- Mints, herbs
- 1 tablespoon of cooking oil

- Soak the flour in cold water from 1 - 2 hours and mix all of above ingredients to form the flour batter.
1. Stuffing:
Beef fillet: slice then marinate with some salt, pepper, chopped garlic, spring onion, leave them absorb about 5-10 minutes.
Heat the oil, add some garlic to fragrant, and add the beef fillet in to stir for about 3 minutes. Leave them cool
2. Steam the cake:
1. Brush the pan (or steamer) with oil, pour on a small ladle of flour batter and spread it around in a circular motion.
2. Cover about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
3. Add 1 tablespoon of the beef fillet on the cake with sliced pineapple, herbs and mints. Then roll it up into a long shape.
4. Serve with dipping sauce either dipping fish sauce.

For stuffed Steamed Rice Wrapped Rolls
- Pickled soya bean paste
- Peanut
- Chicken stock or any other stock
- Sugar
- Chopped chili

- Mix 1 cup of the pickled soya bean paste with ground peanut, 1 cup of the stock into the blender. Mix them well.
- Heat the pan with some oil and garlic, add the mixture above with some sugar to taste. Turn the heat off, then add a little chili on top.
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