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Nước Mắm (Fish sauce) How It’s Made

Nước Mắm (Fish sauce) How It’s Made

Nước means water or liquid; Mắm means the brine of fish or crutanceans often conserved as a thick liquid. To make Fish sauce, the makers need two ingredients: fish and salt.

The first and most important step is to choose the fish. The good fish to make Fish sauce should be fresh, clean, and about the same size. The best Fish sauce is made of one type of fish, though some makers mix types depending on what’s freshly caught (and to cut costs).

Meet a veteran, who joined in the North Vietnam Army during the Vietnam War since 1959 at his home. He now is the only one, who makes Fish sauce in the village. Listen to him talk about how to make Fish sauce.

To make it, he adds alternating layers of fish and salt in cement  tanks (some places use wooden barrels). The fish slowly breaks down over a process, and it’s stirred every day. When the fish have broken down to consistency, the solids will sink and the liquid will rise to the top.

Then, it’s ready for the next step.The fish paste is then transferred to baskets lined with cloth. The liquid drips out into a tub underneath. The liquid that’s extracted will go on to become Fish sauce; the leftover fishy solids will be used as pig food. The first extracted solution is very rich in protein, often drunk by the divers and fishermen to keep their body warm in winter.

The liquid extraction gets transferred to shallow ceramic bowls and laid out in the sun. The heat of the sun evaporates some of the water out and leaves behind the Fish sauce. A salty crust on the surfaces means this process, which takes anywhere from 5 days to 4 weeks depending on the weather, is done: water cannot get into the sauce, which means moving the ceramic dishes inside whenever it rains.

His wife purchases the fish at the early fish market on the beach nearby, then they will ferment it

In Vietnam, there are some centres of production of the best Fish sauce: Phu Quoc Island, Phan Thiet, Cat Hai…..